Here in Chicago and the suburbs, we have a lot of good, badge-wearing men and women protecting us. The Collector's Car Garage recently hosted its inaugural Cars and Cops car show as a way to give back and protect them.
The event took place last weekend in Chicago and 100 percent of vehicle entry fees and other money raised was donated to "Get Behind the Vest," an initiative launched by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
The foundation is buying 8,000 bulletproof vests this year, and an additional 500 vests annually in subsequent years for officers. "They (officers) get a vest when they start the academy, but they're only good for five years. After five years … they break down and lose their ability to stop a bullet," said Phil Cline, a former Chicago police superintendent who now leads the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. The car show raised $17,500, enough to supply 35 vests for our friends in blue.
I was asked (and delighted) to be a part of the event and to judge the Muscle Car category. Not only did I see some cool vintage iron, but I met Bill Warzynski, an original owner of a 1965 Pontiac GTO.
Bill shared with me his story, which begins with him always being a Ford man growing up. In 1965, the Chicago resident was all set on ordering a new Mustang. That plan changed once he got behind the wheel for a test drive.
"I had to get something bigger," Bill said "It was just too tight inside."
He decided to spin by his local Pontiac dealership and was glad he did. Not only did they have a much roomier 1965 GTO, they offered him a stellar price -- one no other dealership could beat. In June, he went back and ordered himself a black on black coupe, trading in his six-cylinder '62 Ford.
When the 24-four-year-old got the call saying his GTO had been delivered, he was over the moon. He picked it up and headed straight to the Mobil gas station where he worked as a mechanic. His buddies couldn't believe the new machine. Which is why they couldn't resist giving him a hard time when he went to leave and the Pontiac wouldn't start.
"The points were off," Bill recalls now. "All my friends were joking about the 'piece of junk' I had just bought."
Bill popped the hood and in no time had the muscle machine running right. For the next five years, he daily drove it through all our Midwest seasons. He did have to share the vehicle with his wife, but not for too long.
"She stalled on Diversey and Laramie and said, 'I'm never driving that car again!' Bill said. "Inside I was secretly saying 'YES!!' "
They bought her a 1964 Falcon (with an easier to drive automatic transmission) leaving the GTO in Bill's hands. Besides his commuting, they used it for numerous out-of-state vacation road trips, including to places in Kentucky and Missouri.
Being a mechanic, Bill never took the car back to the dealership for repairs, doing any and all work himself. Not that there has been much; after 60,000 miles the engine still hasn't been out of the car.
In 1969, Bill's dad passed away, leaving him a 1969 Buick LeSabre. That allowed Bill to put the GTO in his garage, where it stayed for the next several decades. About a decade ago he pulled it out and returned it to the road. He has since made some upgrades, installing power steering and brakes.
"It's still a blast to drive," Bill said, "and I still enjoy working on it."
• Share your car's story with Matt at email@example.com.