By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
When it comes to cars, it appears some people's old infatuations have taken over their garages and kicked the newer ones to the curb.
That's how old car owners Aaron Otis, Jack Sims and Jason Moore are treating their "loved ones."
"The car is my husband's purple 1974 Dodge Charger," said Julie Otis, 28, wife of Sgt. Aaron Otis, of Fort Hood. "We got it before he left for Iraq last summer, and he would call me weekly for a scratch count and leaks of any kind ... like I could fix it or something.
"He treats this car better than myself or the kids. It's definitely an infatuation," she said, laughing.
Acknowledging the reality of her husband's mechanical fixation, she added, "Oh, yeah, it stays in the garage, and I have to park out on the street."
Julie Otis said everything in the garage had to be rearranged so that nothing could touch the Charger.
"We got a car cover for it, and he tied it all down," she said.
Her cranking the Charger up occasionally is out of the question.
"He tells me to stay away from it, that I can't drive it and that I can't come near it," she said.
"She can ride in it with me," said Aaron Otis, 26, adding that his parents sparked his interest in old cars.
He bought the Charger in New Braunfels.
Before he purchased it, Otis said, he showed his wife pictures of the vehicle.
"She actually hated it when I showed her the pictures," he admitted. "Then, I took her down there to see it, and she fell in love with it."
Julie Otis stuck her finger in her mouth, indicating she was gagging over the color.
"Oh, I love plum crazy purple," her husband said. "My mom used to have a Plymouth Roadrunner that color, and I fell in love with it. My wife jokes around with me about it. She doesn't think it's very manly. I love the color. I couldn't change it."
With a yearlong tour in Iraq, the sergeant said he hasn't had too much time to work on the car, even though he has invested nearly $9,000 in it.
"I've done a little work on the engine, so that it would pass the state inspection," Otis said. "It's in pretty good condition, a few rust spots here and there," such as on the trunk's floor.
The car has its original engine and transmission and runs great, Otis said.
Julie Otis thinks $9,000 is too much money to put into the car.
"I figured if I'm going to do the job, I'm going to do it right and be happy with it," her husband said.
The right stuff for another couple involves a classic Chevy.
It's an Inca silver 1957 Chevy Bel Air Tudor Sport Coupe, the lifelong dream of Jack and Joyce Sims, of Killeen.
The Chevy shares the garage with a motorcycle, while one of the Sims' late-model vehicles is parked underneath a car shed, and the other is parked, shelterless, outside.
The Sims bought the car in December 2004.
"We wanted to get one in 1957, but we were both in college and couldn't afford the $2,800 it cost back then," said Jack Sims, noting he had been looking since 1970 for a convertible, but settled for the hard top. "And I latched on to that sucker, and it runs like a scalded dog.
"I'm a 1957 Chevrolet fan," said Sims, who wouldn't give his age, but noted that he is a retired Killeen school career education counselor and Korean War veteran.
"Now, we can go to the Sonic drive-in, get a hamburger and pretend it's the 1950s," he added.
Since he purchased the vehicle, Sims said he has put 4,500 miles on the speedometer, which shows a total of 48,000 actual miles.
Sims won't reveal how much he has invested in repairs and parts on his car, but admitted it's more than $9,000.
"I won't tell you how much I've invested in it, because I might want to sell it someday," he teased. "Believe me, it would be mucho dinero. But I didn't buy it to sell it. I bought it to keep and to drive for the rest of my life. I plan to give it to my son when I'm gone."
Since purchasing the car, Sims has added a new engine, a four-barrel Edelbrock carburetor, a three-speed automatic transmission, a custom steering wheel, an AM/FM/CD stereo, a satellite radio, twin speakers and a performance Teknique security system. It was already equipped with air conditioning, a Continental kit and fender skirts.
Joyce Sims, who also is retired from the Killeen Independent School District, said she was thrilled when her husband finally found their dream car.
"I was all for it," she agreed. "This is our era. We got married in 1956, so it's very important. It's such a sharp car, and we like it."
Sims said their new toy is nice to ride about town and look good in, but she wouldn't want to take a long trip in it. "It doesn't have power steering," she whispered.
Cars and automobile aficionados have a lot of lug nuts. There's also the VW nut.
Sgt. Jason Moore, of Killeen, said calling him a VW nut is appropriate, because he loves Volkswagens.
Moore purchased his first old Beetle, a 1967 VW Kharman Gia, when he was 17 years old in 1996.
"I wanted a Bug originally, but they were all sold out in my price range," he said. "Now that I'm making more money, I can afford to do a little more."
Moore said that once you buy one Volkswagen, you don't want to buy anything else. "It's like an overgrown go-cart," the 27-year-old Moore said.
"And it's very bouncy," interjected his wife, Heather Moore, 28.
Moore's garage shelters two Volkswagens – a 1970 VW Bug and a 1972 squareback station wagon. He drives his 1974 VW Bug to work every day.
When he said he has invested more than $10,000 in his love affair with cars, his wife rolled her eyes and referred to her husband's passion as "too much."
"We picked up this Bug here in California when I was on leave, and the $50 price tag was written on its windshield," Jason Moore said, referring to the 1970 model that he plans to restore for his 3-year-old son, Ian. "It's a basket case now and going to take a full restoration."
Moore said he has plans to fix it up.
Heather Moore said Ian had already laid claim to the broken-down Bug.
"Ian is out here doing something with it every time Jason is outside," she said.
Moore said he blew the engine in his station wagon on his way to Copperas Cove in November. "I just ordered the parts for that one," he said.
The gas mileage in the Bug that he drives every day is not as great as advertised.
"I'm still tinkering with the carburetor, so it's getting in the low 20 miles-per-gallon now," said Moore. "It's hard for me to adjust the carburetor without the special tools."
Moore has pulled the engines out of the two vehicles in the garage and is working on them.
"I'm all into maintenance," said Moore, a generator mechanic in the Army. "I had some automobile classes when I was in high school, but I went by leaps and bounds once I came in the Army eight years ago."
When Moore first started his hobby, his wife didn't like it.
"I've grown to like it," she admitted. "When we first started doing this, Jason was a private in the Army, and we didn't have any money at all. I kinda hated it at the time, because it took away all the extra money.
"In fact, the white one out there is another one that I forced him to purchase. So, I'm the one who has actually taken a liking to the cars, especially Volkswagens, because they have a personality of their own."
More information on old vehicles can be obtained on the Web site GreatOldCars.com, which also provides tips on how not to get scammed when purchasing or selling an old vehicle.
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at email@example.com