March 17, 1976, changed my life. Some might say for the worse. I say for the better.
On that cool, spring New Jersey day, my father, who was a writer/photographer for a long list of car mags at the time, took me along on a photoshoot. I was six.
The location was an ugly, empty parking lot of an office building, but the cars were cool. My dad was photographing a flamed '55 Chevy, which belonged to a local guy, and a brand-new silver 1976 Pontiac Trans Am with a big Screaming Chicken on the hood.
My dad was road testing the T/A for "High-Performance Cars" magazine. I remember him doing burnouts in it in front of the house all week. I also remember being deathly afraid to sit in the '55 for a picture, but the owner of the car and my dad insisted. I'm glad they did.
Honestly, I don't know why that day had such a lasting impact on me, but there's no denying it. Without premeditation, 28 years later, I work for a car magazine, own a '55 Chevy with flames and possess a 1976 Trans Am with a big Screaming Chicken on the hood.
I can't really explain it. I had been on photoshoots with my dad before that day, and I had gone on dozens since. I didn't even really remember it all until a year ago when we found the photos my dad took of me with the two cars buried in a drawer. Since their unearthing, the pics have become very special to me.
Since 1976, my dad went on to be king of the publishing world as the editor-in-chief of "Popular Mechanics" magazine, a lofty post he has held for the past 19 years and retired from this summer. He deserves the time off, but don't be surprised if you see the byline of Joe Oldham in these pages soon. The guy can write and I figure what the hell else will he have to do between cigars?
Yesterday was Father's Day. I spent the afternoon of the cool So. Cal. summer day taking pictures of my 1-year-old daughter, Sophie, in the driver's seat of the orange Lotus Elise we road test in this issue. I couldn't resist. Maybe she'll remember it. Maybe the experience will have a lasting impact on her. Maybe she'll own an orange 2004 Lotus Elise with the Sport Package some day.
Who knows? Maybe June 20, 2004 changed her life.
This morning I e-mailed her grandpa the shots of Sophie in the car. If he ever figures out how to open attachments, I know the old man will dig it.