My Hero, My Co-Driver

by

Drawing by Carl Koch.

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I know this is not the automobile-focused post usually found on Fuelfed. But without these experiences there would not be a Fuelfed. You see, when I was a little kid growing up in NW Evanston, I had a chore I had to do every night. Around 6:30 I would hear my father’s Porsche 911 roaring down McCormick Ave. and my job was to open the garage doors before he got to Grant St. This happened every night, and every night the sound of the air-cooled engine burbled as it backed in filling the garage with the euphoric smell of burnt gasoline.

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Sometimes I’d go with my dad on his weekend errand runs. I was too little to see over the dash, so I would count the little squares in the basket-weave inlay on the dash. The smell of a cigar always dominated over the interior and frequently led to motion-sickness.

As years passed, the need for a bigger car and air conditioning led to a black Mercedes 280sel 4.5. With it came fuel injection, a bigger house by the lake and adolescence. My father didn’t have time or interest in working on the Mercedes like he did with the Porsche. The Mercedes was a daily work-horse. He used to tell me how he used to pretend the three pointed star on the hood was a scope to sight-in slow moving traffic. He revelled in its tank-like build quality, grace and speed.

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Back in high school, I got arrested (ok detained) by the wanna-be-cops, the NU Public Safety for shooting off firecrackers and carrying a switchblade on the Northwestern University campus. My father let me sit at the NUPS head quarters for a few hours to dwell on my actions. Ultimately, up pulled the black sedan, my father with a stearn face, religated me to the back seat “where the criminals sit”. On the short drive home I asked him to use his Panzer tank to sight-in a PS squad and blow it off the road. We laughed.

After college, I got into vintage BMW motorcycles. My father took great interest in my new passion. Always wanting the best, he of course trumped my R60/2 with a R69s. It was during this time in our lives that I got to know my father for the truly great man he was. We learned to ride together. We learned to work on the bikes together. But most importantly, we became great friends. Our favorite rides together were late night rides up Sheridan Rd. We’d ride in tandem at the same speed to get the bikes rpms in sync and the glorious sound would make us laugh. The rides would culminate on a park bench over looking Lake Michigan in Lake Bluff. He’d bring the flask of bourbon and I’d bring the cigars. We’d sit there talking about life until the wee morning hours. I truly felt connected to my father during these rides.

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As time passed, I finally got my first 911. A black 1973 911s. My father was proud. He demonstrated his pride in showing me how to drive it at redline through the “ravines.” The late night beers and cigars at the original Fuelfed garage on Oakley Ave. soon followed as I got into racing.

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He’d stop by to lend a hand or words of wisdom, but mostly just to be there with me. He’d like to stand at the back of the shop with his cigar and beer and take in the burbling air-cooled sound and the euphoric smell of burnt gasoline.

My father passed Sunday night in my arms after a horrible six year battle with Parkinsons.

Dad, you will forever be my hero, my co-driver.

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Edward B. Hughes
1938-2012

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23 Responses to “My Hero, My Co-Driver”

  1. Jim Burket Says:

    Top notch tribute, Brian. Your father would be proud to read it, I’m sure. My condolences to you and your family. How wonderful to have such exceptional memories.

    Jim Burket

  2. Scott Doherty Says:

    Brian,

    My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your Father and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family

  3. fuelfed sister Says:

    Wonderful tribute, Brian. Thank you for sharing. Miss you terribly, Dad.

  4. Judy Says:

    Great job, Brian! I enjoyed this tribute and was saddened by it at the same time. That last photo of your dad is how I will always picture him in my mind.

  5. Dan Fox Says:

    Brian,

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    May your father rest in peace. I hope we get a chance to toast him whenever you make it to Saugatuck.

    – Dan Fox

  6. G Goldberg Says:

    Sorry to learn of your loss, and hope that the family can have some solace knowing your father is at peace. A very fine tribute, honoring your father, who seemed to be a wonderful man. Hopefully, you can continue to treasure the special relationship you had. Our thoughts are with you.

  7. jim and Sue Tome Says:

    What a great tribute to your Dad, Brian. I always enjoyed seeing and talking with him at family get-togethers and joining him with a cigar or two. Keep him in your thoughts always for he is with you and your sister and Mom.

  8. Donald Stewart Says:

    Brian ,Lisa, Mrs Hughes, I’ve known your family for a few decades now,and i’m very proud of that. Our condolences to your family on such a loss. Your wonderful tribute helped me understand and appreciate your family even more. God Bless

  9. Marcy Plaza-Weber Says:

    Thanks Brian. Good job honoring a good man.

  10. Dave Byk Says:

    Brian,
    What a great story and truly wonderful memories you have with your Dad. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Dave Byk

  11. Marty Grzynkowicz Says:

    Brian, I only hope to develop that kind of connection with my two sons. That is something special. I never got to you formally say thanks for letting us hang with your orginization. Marty and Sandy G.

  12. Andy Daley Says:

    What a great tribute to a great father.

  13. Curt Crowell Says:

    Brien-You were a lucky guy to have Edward for a father. My dad drove a Buick. Savor the memories ! Curt

  14. Ron and Marlene Wertz Says:

    Brian, that was a great tribute to your dad. We had some great times with your dad and mom. They visited us here in Tennessee and he got great joy driving around our countryside taking pictures of old barns, which we now treasure. We will miss him. Ron and Marlene

  15. John m Reid Says:

    What a beautiful story. I’ve met with you a couple times at dons shop and you r a super cool guy and reading this story I understand why.

  16. Chris Swierczewski Says:

    Great tribute to your Dad Brian, didn’t realize you were both into bikes and rode together for so long. Funny story that I remember from when I was 5 or 6… Uncle Ed had to pick up David and I from the south side, probably Blue Island, and take us back to Evanston for a few days… I just remember the look on his face when he realized he was going to have to make two trips because David and I had all this extra crap with us… It was a long silent ride back to Evanston…where upon he dropped us off and headed back south… I believe it was his Porsche becasue it was small and had little to no room for our junk.,… Hang in there! Hope to see you soon!

  17. Geoff Bellman Says:

    Brian,

    I don’t remember the cylinder-side of your dad…I can remember a nice car or two. Nice to read your story. hYou relationship yout two had was what I’d imagine. It fits with the Ed that I knew so many years ago. I’m happy for your great experiences with him and sad for your loss.

    Geoff

  18. Mark Hampton Says:

    Brian – Our condolences to you and your family for your loss. And as so many others have said, what a warm, touching tribute to your father. I never met your father but reading this tribute feels like an introduction. You’re a lucky man to have such great memories of your times together.

    Mark and Gillan

  19. Jean Trnka Says:

    What beautiful memories your wonderful father made for you. May God bless him and keep him in his care. My condolences to you Brian, and your family.

  20. Michael Reid Says:

    Hi Brian,

    I was a graphic designer and contemporary of your father and enjoyed a both professional and personal relationship with him. He was a great talent and after reading Fuelfed, obviously a great friend and father. I spoke briefly to your Mom and expressed my deep sadness in your Dad’s passing. All the best to you and your sister.

  21. Allan Price Says:

    Dear Brian:
    I am sorry to hear of the passing of your Dad. I lost mine in March. We are both lucky to have had Dad’s who so influenced our lives and our interests. In an era when so many kids grow up in single parent households without having a Dad, we have a lot to be thankful for. It is now your turn and mine to pass on those inspirational relationships to the next generation.

    Regards,

    Allan Price

  22. Ben Robertson Says:

    What a truly wonderful tribute to your father. I’m sorry for your loss.

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