A Jaguar filled with memories
WL resident Dave Adams parting ways with car that changed his life
During his senior year at Beaverton High School, back in 1971, Dave Adams was picking up lunch at a burger shop down the street when something caught his eye.
Resting unattended at a gas station was a 1953 Jaguar XK 120 convertible, though in the moment Adams knew nothing about the make or model of the car. If anything, he was anti-car at the time; as an aspiring artist, Adams had grown up in a family that, as he recalls, had no automotive sensibilities whatsoever.
Yet in this moment, as he stared at the bizarre, intriguing beast across the road, Adams couldnt resist the opportunity to explore. The vehicle had been abandoned at the time, a 1953 car wasnt thought of as classic, just old and when Adams opened the front door of the Jaguar, it marked his first step into a career that has taken him under the hoods of rare cars all around the world.
I opened the door, and there was this intoxicating aroma of wood and wool and leather, said Adams, who lives in West Linn. It was unlike any American machine Id ever seen.
As it happened, a friend of Adams knew about another Jaguar that was up for sale, as it happened, the exact same model as the one at the gas station. With the help of loans including $200 from a high school friend he bought the car and began his first restoration project.
Now, 44 years after that discovery, Adams is set to part ways with the car that started it all. On Aug. 13, the Jaguar will be auctioned off in Monterey, Calif., as Adams hopes to take advantage of what he calls a red hot classic car market.
Its a business decision at this point, Adams said. At this point in my career, its not about possessing at the end of the day, its an object. Whats more meaningful than just owning something are the memories associated with it and all the connections made in the process of doing it.
And oh, are there memories.
Shortly after purchasing the Jaguar, Adams came to a sobering realization: He had no idea what he was doing.
I didnt have it long before I realized I was in way over my head, he said. I either needed way more money than I had, or I needed some skills.
Where art school had once been a foregone conclusion, Adams opted instead to attend mechanic school at Mt. Hood Community College. At the time, he intended to return to art school later in life, while in the meantime picking up a specific trade that he could fall back on if art didnt pan out.
So my plan was to enroll in a mechanics course and get some trade, some skill, and in the process restore this car, Adams said.
Yet from the start, the professor took a liking to Adams and his unusual car.
Were going to have two courses here, he told Adams. Im going to teach all of these guys what they want, and you and I are going to have a lot of fun.
By the time he graduated, Adams had completed the restoration of the Jaguar, and in another stroke of luck his teacher found him a job at the Leyfax auto repair shop in Portland. It was there that he learned another key lesson.
I dont care how long it takes you to do the job right, his boss told him. We want the job perfect, so it never comes back (to the shop).
That advice stuck with Adams as he moved on to work as a car purchaser in Europe and later started his own business: Lake Oswego Restoration. Over many successful years, Adams has worked on everything from Aston Martins to Porsches, Jaguars and Morris Minors.
Though he never did return to the formal art world, Adams has come to view his work as a different kind of art.
All of my artistic sensibilities have sort of informed what Ive been doing all along, he said. Ive never really been that great of a businessman, but the fact that Ive been able to produce a product with curb appeal has actually been an important part of my success.
Indeed, the exacting process of restoring a classic car is not dissimilar to that of a sculptor; a fast project for Adams generally lasts about two years.
The simplest cars have 20,000 pieces to them a more complicated car like (the Jaguar) is going to have 30,000 pieces. Thats counting every single nut, bolt, washer and gasket. Its really satisfying to look at (the car) after all of that and remember those 30,000 pieces were all in a box, he said.
With retirement creeping up, Adams estimates he has about six restorations left in him. Three will be from his own collection two Jaguars and an Aston Martin and selling the original 1953 Jaguar was, in part, a way to clear space for his other upcoming projects.
In the end, no matter who buys the car, and where it ends up, it will always carry some of Adams most significant memories.
Ive got so many memories with this car, and those arent for sale the car is, Adams said. Junior, senior prom I drove that car. The first day I met my wife was kind of a blind date, and I picked her up in that car. We were at a car event when my wife was 9 months pregnant with our second child, her water broke and we ended up rushing to hospital in that car.
Im definitely sentimentally attached to it, but like I said, memories arent for sale. Im keeping those.