Tom Goes for a Ride—A Mangusta Story

by Dick Ruzzin, Mangusta 8MZ670

This is a story that I have been wanting to write for a while, every word is true, but names are changed slightly or left out. altogether.

Janet’s Lunch, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan

One day after going to the hardware store I walked across the street to Janet’s for a coffee. The place was like going back in time as it was about a hundred years old and a little frayed around the edges, like a favorite book. There were a lot of nice and interesting people that frequented the place including the owners Bob and Alison, as well as all who worked there. I sat at the u-shaped counter next to a fellow that I had been introduced to earlier as Tom. We talked, he had lived in Detroit all his life, had experience in the car selling business in the fifties as a young man and still had a lot of enthusiasm for it. He stayed up on what was going on in the industry and we would exchange theories about the whys and wherefores of the car business.

He seemed on some kind of diet but would always order an extra carry out breakfast for his dog, eggs, toast and bacon. One day he asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I told him that I was going to a little car gathering at Pasteiner’s store over on Woodward Avenue on Saturday morning in the Mangusta. He had never seen it but asked if he could go with me, I was surprised but was happy to have him. Later I thought of how bizarre that it would be for him, riding six inches off the pavement in a car forty-two inches high, motor sounds from behind, all of this very different from his Lincoln sedan. He had no idea what he was in for and I hoped it would not be too much.

Saturday at 8am I parked in front of his house and went to knock on the door, he was ready. It was a beautiful morning, sunny with a bright blue sky and a few puffy white clouds, a little cool, perfect for a cruise as there would not be much traffic. The red Mangusta contrasted with the green grass, shrubs and trees of Grosse Pointe and after Tom told me that my car was “The lowest car that I ever got into”; we drove off toward I-94.

When you have someone else with you in your car you see, hear and feel things that normally just skip by as part of the ride. After working on it for years getting every single aesthetic and mechanical thing exactly as you want it you eventually find yourself driving and enjoying all the effort usually by yourself. You are always by yourself when you are tuning or adjusting whatever.

We took the east down ramp to I-94 off of Vernier Road and I ran the engine to 6000 in second and then coasted back down to 55 mph in fifth as that was the speed limit in the city. We drove along talking and I noticed that an SUV that passed us had a wheel opening that was taller than my car. We talked above the exhaust noise and he told me about a Facel Vega that he had washed for a dealer customer where he worked during high school. He recalled that it had a Hemi engine. We arrived at Pasteiner’s, there was a good crowd and a lot of great cars, as always. Later I saw him excitedly talking with a small group, he later told me that he had met someone else who knew of the Facel Vega. We had a nice calm drive home and I enjoyed his company but I secretly suspected that the trip might have been a little stressful even though he said that he had really enjoyed himself.

Tom’s first big car show

Time went on, the following spring he again asked me what I was doing for the week end, I told him that the Mangusta had been invited to Eyes On Design at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on Sunday which was a short distance away. We talked about shows in the area and I decided to ask him if he would like to go with me in the morning as my wife was going to join me later. He said he would like to very much as he had never been in a show or gone to one. He would have to leave early as he had an afternoon commitment. I picked him up again, the car was extra clean and shiny and we drove to the Ford House. We had a nice ride along Lakeshore Drive, the water was still and blue, we entered the grounds, drove on a path through a small shady woods and around to the large meadow between the trees in front of the house. A magnificent place, it was already filled with over two hundred cars of every kind and age imaginable. We parked in our show spot between a Dino Ferrari and a Lamborghini Espada, two of my favorite cars. The show provided breakfast and then a nice lunch later and I introduced him to a lot of people. After lunch he apologized as he had to leave, someone was picking him up to go to a special birthday party of a friend that he had gone to kindergarten with, in fact the friend had spent a lot of time right there at the Ford House.

Tom had to leave Eyes on Design that Sunday at Noon because he had been invited to a birthday party later in the day. The party was for a friend that he had gone to kindergarten with and many grades after that. The party was for his friend Edsel Ford the Second who had spent a lot of time at The Ford House as a child. Tom told me that later.

He really did enjoy himself

About a month later I saw Tom again, he looked great, healthy and in good spirits. He asked if I ever went back to Pasteiner’s on Woodward, he said that he would like to go again. I was pleased to hear that, I was afraid that the howling trip on the freeway had been too much. I told him that I could not do it that week end as I was rebuilding the shift linkage in the car but that as soon as I had it back together I would call him.
He said “Please do”. Tom recounted that he had really enjoyed the trip as well as meeting everyone and seeing the cars. I felt really good about that and looked forward to calling him.

Two weeks later I went for a coffee and Alison asked me if I had heard about Tom. I said “No”. He had died of cancer a few days before. I was shocked….

I only had a few brief experiences with Tom as described here but later I realized the enormity and significance of his last request. He was secretly fighting cancer and did not know how long he would live, yet he wanted to have one more car experience, one more trip to visit Pasteiner’s and the cars and people that collect there every Saturday morning. For him it was a very special experience.

What is the point of this story?

Here is what I learned from Tom. Share your car, take a friend, neighbor, a business acquaintance or even a stranger for a ride and then do it again. Do not let your car be something that people only can see, something untouchable, something they will never have the chance to experience. You will never regret it and it will add great value and satisfaction to all the work that you have done to make your car the machine that fulfills your dreams. I guarantee that you will be rewarded. Of all those that will ride with you, surely some will catch the fever and we know that it will enhance their lives forever.

Dick Ruzzin, 9/4/2013

Posted by permission. Thank you, Dick.

8 Comments
  1. Andrew Minney

    What a lovely story!

  2. Pickering Kenneth A

    Great story Dick Ruzzin, pleased you related that experience.

    Ken Pickering

  3. Norman

    Fantastic story. You are sadly in the minority of exotic car owners in that you fully understand that the true beauty of these cars is to be SHARED with others that they might understand what we feel. So many good cars never see the light of day, or are hoarded even when driven. As a Corvette owner, I offer to the parents of the kids in my complex to take them for rides. How else will we sustain this hobby if youth is never served or, as in your case, the might-be-interested never get to experience our hobby first hand? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked car owners if they ever did ride-alongs and gotten blown off. Way to go, guys. We need more people like you, and more ride-alongs, or we’ll be dodo birds sooner rather than later…by the way, living where you do, ever heard of Harry Heinl?

  4. Pete Engel

    Thanks for sharing Mr. Ruzzin. You were also kind enough to show my son and I, (complete strangers to you at the time, but fans of Bitter motor cars), your beautiful model CD, one summer day, as we were arriving in town for the Woodward dream cruise. I had never seen one up close until that day. I still hope to own one at some point. With best regards, Pete Engel, White Post, Virginia

  5. Sheldon Payne

    Thanks for telling that very touching story, Dick. It’s an inspiration to be open with others about what is so very interesting about automobiles, every aspect, from their creation, use, maintenance and enjoyment. They are more than just objects of art, and the explanation of your relationship with the Mangusta and another person says a lot about how we can share the passion. It reminds me of a talk Bill Mitchell gave to a large group of us in the dome one time. His point was that we need to create cars that are so attractive buyers will spend their money on them instead of other things. (Of course he was preaching to the choir, but it really got us revved up.)

  6. Ron Will

    What a great story about Dick’s compassion to share his unique Mangusta with others. Dick even went a step further with me, as he let me drive his pride and joy. As a fellow GM designer, he knew I had a passion for the car. Dick invited me out to the house one weekend to take a look at the car, but I was shocked when he handed me the keys and said, “Lets go for a drive”. I am forever grateful to Dick, as that led me to buy my own Mangusta. Thanks Dick ( I hope this doesn’t lead others to pester you for the keys.) Ron

  7. One more note about Jim’s ride and his attendance of Eyes On Design at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford house.

    His special friend who he had attended Kindergarten and grade school with was Edsel Ford the Second who spent a lotof time there with his grandparents and he left to attend his birthday party. He was a very nice man, I wish I could have known him longer.
    Dick Ruzzin

  8. I saw and rode briefly in a Mangusta in 69 or so. Gorgeous car.
    I don’t offer many rides in my homebrew, cause it isn’t that pretty – but I have taken friends a few times – a buddy (now passed on) said it made him feel young again!
    Thanks for sharing.

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