My Dad started his business, Grosjean Import Service, in 1982, after more than 30 years as a mechanic in automobile dealerships. His career as a mechanic began with Hudson in the 1940s, then Rambler and American Motors, then branched off into VW, BMW, Porsche, and Audi in the 1960s and 1970s. On the walls of his office also hang certificates from GM, Subaru, and the ASE.
Although originally an import repair shop, things changed over time. Dad got involved with Model T Fords, because that’s what he drove as a kid. He bought a couple of restored Model T’s in the early 1990s, and began to drive them for pleasure, in parades, and on weekend trips.
He joined the local Model T club, and members of the club began to bring their Model T’s in for Dad to work on. Over time, the bulk of his work morphed into Model T Fords, and other cars of similar vintage, from the early days of the automobile. Dad found a unique niche.
I don’t have the car gene, it somehow bypassed me; but over the years I’ve accumulated quite a bit of time there: an occasional lunch with Dad, helping Dad with something on his own Model T Ford on a weekend, or the two of us working on some odd motorcycle part of mine needing repair. I’m mechanically inclined, and I like the old cars, and feel as if I’m behind the scenes at a museum when I’m in Dad’s shop.
Every now and then during a visit at Dad’s house, he’ll mention that he has a rather interesting group of cars in at the shop, and that it sure would be nice if somebody (hint, hint) would go in and photograph some of them. Recently, Dad had one of those unique groups of cars: several Model T Fords, a Model A Ford, a Marmon, and a Triumph sports car from the 1960s.
I’m also a photographer, with a specialty of shooting long panoramic photographs. As a photographer I try to take photos of things that are unique and special, photos that 30-40 years from now I’ll look at and cherish. Since my Dad and his shop are so intertwined, what would be more appropriate than a photo of his entire shop?
Late one night, I let myself in. I shot individual photos of the cars themselves. Then I set up my camera and tripod carefully, and took two series of photos, comprised of 18 images each, both series a full 360-degrees around. Then I locked up and headed home, where I merged the photos together to produce two seamless 360-degree panoramic images, each one approximately 3’ long, with every detail of his shop: the cars, the tools, the lifts, the parts on the shelves, the air hoses hanging on the walls…
For Father’s Day, I gave Dad the images. First I gave him the individual, conventional images. He was thankful and appreciative.
Then I explained that the small photos were just a warm-up, and I unrolled the real thing: a pair of 3’ long panoramic photos, clearly showing every detail of his shop, from one end to the other. His reaction was priceless, he was stunned.
I explained that his shop is special to me, too. The financial success of Grosjean Import Service made it possible for Dad to lend me money for college years ago, I’ve spent a lot of good times there, my son has too, and that Dad and his shop are so connected so much that it‘s hard to separate the two.
There’s more to it than that, of course. Time goes by, and things change. People retire, get out of a business, lose a key employee, lose interest; perhaps a fire comes and the business simply doesn’t reopen. Someday, that business, and eventually even that building, will probably no longer exist. And when that day comes, I want to be able to look at the panoramic photos of his shop, and recall with my son and maybe grandkids, those good times, and exactly what the place was like, as I tell stories about my Dad. I’m in no hurry, mind you - I hope my Dad soldiers on for at least another 50 years. But time, and nature, being what they are…
The one other thing that really gets to my heart on this photograph....the hand of my father is everywhere. It's in the way the parts bins are set up, where his tools are located, just everything. And the panoramic captured it all, at least as well as any photo can, and probably better than most. Like a little kid once again, I was glad to give my Father something special that I had made myself.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. May we both enjoy many more.