Just as I was settling in to write this week’s column, Santa Claus sent me the following text message. “Soooo, how late do you stay up? I have some goodies for you!”

Travis Naughton

Although the calendar indicated that last Sunday was April 29, it felt a lot like Christmas Eve when jolly old St. Nick, a.k.a. Jason Sedillo, made a late-night stop at my house with a literal truckload of 1957 Bel Air parts. Santa’s sleigh never looked as beautiful as Jason’s Chevy Silverado did that night with its bed full of vintage chrome and stainless-steel trim pieces glistening in the glow of my shop’s sodium vapor dusk-to-dawn light.

“I don’t really NEED any more car parts,” I anticipated my wife’s question and answered it before she had the chance to ask, “but you never know when an extra hood or two might come in handy, my love.”

Jason had struck the mother lode of used Bel Air parts, and because he knew that I owned a ’57 Chevy, he thoughtfully passed his discovery on to me. Jason is more than a car guy; he’s a good friend. One of the best things about the collector car hobby is meeting and forging bonds with people who may have never crossed your path otherwise. In the relatively short time that I have owned my car, I have met dozens of people who share my passion for classic automobiles and my passion for life.

I bought my dream car just a few weeks after I quit drinking in January of 2017. The timing was entirely coincidental, yet quite fortuitous. The best way to kick a bad habit is to replace it with a good one, and I think everyone who knows me would agree that they like Travis the Car Guy a lot better than Travis the Drunk. And I like the new me, too, which is really all that matters.

I’m not sure if my obsession with classic cars and trucks is entirely healthy, but I am positive that it’s healthier than abusing alcohol. While I am not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I do associate with a few “support groups” for car enthusiasts. I attend car cruise-ins and monthly meetups such as Cars & Coffee-Columbia and the Capital Mall Cruise in Jefferson City. I have also founded an informal group right here in Ashland called the Southern Boone County Chevy Club (SBC3) that is open to any classic “Bow Tie” owner in the area. The collector car culture in which I currently thrive is infinitely better for me than the drinking culture of my self-destructive past.

Although the car hobby can be costly, I would much rather invest my money in a new set of brakes than waste it on a lost weekend at the bars. When I was drinking, I probably spent about a hundred bucks a week on booze. Some weeks less, some weeks much more. That works out to roughly five grand per year, give or take. A person could buy a running and driving classic automobile for that kind of money. In fact, that’s exactly what I paid for my 1971 Chevrolet C-10 pickup. It’s rusty, but it runs and drives. It also puts a smile on my face every time I look at it, every time I sit in it, and every time I stomp on the gas pedal and hear the obnoxious racket coming from the dual exhaust pipes.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy classic automobiles—and classic automobiles make me happy.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have several boxes of car parts to sort through. I have a feeling that no matter what I find, there will be a smile on my face.