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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Man finds love of classic cars at young age

WILTON, Conn. – Fast cars and teenage boys have gone together since, well, cars started going fast enough to draw the interest of teenage boys.

For most of these young men, the attraction leads to posters on the wall, subscriptions to hot rod magazines, and maybe the purchase of a used muscle car for the last year or two of high school. ...

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WILTON, Conn. – Fast cars and teenage boys have gone together since, well, cars started going fast enough to draw the interest of teenage boys.

For most of these young men, the attraction leads to posters on the wall, subscriptions to hot rod magazines, and maybe the purchase of a used muscle car for the last year or two of high school.

David Lourd took that philosophy a couple steps further – all the way to a hobby that has allowed the now 20-year-old junior at Northeastern University in Boston to buy and restore several classic vehicles.

“Ever since I was 14 or 15 I thought German cars – especially pre-1990 models – were the coolest,” said Lourd, a Wilton High School graduate. “I was kind of on the lookout for one, and BMWs have always kind of been my thing. I was riding my (bicycle) all over town, and I was riding down a small back road, Wilton Road, and I saw a BMW 6 Series with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. I called the number, and a week later I had my first car.”

Lourd’s parents, Karen and Paul, shelled out the $7,000 for that 1984 BMW 633, which now has 97,000 miles on it and is still taking David back and forth to college. Paul Lourd, who works for Wilton’s Community Emergency Response Team, is also a bit of a gear head

As if to “time stamp” the bronze-colored sedan, a previous owner slapped a “Reagan-Bush ‘84” bumper sticker on the rear window. Aside from a couple of small rust spots, and a driver-seat cushion seam pulling apart, the 633 is near-mint.

“It was pretty clean when I got it,” David Lourd said of the car that had 70,000 at the time of purchase. “I hadn’t worked on cars before, so I was learning as I went along. (With the 633) I was really just fixing things as they went. I didn’t get a ‘project car’ until a couple years later. I drive the ‘84 anywhere. It’s been to Boston a few times.”

The “project car” was a 1986 BMW 325 ES, bought for “a couple hundred bucks from an eBay ad,” according to David Lourd — before major improvements.

“I drove it down the Merritt (Parkway) from Waterbury,” David Lourd said. “It was a little sketchy. I had no idea what would happen.”

After safely arriving at his Old Boston Road home, there was basically a top to bottom renovation.

“The ‘86 required a lot of engine work – head gasket, drive train, exhaust, brakes – basically everything,” David Lourd said with a chuckle. “We had to replace the headliners (a headliner is a composite material that is adhered to the inside roof of automobiles), and they were old school. We had to take out all the windows. There was glue everywhere. Eventually I sold the 325, and I made back the money I put into it. It took six months to get it ready.”

David Lourd is majoring in mechanical engineering at Northeastern, describing his studies as “kind of in line with what I do” as a hobby.

“Basically I learned (about car repairs) from online forums and manuals,” David Lourd said. “There’s a big BMW scene in the area, and you don’t see that in a lot of other car models. There’s such a strong following of (BMW) enthusiasts, and not to the same degree with Mercedes or Porsche. It’s wide-ranging, but more varied, with (Volkswagen).”

Paul Lourd is happy the lug nut did not fall very far from the engine block.

“Being a car guy, I’m glad he’s following in my footsteps,” Paul Lourd said. “I’m glad the cars are a little rare. We got in a little over our heads, but David stayed with it and got the cars running. It’s so much better to have him fixing something in the driveway instead of sitting in front of a video game.”

David Lourd’s most recent pride-and-joy is a very rare, 1991 BMW M5 sedan in Calypso red exterior, with silver grey interior.

“It’s one of seven cars in that color combination,” David Lourd said. “I’m really proud of that car. A guy in Rhode Island was moving across the country and needed to sell it. It has 130,000 miles on it, and that’s a good amount, but it’s fully drivable. Mechanically it’s great. It’s a fun car because so little is known about it. People who get it take notice, but most people look right over it. I’ll probably keep it for a long time. It was the fastest sedan in the world when it came out. It’s definitely the rarest car I’ve had.”

While David Lourd said he is “always on the lookout” for good car deals on Craigslist or eBay, he knows that while he is in college he may need to limit “Lourd’s Auto Shop.”

One vehicle that may be on the chopping block is a 1966 Chrysler Newport Coupe, an enormous reminder of days gone by with lots of steel and chrome, two bench seats to handle up to eight adults and one of the widest wheelbases still on the road.

“We will probably downsize, and the Chrysler is not the most practical car,” David Lourd said. “It’s a departure from my normal direction. A lot of people give you the thumbs up when they see you driving it.

“That’s the cool thing about old cars,” he said. “People share memories about them. That’s part of the reason why old cars are so exciting to me. It’s a common misconception about old cars being unreliable. People drove them back then without a problem. It’s all about keeping up with them.”

Before he found the allure of the horsepower, David Lourd was captivated by pedal power.

“I got into (bicycles) at 14, before I was driving cars,” David Lourd said. “I was riding bikes everywhere, and when I was 13 I was at my grandma’s, and there was this three-speed British bike, a Humber Sport. I refurbished and rebuilt everything. I collect Raleighs as well.”

Raleigh was at the forefront of the 1970s bicycle explosion in this country, and it became the largest manufacturer of the two-wheelers in that decade.

“I rode the Humber everywhere,” David Lourd said. “That’s a bike I’ll never get rid of.”

The Lourd basement looks like a small bicycle repair shop, with a variety of models in various stages of repair around the front room.

“Bikes come and go frequently down here,” David Lourd said. “We’ve had as many as 20 at one time. I fixed a bike before I had a real job. People call me in Boston and say ‘hey, can you fix this.’”

David Lourd said working on the two types of machines “is not comparable” and represents “different experiences.”

“It’s hard to find people who are into both,” David Lourd said. “Boston is a free-for-all for cyclists, and there are a lot of disrespectful cyclists, just as there are a lot of disrespectful drivers. Most of the time, no one wins.”

David Lourd is still zeroing in on a career path, but he will always have some tools nearby.

“With mechanical engineering, I’d like to something that I feel good about at the end of the day,” David Lourd said. “Whatever I do, I will definitely be tinkering with cars and bicycles, somewhere. One day my lease on my parents’ basement will expire.”