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'The stories behind the cars' | Day of appreciation raises awareness for automotive restoration

"A lot of times the story is a lot more important than what you see in the car," Memphian and auto enthusiast Rick Neal said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Friday set the stage (and road) for "Collector Car Appreciation Day," which is celebrated annually to raise awareness around the importance of automotive restoration. It also raises awareness about the hobby of collecting cars. 

Rick Neal is a Memphian and auto enthusiast who appreciates such a holiday.

"I collect hot rods and build hot rods," Neal said. "That's what I've done my whole life."

One automobile in Rick's collection is named "Lucy" after one of his wife's favorite shows.

"She's a huge 'I Love Lucy' fan," Neal said. "I built it for her. I did an interior theme of 'I Love Lucy' on the door panels and the knobs and the shifter linkages. All that stuff has got hearts on it ... This car will be with us forever."

Neal said what makes cars appeal to him are the stories behind the cars. Whether a childhood memory of riding in a certain type a car with one's grandparents, or the tale of how the owner came into possession of a particular car, Neal said that many the stories can be a lot more important than what you physically see in the car.  

"The car collector world is huge," he said. "Especially now with social media. It allows you to connect with people all over the world that have a similar car or similar interests."

Still, Neal said that there are sacrifices to be made.

"As far as what it takes to get these hot rods on the road, I mean, sometimes it can be overwhelming, especially if you've got a rare car," he said. "Parts are hard to come by. It's a big financial commitment on your whole family. I mean, where a lot of families go to Disney World every couple of years, my family chose to build cars."

If an automobile "sits around" for too long, it will also deteriorate, according to Neal. 

"I mean, they are cars, and you have to use them as cars," he said. "If they sit around all the time, they actually go to waste."

Neal said the cars need to be driven and used.

"Next time you're at a car show or you see a hot rod out on the street, instead of just looking at the car for the beauty you see, talk to the owner and ask them the story," Neal said. "The story of what it took to get it, who owned it and why they want that particular car—It will make a good conversation and I think you will find out a lot more about hot rods than you ever knew."

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