It may have stung me that Ed Butler’s whole “you’re like a son to me” line turned out to be one he used on others, but it didn’t surprise me.

I mean, he was a Car Salesman (caps intentional)—the kind that proved the stereotype. He’d made a fortune playing to people’s emotions. Why should he treat me differently than he treated anyone else?

It was information I filed away in a corner of my mind. I was constantly learning from Ed, and it wasn’t all about what I wanted to be. Sometimes it was about what I didn’t want to be. He had all the material stuff a guy could want, but looking back, I wonder if he had any genuine relationships.

I began to view our relationship as more of a trade. He had my loyalty. I worked, I got paid, I enjoyed the perks.

Ed’s Piper Aztek airplane, for example. It was one of his favorite toys, and he flew it all over the place. We’d fly into Fryeburg, Maine, get into the Chevy Blazer he kept waiting at the airport, and drive to his home in Artist Falls, North Conway. Or we’d fly to Nantucket, where he also had a home.

Of course.

Only the best, all the time.

Before long, he was teaching me to fly the plane. The years of being in school and feeling stupid fell away. Whatever I lacked when it came to book learning, I had in spades when it came to anything hands-on. In just a short period of time, I’d gone from barely knowing how to drive a stick shift to running race boats and flying an airplane. I don’t know if it was confidence or arrogance that realization built in me, but it was something.

And then, while still enjoying use of Ed’s many toys, I bought a dream car of my own: a 1974 Trans Am. It was a 4-speed in Buccaneer Red with black interior, and it had every conceivable option save one—the SD455 engine.

Jeff Lippitt at Honda Performance had ordered the car with that engine multiple times, and it kept coming in with the 400 instead. So he took matters into his own hands. He rebuilt the engine, turning the car into a custom high-performance speed machine. He drove it for 6 months, then sold it to me.

On Michelin X tires, I ran it up to 140 mph. In that car, I was flying every bit as much as in Ed’s airplane.

But that Trans Am was all mine.

I’d owned cars before. I’d driven some of the very best. But that car was the one that took my love of automobiles to the next level. It was power and freedom on four wheels.

I was hooked, and if you’ve ever been hooked on anything, you know—the hook is only the beginning.

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Me, Ed Butler, and Joe Krawczyk on Nantucket. Cue the fashion comments!

Me, Ed Butler, and Joe Krawczyk on Nantucket. Cue the fashion comments!

H O T   W H E E L S

H O T   W H E E L S

I wish the picture did it justice. God, I loved that car!

I wish the picture did it justice. God, I loved that car!