In memoriam of my big brother.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my recently departed brother, Andrew Duncan.

Me and Andy 1

Don’t let the tux fool ya: my brother was a tank-top/t-shirt and blue-jean kind of man.


In my very first blog here on Manually Shifted Soul (aside from the introduction), I mentioned the differences in poster cars from the 1980’s to today.  Andrew and his eldest son were part of the inspiration on that blog.  Furthermore, Andy was an inspiration for me automotive wise, having me help fix family cars, handing off buff-books like Motor Trend that his friend had given him, and take me out for drives on curvy backroads all helped me become who I am now.  Without me knowing at the time, he tried to teach me things like how to handle opposite lock slides which then met our old plastic pedal-car with a broken axle.  Later, he’d teach me things like getting suspension to take a set, apexes, and plans for when I get a header.

Me and Andy 2

When I was a kid, taking things apart and putting them back together was my thing, be it pens or my fathers model locomotives (N-gauge specifically).  Likewise, Andy was always mechanically minded, but also highly independent and stubborn.  Regardless, he was a wealth of interesting observations and helpful when it came to fixing parts.  I remember spending a night “helping” him remove and replace an engine in my dads commuter Geo Metro so it could be ready for the 200 mile round-trip commute it’d make the next five days.

That stubborn streak also earned him the choice to live under house rules, or move out– of course choosing the latter, sometimes living in his 1976 Hornet Sportabout (which I wish I’d kept around).  Even though he was 16, he still made it through life by learning welding and more advanced mechanics through friendships he’d made, as well as serving in the National Guard (he was one of the troops helping in the 1997 floods in Northern California), and eventually the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division until he was honorably discharged.

While he was in the national guard, he took me out in some of his Suzuki Samurai’s, one of which was a very cleanly modified mudder, as well as one of the Humvee’s before the “Hummer” brand was so well known.  I also fell in love with the sound of the induction note of his 1996 Ford Probe GT’s 2.5L V6 that he had when I was in my teens, and he’d take me out on some of what are now my “playgrounds” outside of town.  We would occasionally test drive vehicles in Modesto, such as the NB Miata, 300ZX, Sebring Convertible (curious if anything), and he considered trading a ’99 Mustang GT automatic for a 2003 Altima 3.5L SE (for the kids).

Not only was Andy the sort of mechanic that’d rebuild the transmission in his Suburban (pictured next to Pheobe), but he was a professional millwright, doing welding for many of the factories and refineries in Northern California, including retrofitting the NUMMI plant.

Andy was also an outdoorsman– natural for a military man– who would take his sons camping any chance he got, be it Yosemite or the beaches of Monterey Bay.

We did have our differences, of course.  We butted heads often, about cars and otherwise.  We’d argue about what Impreza we just saw– be it a ’99 Impreza RS or a 2002 WRX (in passing) which were of course two very different generations.  He was the mechanical side, while I tended to know bodies and reviews.  For the time I was unemployed and going to school “on taxpayers dime” (which of course I’m not proud of), Andy did give me plenty of big-brother jabs.

Andy being himself, courtesy of friends sharing on his Facebook.
Andy being himself, courtesy of friends sharing on his Facebook.

But even with the jabs, he had his compliments that will stick with me.  I knew he was proud of some of the achievements I’ve made in the last few years even with such meager means– my commitment to my car (which he said is “fun, but no Mini Cooper S”), and such humble beginnings to try and work up my automotive journalism career goals starting to slowly bud.  When a job interview for doing camera work for a car TV show was presented, I was nervous.  He commented over Facebook saying “bro you have talent making an econo car look as good as you do on no budget is like havin a pig in a poke and selling it as a goose that lays golden eggs.”  The last thing on my page that he “Liked” on Facebook was announcing I’d finally landed a paid writing gig for  I know he knew and was happy for me, and for that I’m grateful.

I’ll miss his energy and know-how.


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