Cars are ‘not for him’ but are a way of life

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles of local people and what being an American means to them. Tell us what it means to you to be an American by joining our online forum.

Larry Voight’s relationship with cars started when he was 8 or 9, helping his father work on Model T’s.

Now the 54-year-old Manassas Park mechanic and his sons work on cars outside their house near Independent Hill.

Curiously, Voight insists that the life of auto body technician isn’t for him. When asked what he likes about the work, he said “nothing.” When asked why he’s done it all his life, he said “it’s the only thing I’m good at.”

But his enthusiasm about certain automotive vehicles suggests otherwise.

Voight has a 1942 Chevy 1.5 ton, 4×4 panel truck that he says was used as a radio and telephone truck by the U.S. Army during World War II. It is his baby.

Voight found out about the truck when a friend told him about “an old ambulance” in Bailey’s Crossroads. It took him six months to talk the owner into selling it, but Voight bought the truck in 1992 for $1,000.

He has been restoring it ever since, and expects another ten years to pass before his project his complete.

In his spare time, Voight is either working on the truck or hunting for parts. The search has led him from Idaho to the Carolinas to Europe.

His best find was a set of cat-eye reflectors he bought near Gold Beach in France for about $60.

Voight was born and raised in Norfolk, so naturally he joined the Navy. That was when he was a teen-ager, and he left with an honorable discharge after three months. Then he joined the merchant marines.

“What started out to be a 90-day trip ended up being over a year,” Voight said of his journey on a cargo ship transporting Army supplies from Japan to Vietnam.

Voight’s deep sense of patriotism was developed during one of those trips. He said his ship was docked in Vietnam when a small boy followed a group of longshore men onto the ship and threw a hand grenade into a cabin, killing the chief mate. The man was a friend of Voight’s.

“I try to explain to my kids the freedom they have here compared to some other countries. They just don’t realize how lucky they’ve got it,” he said.

Voight acts exasperated when he talks about his sons Ryan, 17, and A.J., 15, and their fascination with Volkswagens, but he seems proud of their abilities as mechanics.

Still, he said he encourages his boys to find another career.

“Cars are a lot more dependable than they used to be, and they’re getting easier to work on so the work gets cheaper,” he said.

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