What do you do when your editor shoots you an email asking if you would like to write a story about a lifelong Mopar® fan who has found a way to turn that passion for all things Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth into a meaningful way to get younger generations involved in the vehicles we all love? If you’re me, you immediately say yes and dive in with both feet!
Let’s establish Wayne’s credentials as a diehard Mopar fan. He had a love for cars that started very early. As soon as he could pick up a pencil and draw a stick figure, he figured drawing cars was just as easy. Some of his earliest Mopar memories include rolling around in the backseat of his father’s ’66 383 Charger. But the one that genuinely hooked him was a ’68 Town and Country. Of course, it was woodgrain over green. I know a few white and blue Town and Country vans that were built back then, but I swear all I can remember is the woodgrain and green. In Wayne’s own words, this is how the T&C started molding him into the Mopar fan he is today. “The wagon had a 383 Magnum under the hood. My father did a little bit of work on it to give it some extra BEANS. I was about 10 at the time. Any time he wanted to run to the store, he would take the wagon, and I would go along for the ride. My father would roll down the road, and if I were lucky, we would find a couple Camaros and Mustangs to pick on. There was something amazing about the wagon, even to a 10-year-old. We would blow the doors off a few cars with that thing every time we went for a drive. I was hooked!”
Wayne grabbed his first car at the ripe old age of 14. Keep in mind when I reveal the price, this was a day or three ago. He found a ’68 Plymouth Fury. It didn’t run, but like so many of us when we were teenagers, the car’s condition simply did not matter. Teenagers don’t let the inconsequential get in the way of vehicular-based decisions. If most of us are honest, price doesn’t trump passion from when we fall in love with our first car to when we leave the planet. Lucky for Wayne, this particular Fury was his for the incredibly reasonable sum of $35.00 American! Look at the first three words in the fourth sentence of this paragraph. “It didn’t run.” This car and the fact it would not move under its own power set in motion a lifelong passion for Mopar. It also set Wayne on a path that would eventually lead him to his career.
In the next chapter of Wayne’s life, he put in the time/effort and graduated from Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix. See … I told you the broken-down Fury and its eventual rise from the ashes foreshadowed the path Mr. Parks would travel. Enter Wayne, the technician. He spent several years honing his transmission rebuild skills. I can’t recall when someone who knows how to work on a transmission had trouble finding a job. Wayne found his niche. Armed with the knowledge he needed to carve out a solid career, he was honestly enjoying what he did for a living. You see what I’m doing here … right? I’m setting you up for a curveball. Things are about to change for Wayne in a way he didn’t see coming.
His career had taken him from Phoenix to Florida. The fleet of Mopar goodness had taken many turns along the way. A ’72 Coronet wagon was picked up for $150.00 and rescued from certain death on its way to becoming a demolition derby car. A 1988 Ram Charger and a ’98 Ram round out his current fleet. And Wayne gets to use those cars in one of the most extraordinary ways! After moving to Florida, he settled into the service department of a brand we shall not name. Things were going quite well. The dealership Wayne landed at was a Marion Technical Institute (MTI) sponsor in Ocala, Florida. Students from MTI’s Automotive Technical program would come work at the dealership under the mentorship of a certified technician. Fast forward three or four years, and Wayne mentored 3 or 4 of the students from this program over that time. The instructor running the Auto Tech program left MTI, leaving the students with no teacher. Being the inspiring human he is, Wayne volunteered to work at MTI a few days a week so the students could return to the shop and continue learning in a hands-on environment.
The program at MTI could not have been a better outlet for Wayne’s passion to teach. A month or so went by, and things were going quite well. At this point, Wayne was approached by the administration of MTI and asked if he would like to take things to the next level. They wanted him to run the program! And not just take over what was already in place. MTI allowed Wayne to evolve and impart the knowledge he worked so hard to acquire over the years. More importantly, MTI saw Wayne making a difference in their students’ lives. This is where it gets REALLY cool. The Coronet wagon, Ram Charger and Ram are part of the curriculum! He brings the Mopar vehicles into the shop and allows his students to crawl through them. The high school program has gone so well that MTI offered Wayne the opportunity to transfer his skill set to their college-level automotive classes this year. And he has 50 students lined up and waiting for an opening!
Passion meets opportunity with a healthy dose of Mopar Awesome in helping his students find their way to fulfilling careers. I don’t often use the words “Living the Dream,” but in this case, they seem perfect. Congratulations on finding your calling, Mr. Parks. And thank you for helping to bring younger generations into the Mopar family!