King Cobra

For one self-proclaimed ‘Buick guy,’ split-second decisions have led to a new career … and a new love of Fords
 
Writer: Patrick Scott Milburn Photographer: August Selckmann
 
We are all influenced by the ebb and flow of everyday life. Things happen that take us places we never expected to be. Life is full of choices. We make decisions on everything from the food we eat, clothes we wear, shows we watch, to the careers we pursue, the houses we buy and the cars we drive. In fact, some research suggests that the average person makes approximately 35,000 choices per day.
We are always one decision away from changing our destination. Sometimes we ponder, evaluate and analyze our decisions, but other times we decide in an instant.
Which is better? There are good arguments on both sides.
For one Southern Maryland man, making a split-second decision is the only way to go.
Carl Merewitz of Huntingtown made one instant decision to start a new business, and 30 years later, he made another to one to buy a car completely out of his character.
He is abundantly happy with both decisions.
Although raised in Montgomery County, Carl has lived in Southern Maryland for 37 years. He moved to Charles County in 1985 with wife Karen to raise a family and begin a career as a mortgage loan officer.
 
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
Carl’s interest in cars started at a young age. Dad Morton was a “Buick guy” and owned a first-year 1963 Buick Riviera and a ’65 Electra convertible, among others. At the time these models were everyday drivers, not the collector cars they are today.
Carl’s older brother Larry had an accident in their father’s Riviera, so dad told Carl if he wanted a car, he better buy his own. Like his father, Carl considered himself a “Buick guy” and so when he was 15, he took his dad’s advice and bought a car.
He found a relatively new 1973 Buick “boat tail” Riviera for sale in The Washington Post classifieds. The ’73 Riviera was considered a “personal luxury car.” It was not a used-up, late ’60s muscle car that most kids his age preferred.
He drove the “Riv” to Winston Churchill High School. It wasn’t long before the transmission needed to be overhauled. He drove over to the AAMCO Service Center in Rockville where the original Turbo 400 automatic was rebuilt with a lifetime warranty. One requirement, the transmission had to be inspected annually at any AAMCO to keep the warranty valid.
Carl continued to drive the “Riv,” but in order to maintain his AAMCO warranty, needed to have the transmission inspected again.
 
A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
He was living in Waldorf, when he placed a telephone call to AAMCO’s main office to discover that there was no local service center in Southern Maryland and that the nearest was located in Marlow Heights. During that phone call Carl asked to be transferred to the franchise sales office.
He saw the business opportunity, and made a split-second decision to quit the mortgage business and open an AAMCO franchise. Just like that, in an instant, Carl made a life- changing decision.
He had found a new calling. Only ever having changed transmission fluid once in his entire life, Carl opened a brand new AAMCO Service Center in Waldorf. With a laugh, Carl says, “I knew what a transmission looked like.”
Looking back, Carl now says, “They weren’t as complicated as they are now.”
 
SWITCHING GEARS
Fast forward to 2014, at a car show on the Leonardtown Square.
Carl walked up to an Everett Morrison-built 427 SC Cobra. It wasn’t a Buick. The Cobra didn’t appear luxurious, fully optioned or comfortable.
“It looked awesome!” Carl recalls.
Just as he had almost 30 years before, Carl experienced another life-changing moment. He was no longer going to be a “Buick guy.” A Ford was calling his name.
Carl began his search in earnest. He soon traveled to look at a Cobra in Timonium. Jason went with him to keep dad’s emotions in check. As it turned out, Carl should have brought Mom.
Cobra owner John Wright activated the remote, and the garage door began to rise. When the Cobra was revealed, Jason screamed, “OK, let’s do this!” That was not at all the “calming influence” that Carl had expected of his youngest son.
Wright had contracted the build of this Everett Morrison Motorcars Cobra replica with Fred Gimbel of Autovision Performance in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania. True to the heritage of the original aluminum body Ford Cobras, this one was built with an original big block, Ford 428-cubic-inch motor, a Ford top loader 4-speed transmission and independent rear suspension. Jaguar Pacific Blue with Wimbledon White racing stripes, Saddle interior and a 90-inch wheel base, the Cobra rides on Compomotive pin-drive wheels with true spinners.
Carl agreed to the purchase price, and the Cobra was his … and Jason’s.
 
THE BEST RESULTS
Choices made in an instant sometimes are life-changing. Often, if we go with our instincts those decisions have the best results. They did for Carl.
He says that the Cobra is not for everybody. It’s a brutal car to drive.
Carl shares advice about his Cobra: “It’s loud, smells like gasoline, and shakes, shudders and bucks. It makes your arms tired and your feet hot. You nearly crash about once every 10 minutes. It’s so darn wonderful you can’t believe it.” •