In the Words of Freiburger…

Hot Rod - - Contents - By David Freiburger Road­kill @david­freiburger

I’ve never done the “here’s my dad” story be­fore, but he’s the one who got me into cars and en­ter­tain­ment, and his story is pretty in­ter­est­ing. Jim Freiburger was adopted into a fam­ily in Bartlesville, Ok­la­homa (the home of Phillips 66), where his fa­ther ran the town’s in­sur­ance com­pany. My dad got a the­ater de­gree at Tulsa U (dur­ing which time he in­ter­viewed Elvis for lo­cal ra­dio and later was shot at af­ter cov­er­ing civil rights ral­lies in Alabama) and a busi­ness de­gree at Stan­ford be­fore mov­ing to Los An­ge­les to work at NBC on shows with the likes of Steve Allen and Ten­nessee Ernie Ford. Next, he moved to an ad agency (where GiGi Carl­ton also worked; she later be­came Robert E. Petersen’s per­sonal as­sis­tant and still man­ages the es­tate of the man who founded HOT ROD) and then he ran a TV com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion com­pany in Hol­ly­wood with clients like Ply­mouth, Goodyear, and Pon­tiac—which is why I was ex­posed to a lot of rac­ing at On­tario, River­side, Pomona, and OCIR as a kid. Re­mem­ber those 1968 GTO com­mer­cials with the guy in a suit bash­ing the new En­dura bumper with a chrome crow­bar? “It’s the most rev­o­lu­tion­ary new bumper since—since bumpers.” My dad pro­duced that. He was also on site at OCIR, film­ing a Won­der Bread com­mer­cial, when Kelly Brown fa­mously crashed the Won­der Wagon Vega Funny Car in front of the Con­ti­nen­tal Bak­ing ex­ecs.

My dad came to work with some names you know: Leonard Ni­moy, Or­son Wells, Fred As­taire, Richard Drey­fuss, Rue McClana­han, and many more. At the time, he drove to three-mar­tini lunches in a 12-year-old 1953 Mercedes 300S Cabri­o­let, or per­haps in his MG TD, and I imag­ine he was pretty dash­ing— Mad Men style. I didn’t come around un­til 1967, and only re­ally be­came aware of his pro­duc­tion work as a kid in the mid-1970s. Nepo­tism found me in just two TV com­mer­cials: once I was a hand model for Pringles, and I was in a tele­phonecom­pany com­mer­cial with Bill Cosby.

At this point, I should clar­ify that I’m no re­la­tion to Fred Freiberger, whose name ap­pears in the cred­its of many old TV shows, in­clud­ing Star Trek. Peo­ple ask me about that a lot.

My first wrench­ing ex­pe­ri­ences were help­ing my dad do things like chang­ing wa­ter pumps on the street in front of our house, and I re­mem­ber lay­ing un­der our 1946 Ford to swap rod bear­ings on the Flat­head. That was the only Amer­i­can col­lec­tor car he’s had out­side of a flat­fender Jeep I gave him about 15 years ago, but he’s had the MG, the Mercedes, and a Bent­ley longer than he’s had me; he loves to tell the story of the Bent­ley beat­ing Lu­cille Ball’s car at a show at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. In 1977, he bought an old Jaguar sight un­seen in London, and we took a fam­ily va­ca­tion in it. That was the start of an early re­tire­ment from com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion and a move into some free­lance art di­rec­tion of a few B movies, in­clud­ing 10 to Mid­night with Charles Bron­son (some set dec­o­ra­tions from that movie be­came part of my first rental house when I moved out). More than that, though, my dad was de­sign­ing and build­ing sets for lo­cal the­aters as I was at the age where I be­gan to help. I learned ba­sic car­pen­try and gen­eral the­ater pro­duc­tion and was in plays from ju­nior high through high school, even work­ing crew jobs dur­ing the sum­mer.

So when peo­ple ask how I got into cars, wrench­ing, and host­ing video shows, there’s the an­swer. By now, my dad hasn’t held a “reg­u­lar” job in 40 years. He shoots trap, fid­dles with his cars, and has been the an­nouncer at Con­cours d’El­e­gance car shows for a cou­ple decades. I hope to one day be as cool as he is.

[ Shaken, not stirred. Re­ally.

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