Filtered Content: This photo may not be appropriate for work.

Five years ago today, June 5, 2010, we lost one of the brightest lights on Motortopia, Suzi "Tinkerbell" Bell. She was only 25 years old when she was accidentally run off the road in her C5 Corvette on her way to show it for the first time. She was so excited about it, and had worked several evenings leading up to the event detailing her car to make it just right. She was fully aware that, to the typical car show attendee, her car wasn't really anything special, but it was special to her. It brought back many happy memories of her childhood, "Tinkering" (hence her nickname) with her dad on his blue '67 big-block Corvette convertible. The memory of that car (lost in a garage fire long ago) gave her a love of open-top motoring. As far as I know, she never had a coupe or a sedan, just a Miata, an MX-5, and then her Corvette.

I first met Suzi in a gas station in her hometown of Paoli, PA. I was filling my '66 Corvair and she came over to ask me about the car. We struck up a conversation that must have lasted an hour or more. I really thought that was cool since she was roughly the same age as my younger daughter, Sarah (Ladidragon18 here on Motortopia). I like having friends my kids' age - it helps keep me young. I sort of took Suzi under my wing, helping her learn basic maintenance on her cars and of course, how to keep them looking their best, since I was a professional detailer for well over a decade. I told her about Motortopia during that first conversation, and she soon joined.

My wife was out of town on a Church Women's retreat the weekend before the car show, which allowed me a bunch of time to get together with Suzi to help her get the 'Vette ready for the show. I coached her through repainting the divider between the seats, which was pretty scratched up by the car's original owner. I demonstrated the techniques involved, handed her the masking tape/sanding block/spray can, whatever the tool of the moment was, and she then did the work. The result was outstanding! If I hadn't known it had been so badly damaged in the first place, I never would have guessed.

The day of the car show arrived and I was very excited for Suzi. Having shown a couple of cars in the past myself, I knew that there would be butterflies, especially since she was unsure as to how her bone stock, late model Corvette would be accepted. I drifted down to the end of Fayettye street that she would be arriving from about half an hour before they were planning on closing down entries. She had pre-registered so I didn't think it would be a problem, but I was still concerned. Time goes by. Still no Tink. I started to get concerned, especially since she wasn't answering her cell. I wandered around the show, even taking a bunch of pictures that, as I recall, I posted on here as an album. No word form her for the whole morning into the afternoon. I left around 2PM, to go home to get changed into clean, non-sweaty clothes for another show that evening. I tried calling her a few times with no answer. By that point, I was VERY concerned.

A couple of days later I got a message on here from her, or so it said. It turns out that the message was from her mother, telling me about the accident, how the driver of an 18-wheeler nearly missed his expressway exit and cut over to the right at the last instant from the left lane... without checking his mirror. Tink's car was beside the tractor's right rear wheels, and there was a broken-down car on the shoulder. She was wearing her seat belt, the airbag deployed as it was supposed to, and she was killed on impact.

That evening, I did one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do: Using Suzi's Motortopia page and sign-in (provided by her mother), I informed her friend's list about her passing. It's always hard to tell friends about a loved one's passing, but it's especially hard when it's someone as young and vibrant as Suzi Bell.

Damn, I miss that kid!