From an early age, Andrew Hoaglan loved helping his dad. Tim Hoagland, and his brothers fix things, especially cars.
“We were always tinkering,” says Matthew Hoaglan, Andrew’s older brother.
By age 15, Andrew had his first vehicle—a 1970 VW bus. His dad traded a Go-Kart for the old VW and Andrew really wanted to fix it. With his dad as a consultant, Andrew repaired the engine and got the brakes operating. He drove the bus for a year, then sold it and bought a 1967 Pontiac Catalina. Father and sons teamed up to repair it, with Andrew doing most of the work. He replaced parts, installed a new carburetor, and bought new wheels and tires.
“Andrew had a gift for repairing and for trading,” Matthew says.
Throughout high school, Andrew fixed up and traded a series of vehicles, including rehabbing an old 1966 Thunderbird his dad purchased, then trading it for a Dune Buggy, which he then traded for a 1973 Dodge Satellite. Later, he bought an old Mustang.
Cars were Andrew’s passion, a hobby he enjoyed doing solo and with his father and brother. The family also enjoyed viewing TV car restoration programs, where experts fixed up old vehicles. Andrew loved watching a wreck being transformed into a sleek racer. He dreamed of having the budget to do that, but figured that would never be.
Then Andrew’s life changed. During his first year at college, he started feeling lousy. He tried ignoring the pain and discomfort, but finally he reached out for medical help. He consulted a variety of doctors and specialists at Children’s Mercy Hospital. The prognosis was not good: Andrew had a massive tumor on his kidneys.
Despite the devastating news, Andrew continued to tinker and drive his beloved vehicles, as his limited energy allowed. He was undergoing an experimental treatment, which was not working. He was still wracked with pain and he understood that he was dying. In November 2019, he was referred to hospice.
In early December, the Chief Elf, from the Elves of Christmas Present, called Andrew.
“We want to give you a gift,” Chief said. “I hear you like cars. What if we fix up one of your cars?”
Andrew was thrilled. He asked for a paint job on his Mustang.
The Chief then called Matthew. “We’d like to do more than a paint job for Andrew,” he said. Knowing how much Andrew adored the old Catalina, which was no longer drivable, Matthew suggested fixing that up.
The Chief agreed, consulting Andrew along the way. He told Andrew, “We will make the car street-legal.”
Andrew had no idea a team of experts would turn that vehicle into a finely-tuned racing machine. Chief reached out to an Elf, who gathered together a team of mechanics, body men, painters, machinists, auto electricians, and others. In all, over 25 experts helped transform the vintage vehicle. They had only ten days to do a complete Cinderella overhaul, so Andrew could drive his present on Christmas Eve.
To heighten the surprise, Chief phoned Andrew to say the car probably wouldn’t be ready for the holiday. But someone would pick up Andrew and his family before Christmas so they could check out the Pontiac’s progress.
On the afternoon of December 24, Andrew knew something was up when a lot of friends started showing up at his house. Then a limo arrived for him and his family. The caravan received a police escort to the Arrowhead parking lot. A tuxedoed man, standing alone in the vast expanse of asphalt, greeted Andrew and his guests. He asked, “Would you like to see your car?”
On cue, Andrew heard an engine roaring. One of the mechanics drove the beloved Catalina, all souped up, completely revamped, over to an astonished Andrew.
The car pulled up right next to him. A gigantic gold bow dominated the windshield. A little girl Elf wearing an Elf’s hat stepped out of the passenger side and handed Andrew the keys to the car. Andrew began looking over the car, admiring the dashboard, gazing under the hood, testing out the driver’s seat. As Andrew peered into the trunk, the song “Bad to the Bone” blasted out of the newly installed sound system.
“Give her a spin,” someone said.
Matthew joined him as Andrew took his first ride around the parking lot.
“We had never experienced such a powerful engine,” Matthew says. “Andrew quickly got the hang of it and began expertly doing donuts around the parking lot.”
Friends and family, plus the team of automotive experts, watched and applauded.
Then Andrew pressed a special control. The “exhaust cut-out” made the car even more powerful. Andrew gave his father a thrilling ride, with plenty of figure eights and donuts.
Then it was his mom’s turn. Gingerly, she got into the car, and laughed and screamed as her grinning son zoomed her around.
“He was all smiles, so happy and excited,” his dad says.
As Andrew’s illness progressed, the car was a spot of joy. He took it to car shows and enjoyed the accolades from fellow enthusiasts. He gave friends and family rides.
“It was a perfect gift for him,” his dad says. ”All of us are so grateful for the car, for the people who worked on it, and for the Elves. We cannot thank them enough.”
Andrew has since passed on, but his car remains safe and sound with his loving family, a reminder of his short and remarkable life.
“We’ll have the car forever,” his dad says.