I remember the first time I ever modified my own car, because it was total heart break. I was 17 at the time, and had basically grown up in a repair shop, doing homework in the back office of my Dad’s shop from grade 4 on, cleaning the floor and putting tools away from grade 5, and then eventually graduating to oil changes and tires in Junior high school. My first job away from Dad was at a bicycle repair shop where I started by doing tune ups, overhauls, and by the time I was in grade twelve I was building wheels, and even supervising at a small rental shop. That was short lived. Customers don’t like to be called fat. Owners don’t like to show up and find the shop closed mid day while the staff bombs local trails.
All that, and yet when I tried to home brew a cold air intake on my first AE86, failed and was left with a hacked up, unusable stock intake and a car that didn’t run it felt like the world had ended and I had thrown 5 years of income in the trash. Emo kids.
I remember my Dad being somewhat annoyed and disgusted with me. (A) My car ran perfectly fine, why was I taking it apart? (B) What was cold air and why did I want it? … Well not actually, but despite all the years that I spent in his shop, modifying was something that was a last resort only. The torch and the welder in the back corner of the shop were evil. If a tech needed either, something had gone to shit, someone was gonna miss their lunch break and the door between the shop at the customer waiting area got closed and dead bolted shut in an effort to isolate the paying customer from the hell that was unfolding within. This is where I learned to curse and break things… and if I’m honest probably saw my first glimpses of something I wanted to be.
But I forgot all of that when I botched that cold air intake, and my Dad despite his lack of understanding for what I was doing, seized the chance to be my Dad and drove me to his shop where we collected the required scraps of tubing, and of all things, that horrid oxy acetylene welder to hack together an AFM adapter plate. The car was back together shortly after, and I imagined, made an additional 10hp as a result. My Dad continued to express disappointment that I had cut up the nicely engineered Toyota bits the car had come with.
At a recent engagement, someone was asking me about cars and the things I do with them. A question was worded, something like… “so when you are working on these cars, is there a manual? How do you know what you are doing?”
I replied, “Most of the time there is no manual. A lot of the work I’m doing is custom, so I have no choice but to wing it.”
My Dad, who happened to be in earshot, jumped in, “The reason it is custom is because you are not using a manual.”
I lol’ed on the spot, at the realization that 20 years later, having seen me hack and cut and weld and grind, both destroying perfectly good cars and making things I loved and cherished, spending all my money and then finally earning something of a living, he still feels exactly the same way.
On my end, much has been learned in those twenty years, but I’m not sure much has really changed either. I recently realized that there may not be a project I won’t undertake. Sometimes that means diving in head first, and then putting in a whole lot of hard work and research to get it done. My Dad has been assistance in that regard over the years, and is a huge part of why I’ve learned so much. Generally, I’ve adapted and can save myself heart-break and anguish by going slow when I’m unsure, double and triple checking everything, and often re-doing things completely to get them perfect. I often like to think that I don’t have much use for my Dad anymore, but the truth is he still has things to show me, even if it’s just what the weird obscure symbols are on a Lotus wiring diagram are, or the fact that Mopar trucks have separate fuses for left and right tail lights. At the very least he is always tremendous moral support, backing me up when shit rains down and lending a hand, and often a tool when mine are not enough.
And because you’ve got [qr]GaraGe on your top menu bookmarks, and have for years even if you don’t always appreciate what you read here, thanks Dad. Happy Father’s day.