SHOP TALK: The Art Of Bartering
I received a lot of positive feedback from our debut issue's Shop Talk article. It seems that a lot of you not only appreciate my passion for the garage and wrenching, but also my OCD for attention to detail in my work. For this I thank you, and I will continue to share my passion with all of you. If I get too in touch with my feminine side please let me know. My heart is an open book, and I like to share it with everyone.
My dad taught me a lot of things about wrenching but when it came to serving people he taught me to promise less and give more. I took this to heart and apply it to everything I do in life. I enjoy giving and sharing and do what I can to make the world a better place. In our wonderful world of motorsports giving and sharing our skills with other motorheads is common practice. It supports the quality garage time and bonding that I wrote about last month.
What I would like to share with you this month is an old practice called bartering. Bartering is the exchange of services rather than by the use of money. When money is tight, and for a gear head or racer this is all of the time, bartering is a great way to get quality work done without spending money from your broken part fund. Allow me share my most recent bartering transaction with you.
When I finished putting together my Pro Street Camaro, it was both a happy day and a sad one. I was elated that my work was done and everything came out better than I had first envisioned. The engine and engine bay are a piece of art. The electrical system is brand new and is ready for NASA to test it. The frame and suspension is tight and right and freshly painted. The complete fuel system and ignition system is brand new. So why am I sad? Besides missing the sleepless nights working in my shop, teaching my daughter numerous wrenching lessons, garage bonding with some good people, the paint on the car is horrible! I went way over budget completing the car and had nothing left for paint.
Sure I have an air compressor, a filter/dryer, a few spray guns and the know how to paint it. You see my painting skills are not up to par with my mechanical skills. I can paint frames, engines, fuel cells, interior panels, trailers, tool boxes, but not my baby. My brother and I painted my first race car when I was 16. Everyone loved it and I received many compliments. Thirty-four years later my expectations have changed for how a finished show car should look and I do not have the skills to take my car to that level. So I am back at the no cash for paint dilemma.
I was talking with a friend of mine about the paint on my car and my lack of cash to fix it. He said that his son was a genius at wet sanding and buffing and was certain he could get the paint looking better. He also told me that his son had an older Camaro that needed some electrical work and some custom dash modifications. He knew I was the guy for the job and we agreed to barter for our services.
Here is where the promise less and give more philosophy come into play. I relocated his battery to the trunk. Wired in a secret kill switch, enclosed all of the new power wires in a Vulcan heat sleeve and routed it along the frame rails. I wired in a new fuel pump relay and radiator fan relay, installed a power distribution box and re-wired the absolute "butcher job" of a mess I uncovered while trying to organize and clean up his engine bay. I cut out his ashtray and custom installed a Painless Performance switch panel to control his ignition, starter, fuel pump, and fan. While wiring the switch panel, I uncovered yet another mess of wiring in the steering column. Can I remind you that all he wanted was his car to start and if possible, install a push button starter. He was super psyched at all of my suggestions and had no problem ordering every part we needed to complete my vision. We found that he desperately needed new wheel bearings and I told him if he bought the parts I would do the work. He came by a week later with new rotors and bearings. I pressed the new races in and installed his new rotors and wheel bearings. I had a lot of fun along the way helping him and was happy to share some quality garage time with my friend’s son.
In return for my services, he shared his "mad skills" and wet sanded my car, buffed it, sealed it, and polished it out. As a finishing touch, he went around the car with touch up paint and made sure that red was the only color visible. I am happy to say that his work produced an end result that was much better than I had anticipated. He proved the old saying "that you can't polish a turd" to be false. The best way to describe the paint on my car before he started was it looked as if someone washed the car with milk on the hottest, summer day and let the sun dry it. There was very little shine and it had a cloudy appearance to it. There was also a lot of orange peel that he was able to tame while wet sanding. My car has a brand new shine to it. I am happy beyond words at the finished product. He certainly took a bad paint job and turned it into a glistening gem.
So for all of my fellow motorheads, gearheads, garage geeks, tool junkies, enthusiasts, techs, mechanics, builders, fabricators, or whatever else we tend to call ourselves from time to time, I encourage you to seek out others who may share a different expertise and try out the old barter system. The time you spend together will benefit the both of you, and provide some quality garage time and some future "shop talk" to share with others.