As spring quickly approaches, I am running out of time to complete the long list of improvements and upgrades I had planned over the winter for my Pro Street Camaro, "Big Red." Two of the near twenty items are mandatory fixes essential to performance. The rest of the list is just upgrades to an already above average, fully functioning part. So the questions that come to mind are: why do we do this, and why do we spend our hard earned money replacing a part that is really not broken?
If money is not an issue or if the earnings from your race car cover the costs, it’s easy to justify keeping up on all of the latest and greatest parts on the market. For the vast majority of us, though, this is not the case. We spend our much-needed paychecks to upgrade our cars, quite often on parts we don't need but really want. This is clearly a “need for speed” mentality, and if you’re anything like me, a not so little thing known as OCD kicks in and further fuels the addiction to keep wrenching.
For detail junkies like myself, once things are running properly, there is a desire to keep them clean and color coordinated. The overall motif of an engine bay or interior becomes just as crucial as performance. My red spark plug wires HAVE to be covered by red heat sleeves. Doesn't everyone’s?
A Samurai Warrior trains for many years to hone their craft. They spend every waking moment training their bodies and fine-tuning technique. When they finally achieve the coveted title of Samurai, they don’t sit back and watch re-runs of the Golden Girls. Just like a true Gearhead, they go back into their shop, or as they call it "Dojo," and continually identify things to improve.
Sometimes these improvements are based on actual data collected from performance. Yes, the Samurai used data loggers much like the ones we put into race cars. These state of the art data loggers were called brains. If a Samurai returned home with a laceration on his arm, immediate work was done to not only improve the body armor, but to fix the flaw in technique that allowed him to be cut in the first place. This will ultimately save their life in the future.
The Gearhead also makes many repairs and improvements based on actual data collected at the track. A car that is running too lean is not performing at its full potential. But like the Samurai, it’s not enough to just fix the air/fuel ratio. The Gearhead fixes the flaw that could potentially save the life of the engine from a fatal blow of detonation in the future.
When a Samurai comes home from a victorious battle, his armor is not tossed into the corner of the dojo and forgotten about until the next time it’s needed. No! The armor is hung meticulously on a special custom-made rack. It is then thoroughly cleaned and examined for any damage that may have happened during battle. The true Gearhead after returning home from a victorious day at the racetrack does not leave his car on the trailer until the next time it’s needed. No! Just like the Samurai it’s parked in the shop for a meticulous cleaning and a thorough examination of every moving part.
So you see, a Gearhead and Samurai Warrior have much more in common than one might think. Instead of identifying us as one or the other, though, I propose a new title that suits both – CANI Warrior. What in the camshaft does that mean you might ask? Allow me to explain. CANI is an acronym for Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Isn't that what we are all truly striving for. No one wants a mediocre racecar or mediocre martial art technique. There is a primal need for speed, need for function, need for safety, need for aesthetics, and to sum it all up, THE NEED TO IMPROVE!
So the next time you enter your shop and begin to plot out your next plan of attack, take a brief moment, bow to your car and help unlock the Samurai Warrior that lives inside all of us.
Until next time,