SHOP TALK: Why Do We Do This?
I understand that we all have a passion for cars, or I wouldn’t be writing this article, and you wouldn’t be reading it. I understand that some of us get obsessive and even excessive with our cars. I also understand that our cars are supposed to bring us joy and take us away from the stresses of life. So, allow me to ask a simple question. How is it that these very cars we obsess over, can also bring us the most stress and discomfort? I’m certain all of you could share a story or two about how your car has shaved a few years off of your life. Well sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of the last month of my life, and how Big Red decided to put my love for her to the ultimate test.
As you’re aware, I spent the last year completely disassembling my car for the 7th or 8th time. This past rebuilding process was extra special as she received a brand new paint job. In addition to the new paint, she got a new set of wheels and tires, brakes, chassis strengthening, weight reduction, and a long list of other upgrades/improvements to both performance and aesthetics.
When she was finally complete in mid-June, just in time for Pro Street Palooza, she was absolutely breathtaking. For the first time in my life, I had a car that I was completely happy with. Her first several outings were scheduled appearances at car shows, industry events for sponsors, and various charity events to help put a smile on the faces of those less fortunate. (Besides racing, that is my favorite thing to do.)
Well, Big Red was a smashing success. Everyone loved her and she brought home a ton of trophies and accolades since that time. During her last outing I was giving her a detail cleaning with a brand new micro fiber cloth and noticed a spot on the roof that was not coming off. I gave it another spray, wiped a bit more, but it only got worse. As the detail spray evaporated in the hot sun, it revealed a series of really bad scratches. The brand new micro fiber cloth I was using had a micro abrasive on it that destroyed my brand new paint job. Well the joy that my car was supposed to bring me, turned into agony at that very moment. Thankfully, later that day, Matt, the guy who painted my car, visited the event, and when I showed him the scratches, he laughed and said, “Bro, no worries! I got this! I will come over and fix it in your driveway later in the week.” I have to admit his “no worries” attitude and my confidence in his abilities made me feel much better.
So let’s fast forward to later that week. Matt showed up and knowing how OCD and anal I am, completely wrapped my car from front to back with a plastic car cover. He then strategically and surgically removed the roof portion of the wrap. I was immediately impressed as I was silently freaking out over the buffing compound that was going to get in every nook and cranny of my car. He gently wet sanded and buffed the scratches out in no time at all and left my car in better condition than before the scratches ever happened. But wait, this story is not over yet. Before Matt left, I asked him to help me push Big Red back into my shop. Big Red makes her home on top of a drive-on lift. There is a slight ramp at the back of the lift that makes it too steep for me to push Big Red in by myself. If she gets pushed too far forward, though, she will come off the ramps on the front of the lift, which then makes it impossible for me to push her out by myself. Since most of my excursions with Big Red require loading extremely early in the morning or late at night, I need to be able to do this by myself. You’re probably asking, “why don’t I just drive it in and out?” Well I tried that once, and it not only melted the paint off my beautiful shop wall, it also set off all of our car alarms. So pushing her in and out is really the best option, and not a big deal…as long as you do it my way. (By the way, my wife is usually my #1 helper with this task and has it down to a science.)
Unfortunately, Matt decided not to follow my instructions. Afterall, he is an autobody expert and clearly knows how to push a car in and out of a shop. Well he pushed it using his method, but when I told him to stop, he was not able to, because he had nowhere to pull back. So, in a frantic split-second reaction to save my car from rolling off the other side of the lift and smashing my workbench, I leaned in the driver window, got a hold on the roll cage, and dug in deep to get her stopped. It was by the grace of God I was able to stop Big Red from smashing the workbench and causing some major front-end damage. We laughed, I thanked Matt for his help, and he went back to his shop.
I walked in and out of my shop over a dozen times that day. Each time, I stopped and admired how beautiful Big Red looked. During my last drool session, I noticed a spot in front of the rear wheel that looked like some wet sand sauce or polishing compound residue. I grabbed another brand new micro fiber cloth and completely inspected it before touching my car. (I am a quick learner.) Much to my dismay, the spot did not go away. As a matter of fact, I actually felt it through the cloth. There was a gouge in my freshly painted and buffed car. Yes, you read it correctly, a gouge, and it was down to the white sealer I immediately got nauseous and panicked. Of course I put the blame on Matt. After all, he was standing in that exact spot while he was sanding and buffing the roof. But how? He is like 6’2” and this gouge is near the bottom of my car. Then it hit me. In the attempt to save my car from rolling off the ramps, I must have leaned against that spot and my pocket knife took care of the rest.
So I gave Matt a call and told him the bad news. He asked me to immediately send him a picture of the damage. He called me back and once again said, “Bro, no worries! I got this! It could not have happened in a better spot. It is fresh paint, and we know the exact code. Relax, it will blend perfectly.” He told me to come to his shop first thing Saturday morning, and we’ll be out by noon the latest. I decided to load the car Friday night, as 5am was way too early to be starting her up and waking my family. As chance would have it, my winch decided to die as I was loading Big Red into my hauler. As they say, “Timing is everything!” I called Matt and told him the news, and he gave me his usual response, “Bro, no worries! I got this! I will come by in the morning and load her into my trailer.”
Matt showed up first thing Saturday morning. I fired the beast up and made a ton of noise in the process loading it into his hauler. As we unloaded Big Red back at Matt’s shop, I was just starting to calm down when I heard a horrific sound. In the blink of an eye, and with no warning at all, both exhaust pipes ripped right off the headers. Big Red loaded into Matt’s trailer with ease, but the angle must have been slightly different when we unloaded, because the weight of the car rolling backwards was just enough to cause all of that damage. My entire exhaust was custom cerakoted, and it looked absolutely amazing. It was now scratched, dented, and the hanging straps were broken. Oh to be a fly on the wall that day! Not only was my perfect creation of art completely finished, but her body was scratched and her exhaust system was ruined.
Doing his best to calm me down, Matt told me to focus on fixing the exhaust while he once again covered the car and it prepped it for paint. Fortunately, he had a can of silver high heat ceramic exhaust paint handy. It wasn’t million-dollar, super-durable cerakote, but nonetheless it did the job. I straightened out the dents in the heat shield and prepped the exhaust for paint. I called the local auto parts store and had them drop off a pair of hangers for me to modify and fabricate to become one with the system I previously designed. At the same time all of this was happening, Matt prepped the car for paint, and laid down the white sealer that the color required to use. He then applied a few coats of red, followed by a few coats clear. I was able to not only successfully fabricate a new set of hangers, but made them much better than the original set. Matt’s blending job looked fantastic, and as he promised, no one will ever know (except all of you of course)! We very carefully loaded Big Red back into and out of his trailer and brought her safely back to my shop.
I would really like to tell you that this story ends here. Much to my dismay there are two more mishaps that happened that week. I needed to do some testing and see the data from some of the changes I made. Everything was perfect, and she was running like a champ until…I released the trans brake and launched really hard. When she came down from her pull late into 2nd gear, the “wheelie skids” I made under the oil pan hit REALLY hard. So hard I thought I broke my driveshaft, dropped the tranny, and hurt the rear all in one. Thankfully, once she leveled out, everything seemed to be working fine. When I shut her down back at my shop, smoke started bellowing out of the back of the hood near the cowl. I jumped out thinking something was on fire. Again, by the grace of God it was just my oil sending unit that decided to start leaking on me.
Do I have to remind you that our cars are supposed to bring us joy and happiness? After some math and suspension adjustments, the ride height situation is now under control. The sending unit lives in “no man’s land” between my firewall and the back of my big block. A simple two-minute job took me hours of misery trying to find a way to fit my big hand in a tiny place. It probably would have been less of a headache to drop the entire k-member/engine than it was to do it in place. Apparently, Big Red likes to make things really difficult and painful for me, and I’m really starting to think this is her way of testing my love for her.
I’m happy to say that my pride and joy (ha) is once again running and looking good. She is scheduled every weekend from now until the end of November. I’m praying that everything goes as smooth as possible, and I can get her back in my shop for a long and restful winter’s nap. At the end of the day, things could have been far worse, and I could have been injured as well. But hopefully reading my rant and living through my stressful month has made you smile and feel better about your own situation. So, allow me to close this story by asking you all a few simple questions one more time. Why do we do this? Are we stupid? Are we looking for stress to find us? Should we pick another hobby? The answer is probably yes to all of the above, but then that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
Until next time – Keep Wrenching