The Beauty In The Struggle Of Building Cars

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Despite often being depicted as such building a car isn’t easy. This is a reality that I have become intimately familiar with as I fumble through of my own build, Project Why Wait.

No matter how you slice it building a car is a form of skilled labor, and there’s a learning curve to every new task. How-to articles and YouTube videos have made these learning curves smoother, but the road from idea to execution is by no means straight.

It’s full of switchbacks, hair pins, forks, cliffs, dead ends and everything in between. Say nothing about the number of roadside distractions (life, other projects, etc) that appear along the way.

The challenges one encounters during a build are virtually endless and frustratingly, not all of the challenges are fun. Some are even downright stupid –s10 motor mount engineer I’m looking at you– but each offers a teaching moment.

Be it how to do a specific task, or just another lesson in being proper planning and patience.

In moments of frustration it is important to remember that every project hits peaks and valleys. From the best of the best, to the weeknight, or weekend warrior. Everyone finds more rust than they expected, more damage than they thought possible, and more fitment issues than they care to admit.

All these unexpected ‘gotchas’ come with building a car because, well, that’s just what comes with building a car. The saying “if it were easy everyone would do it” might be cliché, but it’s true.

As an amateur builder I spend lots of time drooling over the fabrication talents of those with skills that far surpass my own. Mike O’Brien, Rob Ida, Nigel Petrie, Keith Charvonia  and Gene Winfield, are just a few of the people who make up a long list of builders I admire.

At face value it might look like they each have some sort of superior deity given talent, but, while it’s true there is such a thing as mechanical inclination, they’ve each hit the limitations of their skill at some point.

The key is they’ve pushed through.

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They too also all look up to builders they admire. Everyone strives to be better, and often the best way to learn is to observe those who are better.

Creating anything, from a car, to a business involves overcoming a series of challenges and struggles and there’s beauty in that struggle.

Each bloody knuckle, burned through panel, or outright failed approach offers a lesson. Some of these lessons come at the most inopportune times (as I’m sure anyone who’s had a failure at the track can attest) but persevering through them is where the magic happens.

Through the darkness of blown deadlines, depleted budgets, and late nights of limited productivity there is a light.

So next time you toss a piece on your scrap pile in frustration. Or find yourself stumped, remember in the end you’ll know more than you had at the beginning. Not one person who knows what they are doing today knew what they were doing when they started.

When you are done and it’s just you and your creation doing what you built it to do it will all be worth it.

That is of course until you tear it all apart to start again.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I feel you my man. My daily driver IS my project car. An old E36 BMW I bought from a friend that had been sitting in his garage for about 3yrs. Upgrading from a standard 325is to M3. It’s fun but frustrating at the same time. You get the taillights, bumpers, side mirrors, steering wheel, actual wheels… and on & on. You get 2 steps ahead then something breaks. Sunroof stops working. While open. Door handle breaks. Key tumbler just spins endlessly. The struggles of keeping a 20+yr old car running, but you love it at the same time.

  2. DAVE T
    Hey dude I know exactly where you coming from, I,m 55 years old no wait 58 (this car buildin life style
    keeps ya young ,ya know?, and I,m still doin the car thing in Canada, ya it’s different up here but I take that same piece of steel and weld it ,and heat it, hammer it, bend it a little swear at it,and by the third one I’m
    smoothin my hands over it sayin man that feels good! I’ve been building motors since I was 15′ my own shop @27, and ya there’s been many a time in the early days when you get a call,my motors got a tick,my motors got an oil leak or I had 2 laps to go and BOOM,but like you said you learn and figue out .But you keep goin because that’s what we do.And more are to follow this twisty bumpy road, I have 2 boys in their
    20’s that have sighned up for this crazy life style #driftzombies..#toppdrift shannonville ,and as I watch them learn and do I think back and say yup im proud of you guys…

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