Have Wrench, Will Travel

Getting Things Done

My cars aren’t always shiny. One of them is a little loud. One of them has a bit of rust on the unfinished floorboards.

Some people may find these things a bit off-putting. Others don’t. But each of my cars — and I have a few — share one distinct feature that makes them unique from every other on the road.

They are all, without exception, hand built or hand assembled by me.

I am big believer in the idea that a man should know the equipment that he is responsible for. If you’re going to use computers, you should make a reasonable effort to understand how that computer works. And for goodness sakes, if you’re going to drive a car, you should be able to work on it.

Now, I know that in the technological age, working on your own car has become ridiculously difficult and economically unfeasible. The last car I owned that I hadn’t built, was more computer than machine. On any of the many occasions where I had to take it in, the technician first plugged it into his computer to see what my computer said was wrong. And do you know what it usually was? A sensor of some sort. That sort of headache, I do not need.

But traditional, mechanical engines are easy to understand, easy to operate and easy to repair.

It may sound ridiculous to some people out there today, but I think that one of the most accessible things that a man can do to better himself today — outside of getting a library card — is to build his own car.

Most people hear those words and grow a little faint. It seems like an insurmountable task to a generation that doesn’t even know how to unstop their toilets. But that is the exact reason why it’s so necessary.

So let’s look at some practical reasons why building your own car will benefit you.

More Bang For Your Buck

This one is often hard for people to understand but it’s true. If you spend four thousand dollars on a new-er car, it’s going to have problems. It’s going to break down at some point, things are going to wear out, etc.

However, if you spend the majority of that money in rebuilding a five or six hundred dollar car, you are likely to have a new engine, transmission, interior, etc. all for the same money. What’s more, the systems will be simpler so they’ll be easier to manage.

And in case you don’t think in can be done, I just finished my ‘from-the-ground-up’ rebuild of a ’92 Suburban for just over four thousand. It can be done.

Reliability

This may sound counter intuitive, but I have found it to be true time and time again.

Modern engines will last awhile if given the proper maintenance at the right intervals, but once they start to break down, they’ve had it.

Components are not interchangeable, parts can be difficult to come by and having to pay for the technician will cost you an arm and a leg.

Mechanical engines last a long time. Parts do wear out, but not at the same rate and, once they do, they are usually easy to replace without a lot of headache. My work truck, that I drive daily and beat to death on the weekends, still purrs like a kitten everyday and it’s been ten years since I first put it together. Show me that kind of reliability in a modern car.

Level Up: Building New Skills

I don’t think the importance of this one can be under-rated. Life is about learning and the more you can engage yourself with the world around you, the better off you will be as a man, as a person, and as a human being. Continue to push yourself and grow.

Most of the tools that you need are both fun to use and easy to master (not to mention relatively inexpensive). Angle grinders, a welder, and a bunch of wrenches will get you through nearly any mechanical situations with only the occasional hammer blow thrown in.

And these skills are not one-off skills. Being able to manipulate metal will open up a whole new door of opportunity for you to explore. And after all, isn’t that what life is all about?

Confidence

Having learned new skills and having accomplished something tangible cannot help but lead one to having greater confidence in oneself. After building a car, unplugging the toilet doesn’t seem so insurmountable anymore.

Achieving goals, and having fun doing so, are the most important thing in my life and I would say that they should be in yours also. Finding confidence in yourself will lead you to push yourself into new challenges and into new extremes that you may not have been willing to go before. Who knows where the world may take you if you let it.

Community

I know a lot of guys that identify as gamers and they are always talking about the gaming ‘community’. And I understand. That sense of the community has been largely destroyed in today’s world, which has forced most of us to form new relationships online.

The car community is alive and well — online and off — and it is filled with great guys (and some not) who would love to help you get started. There is more advice available to you online in a car community then your average noob would ever get trying to break into a game like Dark Souls, for example.

Don’t be afraid to interact with people and you will be surprised how willing people are to interact with you. The world can be a lot wider — and a lot more interesting — then you think.

General Success in Life

Building personal interactions, gaining self-confidence, building upon your skills and saving money are all the basic building blocks you need to master the game of life and be successful at whatever you choose to do.

There are going to be some of you out there who will ask why you couldn’t just learn to, say, program or do something else with your hands.

Well, you could. But I sincerely doubt you will find anything as readily accessible, simple to do, and practically beneficial as building your own car. Especially in the long term. Not only is the car something that you will be able to rely upon for as long as you choose to — but the skills that you have learned will continue to aid you across a variety of fields and throughout many other different pursuits, should you continue down the path of self-improvement.

If I peaked your interest, there are a multitude of resources and ideas out there to get you started, and I certainly hope that you look into them. Always feel free to comment with any ideas below and, as my Dark Souls friends would say: Remember, we’re all in this together.