Thursday, August 9, 2007

It's true...i'm a Car Geek...

Geek Slang.
1. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
2. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)

While does not have a listing for "Car Geek", based on the above definitions of the word "Geek", a Car Geek would probably be along the lines of definition number 2 above but as it pertains to cars instead of computers. That definitely describes me in a nutshell although I wouldn't classify myself as an expert by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, both definitions probably describe me pretty well, minus the "dislikable person part"(I like to think i'm likable at least).

I think of myself as being somewhat intellectual, having grown up a bit of a science geek. On top of that, i've always been one to try to find out, "How stuff works". Ever since I was little, i'd take my toys, etc. apart to find out what made them tick and to see if I could improve on them somehow. Sometimes i'd get lucky and would be able to put it back together so it worked properly, and sometimes, well...let's just say it would be chalked up as a learning experience. Bottom line was that I wasnted to know the inner workings. Inquiring minds wanted to know...

Naturally, as a young boy I had a healthy fascination with cars and naturally that made me interested in Radio Controlled(R/C) cars. At first, it was the cheap Tyco ones sold at the toy stores. Later, after reading a Japanese hobby book and being mesmerized by the photos, I got interested in the higher end R/C cars that were only available at a proper Hobby Shop. These higher end R/C cars you had to build and modify was a match made in heaven.

I scrounged every penny I had for a while to buy that first Hobby Shop R/C Car. Skipped lunch and saved my allowance for a while till I had enough (they definitely aren't cheap...especially for an 11 year old boy). When I finally bought it, I was in heaven. Those things have everything a young gearhead could want. Teeny tiny, differential ring and pinion gears and bearings that you have to assembly yourself. Real, working, fully sprung and oil dampened suspensions. The Gas-powered ones even have a tiny, single piston, 2-stroke engine! They really are designed just like a miniature version of a real car!

Over the next couple of years, I naturally started modifying and racing them at the local R/C track. I never won anything, but I had an incredible amount of fun and actually learned a lot about real cars in the process. At 14, I had a grasp of the concepts of toe-in, toe-out, camber, and caster for vehicle alignments...from modifying and racing R/C cars! I also modified shocks and oil combinations to adjust the damping rates, and lowered the suspensions for a lower center of gravity...modifications done commonly to full-size cars.

There was one day that stands out in my memory. My brother(who was old enough to drive at the time and had a souped up, modified 1986 VW GTI) commented to me one day, "'re so into modifying those little cars. Can't wait to see when you are old enough to drive the real thing". He was right. The natural progression of things led me to real cars and the desire to work on, and modify them as well.

But real cars are a whole different ballgame. I've never been one to like letting other people work on my vehicles. Mainly because I just feel like no one will care and treat your car like you, yourself would. So, I've always wanted to do as much work on my own cars myself. But, rear cars are much more complex than R/C cars so there was much to be learned. That's where reading and the search for knowledge came into play.

My wife always makes fun of me and calls me, "such and geek" when she sees the rows, and rows of car books on my bookshelf. I don't read fictional story books or things like that. I mainly only read technical car books these days. Prior to actually going to automotive tech school and BMW STEP some years later (I now make my living as a BMW Certified Automotive Technician), much of my general knowledge on real cars was built up over the years through a lot of reading of random books and magazines on cars, engines and the like (my favorites of which I plan on posting reviews of on this blog in the future). So, yes, it's true...I AM a certifiable Car Geek...

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