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mrcvs

Is this a hobby better suited to be born into?

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I'm with Gunsmoke (see posts above) on people who develop an interest early in their lives, i.e. childhood.  When my daughters were little and had a group of friends over to play on a rainy day, I could throw a pile of colored paper, string, glue, popsicle sticks, and crayons on the floor.  Some of the kids would dig in and make stuff happily, others would stare at the ceiling or just annoy each other.  I thought I could tell the budding engineers from the others.  The hands-on kids went on to ride and fix their own bikes, eventually took an interest in cars.  

 

My father wasn't into mechanical stuff, but my next door neighbor was an old guy who had been head of an engineering department at Johns Hopkins Univ.  He owned a big wooden sailboat, was always fixing something in his garage.  He told me frankly, "Son, nothing is ever going to work right if you don't cuss at it!" - and he did, quite loudly at times.  I played with taking apart old watches, fixing lawnmowers, building go-karts, and eventually at 17 acquiring a 1950 Ford convertible for $50 in 1961.  It took a lot of fixing - and cussing - to keep it going, but it was all low budget stuff.  It got painted with a case of spray cans.  As the years went by, I bought more tools and learned more skills.  Going to an engineering high school  and taking engineering in college helped me a lot.  Fifty years of engineering work on mechanical and electrical stuff provided many learning experiences.  A succession of interesting cars came and went, none really expensive or show quality.  But, it wan't until my daughters got out of college and married, that I had the time and money to seriously pursue old cars.   Since then, I've completely restored two cars, have a third one making very slow progress, and I'm working hard on building a replica of a 1932 Studebaker Indy car from scratch.  Since the age of 50, I've learned welding, machining, aluminum body fabrication, transmission rebuilding, and lots of other things.  I've also learned when to pay good people to do work that I can't or shouldn't.  As others have said, you have to keep at it, be willing to fail and try again, and love what you are doing.  At 75, I'm a pretty competent mechanic and fabricator, and know how to do project management.  There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying: "We get too soon old and too late smart."  Start early!

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Posted (edited)

Well of course its an advantage to be born into just about anything.  If you grow up learning something, then it gives you a huge boost.  This doesn't mean you can't start something up later in life though.   I am in my 40's and I just got into the old car hobby 2.5 years ago.  I didn't grow up around cars, didn't know anyone who was in the car hobby, nothing.  Just saw a 31 Model A Roadster somewhere, fell in love with it and made an impulse buy.  It has been a learning and fun journey ever since with mistakes made, friends made, and getting even more addicted to this hobby.  Now my 18 year old son is hooked and enjoying every minute of it too!

Edited by kfle (see edit history)
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Interesting thread, we all got here differently.   My father was a PhD. But was also a big do it yourselfer but to being born before the Depression and growing up during it.  He built our home, he liked used cars, especially old Cadillac’s- 1947-1958.   He taught me to drive on my 12th birthday, which was a highly anticipated event.  My brother who was two years older bought a 1942 Harley Davidson 45 police bike when he turned 13.  The $75.00 price was shared 50/50 with Dad, with one condition.  John had to restore it before he rode it, which proved to be a wise idea later when he was able to ride it,  Sweat equity make careful riders.

When turned 13, I did the same.  By the time I was riding mine, I was head over heal in love with a Model A Fordor.  I couldn’t sell my Zundapp motorcycle and traded it for a boat & motor which after it was restored provided cash for a car, but the Model A was gone.  Then my brother and I teamed up on a few builds before the Air Force got me.  In the Air Force the bases had hobby ships where I could use their tools and other expertise to redo various rides during my 4 ½ years a Photo Interpreter  for air target charts.  It was I those hobby shops where I learned that if you want to know how to do something, ask someone who knows.  Good advice for a life of old cars.

Now 112 cars and 3 degrees later, I’m retired and still enjoying playing with cars and all the interesting people we’ve met with 46 years in the AACA and our local clubs.  We have a golf cart for farm use, but no golf clubs or Country Clubs or regrets.  I even flipped cars during my college years for transportation & profit.

It might have been more interesting to born into the hobby, maybe I’d be more into Cadillac’s than Fords, but that’s fine too.81Cars.thumb.jpg.a0b72e3f05e7a378d08d83dc93309bcb.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Is this a hobby better suited to be born into?

 

It is an impossible question to give an answer. I was born into the hobby, but I don't know any other way (not by choice) and those who were not don't know any other way. The old slogan is the grass always looks greener next door might apply here. My three sons were born into it, two have ZERO interest at all, one sort of but not really. 

While I grew up in the hobby, my father was not much of a mechanic, but he tried. I did most of the repairs on his cars as an early teenager. Some people can read a manual and understand it, others read it and are more confused after reading it, so it all depends on each individual. I feel I am pretty good mechanic (or so I have been told) and do everything but paint,  but I was born with mechanical skills and things just came easy to me, ended up working 40 years as an electrician which I found to be a boring way to make very good living. 

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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Very interesting discussion. I am 70 years old, never took any shop classes, never worked at any job involving automobiles, hate most "do-it-yourself" projects, and have definitely never been financially well to do. And yet I have always been interested - no, make that obsessed - with cars, have owned hundreds, worked on them all myself, and have done just about everything from paint to engine rebuilds. I do give credit to my father who was a big do-it-yourselfer out of depression era necessity. In the early 60s he overhauled the engine on our 55 Ford lying on his back in our gravel driveway and I was amazed at the positive results. It was like a switch turned on and I was hooked for the rest of my life. I was very lucky that both my parents and my wife accepted and supported my "hobby". I usually had only one hobby car at a time and never siphoned funds from the household to work on them, and that is still true today. I had to make many of the life choices that the OP and others have run into but I have always been able to keep car work in the picture in some way due to its critical importance to me.

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I agree it is something best born into. Most of my family viewed being a gearhead as not politically correct so had to learn all on my own & am still learning.

 

For that matter when I attended GMI being a gearhead was not a plus was even not welcome in the Firebirds (GMI car club) because of my nutty  and not corporate correct ideas on how engines should be designed (like how to meet emissions standards without EGR or a catalytic converter - 67 FI 327 Camaro that got 25 mpg on the Interstate, met 75 standards in 1972 and won autocrosses).

 

That said I got into computers early for one main reason: am a Floridian and computers needed air conditioning. Happiness is that can now combine both hobbies.

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1 hour ago, TexRiv_63 said:

 In the early 60s he overhauled the engine on our 55 Ford lying on his back in our gravel driveway and I was amazed at the positive results.

 

I'm curious about this. Did he rebuild the engine with the block still mounted in the car? I ask because my '54 Ford shop manual has a method for replacing the crank bearings without removing the engine, and while it warns of some drawbacks of doing this, it was apparently an accepted method of rebuilding an engine that isn't too damaged or worn. With the heads removed I guess you could get the pistons out, and hone the cylinders instead of reboring them.  A real advantage for folks without an engine hoist, but awkward.

 

1912Staver said:
 

Quote

It's a frustrating hobby indeed where as a 20 year old I could have bought a down at the heals DBS , Vantage no less for $3500.00 while making $10.00 / hr. 350 hours of work , at today's price and income I would have to spend over 3000 hours worth of work.

 

Probably 30 or more years ago or more, I remember hearing several loud gunshot-like reports and I turned around to see a very poor condition Ferrari (Dino, I think) coming down the street. It was backfiring horribly, had some rust, dents and was missing some paint. The guy driving it looked to be of the same financial means that I was. It was an unusual scenario, but I probably could've afforded a car like that...back then. I'm guessing that car in that condition would be $100,000 today. Or close to it.

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29 minutes ago, JamesR said:

 

I'm curious about this. Did he rebuild the engine with the block still mounted in the car? I ask because my '54 Ford shop manual has a method for replacing the crank bearings without removing the engine, and while it warns of some drawbacks of doing this, it was apparently an accepted method of rebuilding an engine that isn't too damaged or worn. With the heads removed I guess you could get the pistons out, and hone the cylinders instead of reboring them.  A real advantage for folks without an engine hoist, but awkward.

 

It was a ring and valve job only so the block stayed in the car. Getting the pan off and pistons/rods out was not easy due to the crossmember. Dad took the heads to a machine shop for the valve work, the machinist came to the house and mic'd the cylinders then advised how to proceed. We had bought a ridge reamer to get the pistons out (I still have it) then we rented a hone and cleaned up the bores with a hand drill. We used oversized rings and possibly knurled pistons which you don't hear much about today but that car ran great for another 5 years. I had to replace the bearings myself a couple years later due to a failed oil pump driveshaft but I pulled the engine for that. Here are some pictures of my Dad and the original job, check out the bumper jack and "cardboard creeper":

IMG_0043.jpg

IMG_0044.jpg

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Thanks for posting the great pics! So cool that your family would chronicle the event with a couple of photos.

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Mechanics is better learned young, just as learning a foreign language is much easier for children than older adults. Disassembling and rebuilding and engine is something teenagers should be exposed to, so they see how to use a torque wrench, calipers, micrometer, and see the pistons, rings, main and rod bearings.

 

Most I did as a teenager was overhaul the top end of my two stroke single cylinder motorcycle. Replaced the piston and rings, and fit those into the bored cylinder. I got some exposure, but not much, early on.

 

Parents took cars to the shop for most work. But they both were busy working full time.

 

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A good illustration of a three generation ; actually now four as my friends mid 20's son is now involved as well, is that of one of my best automotive friends. Sadly recently deceased at the far too young age of 65 from cancer.

 I met him at work, an engineer like myself and it did not take long to discover he shared my interest in old machines. His main thing was stationary engines { hit and miss } and model T Fords. As I got to know him better I was amazed to hear his father was at about the 80 % stage of a Duesenberg J restoration, and there was also his grandfathers Cord roadster still in his fathers ownership.

 Ultimately the Cord was sold by his father in order to fund some of the more costly parts of the restoration that had to be farmed out. However the Duesenberg was eventually completed and upon his fathers death inherited jointly by my friend and his brother.

 Unfortunately the car had to ultimately be sold as the brother wanted the money for retirement. My friend could not possibly afford to buy his brothers 1/2 out and had to agree to the sale. My friend more than once told me that he would have preferred that the Cord stayed in family ownership and made some efforts to reacquire it from the person it was sold to.  The Cord owner eventually decided he was getting too old use the Cord and was agreeable to selling it back however my friend had by that time been told the grave news of his diagnosis.

 My friend could have never been involved with a car like either a Cord or a Duesenberg without the car hobby involvement of the previous two generations of his family .  It is just this sort of situation that makes multigenerational hobby involvement so rewarding to some of us.

 I treasure my fleeting involvement with my friend's father's car.  It makes Model J's so much more significant to me then seeing one at a show or in a book could ever be.

 

Greg in Canada

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As I look back at the 50's and 60's, that we lucky enough to have been brought up in, those times could not have ignored or walked away from cars if we had wanted to. It didn't matter in the least that our parents weren't part of the maturation process. It was a culture completely submerged in cars, sports and girls. It may not have been "American Graffiti" every day, but it was seldom more then the next weekend away. We weren't born into the hobby, we made the hobby. 

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Posted (edited)

As someone on page 1 said: the cost of the “more interesting” cars sky rocketed above what the average Joe can ever dream of affording. But as I said to someone else, the good thing about something like a model A and there being a lot of them is you have non-exclusive clubs and can have a lot more fun, rather than spending a mil to have something to trailer to shows, walking around on your high horse with :P

 

Ill see it people here agree with something I reckon... since trade vs uni has come up.

 

I believe, after grade 12, everyone should be REQUIRED to get a trade, complete an apprenticeship. Then they can do college, or make it so they have to do this path - a trade (so that’s about 3-4 years here), then a year of customer service, then collegr if they so wish. Why customer service? To teach them some dang respect for those who do those jobs.

 

Those who don’t complete high school and do a trade or whatever they want pathwise, since they wouldn’t be going to college.

 

*shrugs*, would need to iron out the bugs.

 

Edit to add: I did grade 12, have spent the last 10 years as a fitter and turner, and am now doing a diploma (associates degree in America I think?)

Edited by Licespray (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

An interesting concept, however I am always a bit leery of one size fits  all approaches.  Some young people have a clear idea of where they are going in life, and the path they must follow to get there.

 My wife's roommate when she was a Nursing student is a great example. From a family of accountants, a few generations. Straight out of high School and nose to the grindstone at Uni . All aspects of the Accountancy career, organizing social events for clients of her Fathers and Uncles practice. Working summers at the firm the family were partners at. Early 20's and already well on her way in life. Maturity and poise well beyond her years.

How would an trade apprenticeship benefit a person in this sort of situation ?

 

Greg

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)

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My IBEW apprentice class was 800 only 300 graduated 5 years later, trades are not for everybody

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There are colleges that make internships a mandatory part of your real world education.  That experience can be a game changer as it shows what you are getting into and what an employer is expecting of you.  Similar to the idea of mandatory apprenticeship.

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Posted (edited)

I did a bearing and pump job on a 68 Firebird on jackstands, have done a Buick clutch on an oak tree root, Fiero gas tank & pump on jackstands, and a balancer on a curb.

Any more I prefer to use my lift but carry enough tools for most jobs on any road trip (a toolbox always, more on trips).

 

My driveway is a perfect angle to do an oil change on ramps. Planning helps. Also helps to be wide but not thick. Have very rarely had any help.

 

BTW I spent four years in the USAF between high school and college. Learned a lot (a navy flare gun could chamber and fire a 10ga shotgun shell. Once.)

Edited by padgett (see edit history)

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Absolutely no gear heads in my family history, but I had the knack and have kept probably hundreds of beaters going throughout my life.

In high school I was the guy to go to for a running $100 car. Usually bought very cheap or free to me. The days of being able to make any kind of profit like this is long gone.

No insurance requirements back then.

I cant remember ever having only one vehicle.

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On ‎6‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 3:37 PM, mrcvs said:

The reality is, folks will always need stuff fixed, and having the ability to do so allows you to work virtually anywhere and get Union wages, too.

If a 'hands-on' trade really interests one, go to NIGHT SCHOOL!  Its only two evenings per week, and one doesn't have to give up his or her daytime job to do so.  In the early 2000's, it was the opposite with me.  I wanted to move away from being 'on the tools' and took 2-D and 3-D CAD at night school; something that was not around when I was in my early 20's.  It turned out to be the best thing I ever did, as I am now an engineering draftsman for a pump & compressor firm.  What got me hired over the younger ones was my prior knowledge and 'hands-on' experience with the equipment involved.  It is NEVER too late in anyone's life to go back to school!  I was rather amazed to see just how many were in their 40's and 50's attending night school.

 

Craig

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