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Old 09-26-2012, 03:50 PM
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Need Advice, please help

Hello everyone,

This is my first post and also my first day on this forum. I am in need of some advice.

I want to start working with cars and motorcycles... I love working with my hands and cars have always been of interest to me.

Here is my question:

How do I go about making a career of this, or even see if this is something I want to do?

I have thought of asking to apprentice somewhere in Dallas, TX....

Also I have thought of taking automotive classes...

I just want to get my hands dirty and learn about building muscle cars/hot rods/custom bikes.... ect.

I am lacking direction, so any advice would be grateful. I have also had very little experience with working on cars to date.

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Old 09-26-2012, 04:36 PM
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It sounds like a cool thing to do. Truth is,its not that gloriious.If you have a gift for the field you will find it fast. How old are you? I started in a small garage that I was hanging around so much they put me to work.Bikes/cars/trucks are exactly the same except totally different. What exactly do you like about the field? I started working on high performance street cars because I wanted to drag race. I raced dirt bikes for awhile until I crashed,right after I got married.6 months recovery,,,, Then I started flying airplanes and working on them,now Im back too owning a car.

what you have to find is where "you" can make money. your passion will keep you there,just dont get over zealous,,,
not really an answer because its only you that can answer that
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:08 AM
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Good job, Vinnie.

Most of the people I know "in the business" started there same as you. They wanted to "play" with cars and became proficient in repairs and modifications. The people that "stay" LOVE it. The "wannabes" find out quickly, "Hey, this is a lot like WORK..." Even in "the machine shop", it isn't all shiny parts and trips to the track. On a daily basis, we're EXPECTED to "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".

If you're serious about being a "tech" in the future, education is paramount. The days of "Dad" or "Uncle Fred" teaching you how "to fix cars" under the willow tree are LONG gone. Modern cars are a technological wonder, which also includes "nightmare". Electronics are the "growth" path in dealerships today. Since electronic "management" is now part of every system in a car, one must KNOW how it actually WORKS, in order to properly diagnose and repair ir.

Engines, at least fundementally, haven't changed much in recent years. Metalurgy has made the biggest difference in longevity. Overdrive transmissions have contributed as well. The power and efficiency are a direct result of those electronics in the previous paragraph.

Transmissions, too, haven't really changed much (except a few "new ideas" that are questionable, like CVT..). What controls them HAS changed, a lot. Many trans guys today are "lost" due to a lack of understanding the electronics. They throw a whole set of "switches" (what they call the actuators and solenoids used to convert electrical energy to mechanical) in order to avoid confusing problems "down the road".

So, don't "take classes". Go to school. For the vocational level, WyoTech(sp?) is among the better national-level schools. They offer everything from "this is a piston" all the way to how to tune a blown/alcohol Hemi.

For a "specialty", THEN you take college-level classes to understand "how it works". One of the more common problems we have with both customers and "new" employees, are their lack of understanding of the engineering fundementals, a MUST to be good at building engines or transmissions other than "stock". EXAMPLE: Explain why headers are installed on high performance engines. HINT: It's not for "flow" or "ease of installation"...

Good luck and think clearly. It's a rewarding field, as long as money is not your primary motivation "in life". Something VERY satisfying about building something "they" said couldn't be done, and not only making it "work", but beating "them" WITH it... (:- Out of 8 races, Dirty Bird: 6. BAE Hemi: 2.

If money IS more important, choose a field that will pay well enough you can afford to pay guys like me to do the "hard stuff" for you, and you can still enjoy cars as a hobby.

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Old 09-27-2012, 09:28 AM
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Being an apprentice and learning the real world aspects is good. But knowledge is key. I have a friend who does custom computer tuning on BMWs. Sometimes he makes a lot of money, and gets flown to Germany to play with $100k modern hot rods. Sometimes he does brake jobs in his home garage to pay the mortgage. He's also been smashed and burnt working on cars more than we'd all like to admit.

We build a modern version of the classic Muncie 4speed. I have customers who have your basic neighborhood transmission shop, and I have customers who restore and maintain vintage LeMans cars. The trans business is tough; even the best local builders here are doing brakes and oilchanges to keep their head above water. The guys who build and maintain the racecars & the guys who build the modern 6 speed transmissions, always seem to have work. The difference? They found a niche, and they spend a lot of time trying to stay on top of what the small engineering shops like us are doing, in an effort to keep their clients winning. I also think the successful shops are more than just rebuilders, they have a fundamental understanding of how and why things work in their chosen specialty. And they have good business practice; they don't sacrifice their ethics for a buck.

If you decide this is what you want to do, pick a niche and be the best at it; whether its 5 axis CNC programming, custom exhaust systems for road race cars, custom efi programming (building the tables from scratch not just using a tuner), or body and paint. Being a general mechanic is tough, every young kid that comes along behind you will work faster for less money.
However when the economy is in a downswing, these boutique industries can suffer when guys park their race cars, or stop working on their el camino. There will be some lean times.
If you decide you want to have your OWN shop; think really really hard, and then think some more. If you still want to do it, make sure you take classes in business management and accounting.
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:10 PM
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Auto gear- You are right on the money and I couldn't agree more. I like the part about getting a "business education". It doesn't matter how good you are, what matters is that you can do what you enjoy and earn a respectable living at it. What I would like to add is Heart. You have to have Heart in this trade / profession if you want to make it a career. You need to envision the completed results of a project and have the mechanical ability, faith and booth physical and mental tools to see it through to completion. How many projects are out there that people started with a zealous attitude and either lost interest, ran out of funds, or for whatever reason just moved on. Passion, Heart, and common sense are needed when getting into this field as a profession. If it's money your after...well not everybody is a Chip Foose and gets paid big bucks for what he designs. If this is your passion, follow it, you will find out very soon if you have the heart for it.
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:01 PM
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Both my dad and my great grandfather were deep into the automotive industry. My great grandad was in R&D in a few boutique car companies back in the 20s-50s. He ended up wrenching at a local gas station the last few years of his working career, until he could retire. My dad was an automotive tech and industrial arts teacher. Dad left teaching to go into private industry and get his masters because the IA teachers were getting crapped on in the 80s. My great grandad told my father the same thing dad told me: Don't be a general mechanic for someone else as a career'll get chewed up and spit out. My hat is off to any older guy under the rack doing general repairs; they gotta work fast, smart and be remarkably healthy. Im only 30 and Im already feeling my oats. My old man has 2 blown shoulders, a bad hip and arthritic hands.

The answer is: be a specialist
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