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Old 10-31-2005, 10:59 AM
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Would you pay for hot rod instruction?

Here's the deal. I'm going to retire from the USAF around June 2007, which will be 24 years. I'm starting on a 30x50 shop now, a pole barn contractor is going to errect the shell in a month or so (weather permitting), I'll finish it out (pour floors, install doors, etc.) sometime this summer. I'm planning on taking in a little rod/resto work, I expect mainly 50s-70s cars.

I have a degree (associate's) as a technical training instructor. No specific area, just in technical instruction. I served as an instructor for four years (March 2000-March 2004) and taught carpentry and masonry for two years, then sheet metal (mainly duct work) and welding for two years. I've been involved in rodding since high school, and think I have a very good general knowledge of building mild engines as well as mid level chassis work, things like general chassis fabrication, installing MII front ends, rear suspension mods, etc.

I've considered advertising instruction for a few rodding related "classes" in my home shop. 10-16 hours of instruction on something like basic engine building, with no more than eight students to a class. A student will provide an engine in most cases, and pay for all parts as well as $150-$200 for the class, with no more than three people (preferably two) working on an engine. I could even provide an engine or two, to be sold after the class. The students would get an experienced rodder lecturing on the basics for about four hours (I'm figuring a lecture only the first class for two hours, then the rest spread about as needed), then an experienced person overlooking their work as it's accomplished. No machine work will be done in class, and no porting -- just a basic rebuild with mild performance parts added. Will discuss what the machine shop does and how to check the work when tings come back. The student will leave with the knowledge to rebuild an engine and a pretty much meaningless certificate for the course, unless I develop a killer reputation later (hpoefully not literally!). Yeah, a disclaimer will have to be signed before the class, for injuries on the property, possible damages to engines, etc. If the engine building works out, I'll consider adding some other things like suspension/chassis work, engine swaps, basic EFI, etc. I'm not a body/paint man, and I'm not a transmission guy. I would consider manual trans rebuilding, but not auto! I've done a couple of my own, but...

What do you guys think, would you have done something like this, or would do it/recommend it to someone now? There aren't many shops like there were back in the 70s, where the owner will let a kid hang out and learn for doing a little clean-up and such. I learned like that, one of the local dirt track racers had a rented shop across the road and told my brother and I that if we were going to hang around the door, we may as well come in and be useful! Started cleaning, and a couple years later were helping with engines! Shop is going to be in a rural area in South Carolina, but enough people live out that way now with "hobby money" that it should be worth while.

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Old 10-31-2005, 12:52 PM
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It might work I don't know. You can get what your offering and a lot more at the local Vo-Tech though by proffessional instructors.
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Old 10-31-2005, 01:43 PM
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Yeah, but in my area there are no "local" vo-tech schools, and classes will be small, and capable of catering more to student's needs than just generic work. The only thing I won't do is all-out race engines. Mainly because it's a little out of my range of expertise, and I don't want to go over my head! I'd have to put together a basic outline for the course. No blowers or turbos either, though I can do basic EFI trouble shooting and installation. I can always advertise it, and if no takers I guess that would supply an answer! I'd just be out the work to form a curriculum and advertising money.

I AM an experienced instructor, but I see the point you were making -- I'm not experienced in instructing auto mechanics in particular. Other than a certificate from an accredited school, I'm not sure students would get "more" from a local vo-tech. I'd be more flexible, and continuing ed class certificates aren't worth anything much either.
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Old 10-31-2005, 01:58 PM
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I think the start up cost would be expensive as far as tools. I know you may send out for some of the machine work, but it would make more sence to have your own, Heated hot tank, glass bead machine, Valve grinder, plus all the hand tools and calipers.

What about Osha regualtions. Are you zoned correctly for this type of business?
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Old 10-31-2005, 02:14 PM
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Have a focus

Generally if guys are going to pay for schooling they want to have some type of focus..Soooo you need to have some particular skill that you teach..

Other wise just have a general hobby shop..If you have a car built that is done nicely and go to the local shows then you will be asked to help guys out..That is the way most of them I know got started...

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Old 11-01-2005, 10:20 AM
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I'm far enough in the country (or will be) that zoning isn't a problem. I plan on starting with basic enough work that things like a hot tank and valve grinder won't be necessary -- out of the scope or intent of the class. I'll just be going over what you could do in your garage if you had a clue as to how to start. If there was enough interest might consider a more advanced class where such items might be needed, will have to see where things go. Most people on this board wouldn't have a need for the type classes I'm talking about -- basic stuff we've learned and most of us have done time and time again.

You've got a good idea OneMoreTime. The initial classes I offer will have a focus. First offering will be basic engine rebuilding. If that goes well I'll plan out other classes, at least partially based on input from students, what they are interested in taking. That is when it might break down into general hobby shop work as it develops. Will see!

This won't be a big operation -- just 2-3 classes a year at best, more of a sideline to a shop. I'm not talking about a full time school.

Last edited by farna; 11-01-2005 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 11-01-2005, 12:40 PM
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Hot Rod High School

Go for it, the worst that can happen is you dont get any students. You never know til you try.
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Old 11-01-2005, 12:54 PM
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Only problem that I see, is that the students would expect some sort of degree, of sorts saying what the course will get them down the road. For that, it needs to be a certified school.

I always considered hot rodding a "hit and miss" venture....you know, learn by your mistakes.

Nice that you want to share your wisdom, and make a few bucks.........I give my wisdom away for free....whether they want it or not...........lol
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Old 11-01-2005, 03:16 PM
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Personally I wouldn't worry too much about any certifications students might receive from your shop. I think that would only be attractive to those people who are looking to make a career out of the material you teach, and if I read you right, that is beyond the scope of your intentions. If you try and cater your classes towards those who just want to learn the trade for personal hobby work, I think you have the right idea. Almost like an auto shop class in any high school.

If I were to advise one thing, just make sure that the things the students work on will be functioning parts/engines/chassis/etc when finished. If all they work on is dummy engines, and they have no goal in mind motivating them to actually do the job right, interest in the class will drop quickly. Although I assume this is the case anyway if the students are providing the parts for their own project.

If the class works out, you may be able to set up some agreements with local parts retailers and machine shops to "donate" (or reduce the price on) parts and machine work in exchange for frequent or large purchases.

Personally, I would love to attend a class like this. For the cost of parts plus a couple hundred for instruction, I walk away with not only a functioning engine but the knowledge to do it again. Even though I have built engines before, I would pay for the opportunity to learn from one more knowledgeable than myself. Like you said, those small shops where you can trade light labor for learning aren't around much anymore, and this sounds like the next best thing.

Last edited by Arcuden; 11-01-2005 at 03:18 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-02-2005, 02:12 PM
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Arcuden, you hit all the nails right on the head! That's exactly the intent. I plan on having students bring their engines in, but might use a rebuilder or two of my own to sell later if necessary. I thought about setting one of my engines up as a "dummy", but as you pointed out I don't think that really makes the point. Now I could have a running engine that's disassembled and reassembled multiple times with new gaskets, then trouble shot and run, but I'd rather not even do that.

Someone just dropping by the shop and learning a little at a time works okay, but it's hard to cover everything. You just learn what comes up, and then only get a good explanation IF the mechanic has time to give it. I know a lot of things I have a hard time explaining on the fly, but can do easy enough. I can't do that for a class -- I'll have to try to anticipate questions and have ready answers in order to keep the confidence of the class.

I've lost that look of confidence in the instructor (as an instructor) before because I waffled a bit on an answer when I should have told the kid I didn't know exactly how to phrase the answer, I'd need to think about it a bit so I could give a clear answer. It takes a few days to get that confidence back once you loose it! Heck, that happens on this board when someone gets in over their head or words a post in such a way that people wonder if they know what they're talking about!
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Old 11-07-2005, 10:30 AM
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Ya know,

Ya know, you might be able to clean up having classes for pure beginners. You could do basic car theory, and maintenence, the proceed to basic troubleshooting, etc. A local automotive radio personality does such classes, open only to women, at a high school in Md.
And you should definitely make sure that what you're doing is totally legal. I've been through that wringer with zoning regulations and it sucks really bad.
good luck
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Old 11-07-2005, 04:10 PM
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i probably would have taken the class if it were closer to me. it sound like a good idea. the only tricky thing is what kind of kids are you targeting. if your going for High School kids, then you might have to make it a summer or night class.
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Old 11-07-2005, 04:37 PM
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most kids are into ricers, not old rods, i said most, not all, thank the lord
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Old 11-08-2005, 12:58 PM
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I'll be targeting beginners, at least at first. High school kids won't be a problem, but I'll screen applicants a bit. One of the first things they'll here is it's my class, they resepect me and each other, and I'll resepct them, and if they become a problem they can find or be shown the door! I'll prorate their fee so they have nothing to complain about. That will be the best thing about a private class! Plus, this is a class someone is paying for, not like a high school shop class. $50 a week for five weeks ($20-$25 an hour -- I'll extend the class as needed and not worry about the extra time), and it will be evenings and/or weekends.

I know I won't have zoning problems, but will check into legality issues. As long as the classes are small, no more than 10 (I'm planning on limiting to 8), I don't think there are any problems in SC. Safety regs may be an issue though. I'll check.

An internal combustion engine is an internal combustion engine. Doesn't matter if it's a 1930 Model A four-banger or a 2005 Mistubishi Eclipse (do they still call it Eclipse?) DOHC four. There's a block, crank, head, cam(s), valve, intake, exhaust, etc., and both need the proper fuel mixture, compression, and spark to run. How they get there is different, but the basics are the same. I don't plan on pulling the engines at the shop, that would cost extra!!

Just bring some hand tools and an engine stand...
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Old 11-08-2005, 04:22 PM
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Doc here,

There might be some issues you didn't take into account, mainly regulations..

EPA requires some type of impact report..For instance, you need a concrete pad for your air compressor, and sandbag dam for accidental spills of oil..

You need to list and comply with regs about types of petrol products and cleaners you will be using on Site and disposal of same..usually the County will add this on a Building permit or business license application..

You will need also a Business license..

They require "X" amount of parking space, for "X" amount of Customer/Student usage..

You will need a hefty Liability package from your agent, in case a student does something dumb, like drop an engine on his foot...Eye injury's, accidental exposure to toxic chemicals and the like..

Also, If you will be teaching for profit..you should carry a hefty Errors and omissions policy..In case some student does something down the road that causes injury/Damage and Claims "The Instructor never taught me that!" ...

Regs Vary from State to State, County to County..but I should think you'd want at least the minimum as above to CYA...

I taught a Private Flight Instruction School at night, and found the liabilities are endless..and I only did that for a few years because the profits were not to scale with the costs. We live in a "Litigious" Society..

Look into it real careful BEFORE you open your Doors..

You might even consider incorporating to ease the liability portion of the business.

Doc
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