Cars have always been a part of my life, I’ve owned at least one since I was 15 years-old, and I’ve since never been able to shake the addiction. I’ve been helping work on them since I was six. At one point it was even a career for me. It’s also been something I’ve tried to explain many times to non-car enthusiasts, most of the time realizing they were lost somewhere after the first sentence.
If I had to blame someone for being the genesis of the whole addiction, it would have to be my father – he always pushed for me to try to do mechanical things.
My father always apologizes for getting me hooked on this terrible drug. I think he likes to refer to working on cars as a disease, though upon further inspection, one can conclude that he may be on to something. Most of us are fastened to this mess when we are young, and progress into the full-on modified everything stage.
Perhaps it really is some sort of ailment, this whole business of modifying cars. It started with bikes; pull one out of the garbage, find some parts, and slap the thing together. That never seemed like enough – something could always be improved upon – so I’d find a bunch of cooler parts and swap them on only to tear the whole thing apart a week later after deciding the color was awful, or that those cranks looked wrong. It didn’t matter really. I just liked taking it apart and refining the work. Most of the time the improvements were minor and no one but myself noticed. I probably rode at least 10 bikes I built from recycled crap, which is funny when one considers the fact that I had a nice bike that I hardly ever rode – it was complete and I didn’t want to screw with it too much.
As most addictions go, I moved on to motorized things, starting with my go-kart. Yeah, a go-kart, nothing special – the biggest modification there was taking the muffler off and knocking the baffle out of it so the damn thing would be louder. Still, I couldn’t be content and got hold of a mini-bike and tried to make it cooler. I took a bunch of crap off of it only to have my dad re-install it all. I was pissed, but then again, I didn’t buy it.
Back to the drawing board.
Enter the harder drugs, at 13 I was handed the keys to a ’78 Ford F-250 Four Wheel Drive. This was a big lumbering brute of a vehicle, painted Maroon, with a tapered diagonal stripe separating the gray on the bed. I thought it was mean. It was on this truck that I first learned how to drive a manual transmission and discovered the joys of working on outdated junkers. I never did drive that giant thing on the street, but I was hooked on cars at that point. This was a love-affair with a hillbilly truck that wasn’t meant to be.
I played with other cars since then that aren’t really important to the story because I’ve had 10 cars since I’ve been a licensed driver—all were some sort of German car and all of them were modified in some way. I loved taking them apart, too.
I relished taking apart and modifying everything I could; my cars, friend’s cars, and anything else that had four wheels & an engine. I found other individuals that also shared the same interest. It was easy—I went to a vocational high-school, where I was a … wait for it… graphic arts student. I never forgot that passion of working on cars – getting into the garage and making trouble for myself. It’s an addiction, this mechanical nonsense. We lowered & installed nitrous on a 240sx in my shop and promptly blew the car up three days later on a Friday night. In reality, we didn’t blow it up, but a 150 shot of laughing gas on a car that was originally battered didn’t help its case because the night at the strip pretty much ruined the engine. I’ve lowered most of my friend’s cars at one-point or another, or fixed them last minute on a panicked phone call – something about an overheating situation.
What I have found in this whole addiction is, like many other addictions, there are hordes of junkies. From Muscle-Car guys and Hot-Rodders, to Offroaders and Bikers, we all share the same problem. It’s not just a hobby, for most of us this addiction is a way of life. Explaining it to anyone else who doesn’t partake in the drug typically draws blank stares and confused replies. We are all part of this subculture that is hard for the general driver to understand. We really are a weird band of misfits, taking practical transportation and doing all manners of modification and feeding ‘the addiction’.
Try as you might, there is no explaining this odd addiction and collection of junkies that make up this subculture we’re all a part of.
- Scott Ketterer
Scott isn’t exaggerating–it was him that lowered my very first car!