A must-read for the rookies.
This one’s for the next generation of gearheads; anyone just getting started playing with cars. We’re setting you up for long term success by helping you lay your own, solid foundations.
Consider this a primer before the more technical, how-to stuff. Keep these principles in mind and you’ll be on the fast track to success on YOUR terms.
[ For the OGs in the audience. Let’s remember what it was like in the early days and do our best to help the next generation with the long game. The map is not the territory. Let’s give the rookies compasses. ]
First things first: Everything you’ve heard is true.
You can turn a 100-horsepower turd into a ridiculous track weapon that breaks the hearts of the pedigreed elite. You can turn an old pickup into a home that takes you around the world like a proper nomad. You can turn a hobby into a career or even a company that ends up changing the world.
All the good stuff you’ve heard and can imagine is true—but so is all the bad stuff. Hellish nightmares like blowing a brand new engine on the first trip around the block, losing every race in a season, breaking your driveshaft in the Sierras, leaving your truck sitting in a friend’s mom’s backyard for the better part of a year while you wait for parts—it’s all true. And that’s not even counting the financial cost.
There will come a time when it’s your turn to point the firehose of cash at the fires of passion. When that time comes, you want said fire to be neatly contained in a furnace, boiling the water that turns the gears that make the jam that gets you where you wanna go—because you can just as easily point that hose at a dumpster fire.
Now YOU are The Gearhead Project.
The Gearhead Project is whatever project the gearhead is working on. It’s also the gearhead AS the project. You see, there’s two distinct components to this gearhead thing. Think of them like Yin and Yang—your mechanical skills and accomplishments; your intellectual horsepower and awareness.
It’s pretty simple, really. Anyone can buy and install car parts. The people who have the most fun, though, and see the best results over the long term, are the ones who understand where they truly are in relation to where they want to go. A broken clock is still right twice a day. We want you to always know what time it is.
Those first couple years when you’re figuring things out and getting them done are epic. Enjoy it, because it’s never gonna feel like this again.
No. We’re not saying this is the happiest you’re ever gonna be playing with cars, but you’ve thought about the whole “ignorance is bliss” thing. You know that the more you know, the more power you have, and the more power you have, the more responsibility you have, and so on. It’s just like how you evolved from playing with toys to playing with actual Toyotas. It’s still fun—it’s just different. Nuanced.
Right now everything’s magic. You’ve got your own wheels. You’ve had a taste of knowledge and support and power—and holy shit it’s all free! All you gotta do is build the amazing machine you’ve imagined.
Random, glittery sparkles
Every day brings new discoveries, all of them useful in some way; from the long conversations about intake and exhaust performance theory, to the snappy joke between insiders. Every question is answered. Every question leads to more questions.
What is now an all-consuming, almost blinding light fades over time. It’s all still there, of course! But this is why we’re not supposed to stare at the sun. In time, the car thing will become random, glittery sparkles sprinkled throughout your life. It will still be all-consuming, but there will be other things that are even more important. I can promise you that.
And that’s okay. We’ll cross that bridge when you get there. Right now, this is about giving you an important head’s up. You know—more of that free knowledge and support and power so you can have all the glittery sparkles your heart desires.
Start your engines!
There are exciting times. We’re here to help accelerate your learning curve and get a jump on things so your time and money will go further, your vehicle will perform better, and your entire life will be better because of cars.
Everybody’s seen all the technical, how to stuff out there these days. Thousands of videos about every possible angle of every possible job on every vehicle imaginable—plus that one guy’s opinion of everything else. But not many see the big picture stuff that separates the quitters from the pros.
These are the deep, OG lessons learned. We’ll get into them deeper in time, but for now, these are things we recommend every gearhead think about.
1. Know what you really want/need.
Don’t run into things blind, thinking you’ll figure it out as you go. That goes for individual repairs AND project strategy. It’s too easy to fall down rabbit holes. Don’t just define what the machine looks like when it’s done—think about what your LIFE looks like too. THAT’S how you’ll know you’re really done.
KEEP IT REAL.
Always be brutally honest with yourself about where you are right now. You need a sense of direction & the lay of the land. Pick your own North Star and don’t worry so much about the map. If you know where you are and where you want to go, you can pick the best line to get you there.
You want to build something you can use and enjoy often. Watch out for FOMO. Hardcore track machines are a different kind of hard in daily driver life. More fun more often > max power. You’ll do more, learn more, and level up more often.
FIND THE SWEET SPOT.
Consider the intersection of platform, pursuit, time & money. Find the sweet spot where the time and money you’ve got gives you maximum smiles per gallon every time you take the wheel. For example, build the race car you can afford to race. Often.
NOTE: They’re a lot more fun when they run.
2. Understand how things work.
Again, not just how engines and transmissions and turbos and cooling and fuel systems work. These things are important—no doubt—but the more you know about the bigger pictures of the automotive industry, personal relationships, and professional career paths, the better prepared you are for total gearhead success.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
Don’t limit yourself to just the specific task in front of you. Understand how the pieces fit. Familiarize yourself with basic mechanical systems and car culture in general. Knowing where you are in the big picture brings clarity.
CHECK YOUR MIRRORS.
History doesn’t repeat—it rhymes. Understand how and why things happened in the past (even before you started playing with cars) so you can adapt and anticipate future trends. The future rewards clarity, but punishes certainty.
REPUTATION IS BUILT.
Respect is given. Build relationships and the right reputation by respecting others. Keep your word, live The Golden Rule, and be the kind of person other people want to be around.
SEEK WORK-LIFE HARMONY.
Balance is a good place to start, but you’ve only got one life to live. Make more of it feel like you’re really living. There’s a point where playing cars fits your life perfectly. Watch out for anything that keeps you from doing other things and think about how you can blend things together in ways that make your life easier.
3. Have realistic standards.
There will always be someone better funded than you. Try not to let it get to you. Set standards you can apply wherever you are on the journey. Thoughtful, quality workmanship is universally appreciated by those who know what’s up. And if you bring the right attitude with you wherever you go, you’ll find yourself hanging with the best people for a good long time.
DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.
Here’s a good question: Why is there time and money to do it over, but not to do it right the first time? In a perfect world, we’d always be able to do things perfectly the first try. But this isn’t a perfect world. Always make an effort to do it right the first time—but don’t let perfection be the enemy of done.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
The more miles you put on your body and mind, the harder things get. It’s just a fact of life. Your body’s a machine. Your mind is the PCM running it. Stay on top of maintenance and mods. Be the best YOU you can be—then set your sights on being the best in the world.
REMEMBER YOUR ATTITUDE.
There will be hard times. Every awful thing you’ve heard actually happened to somebody. Why and how? Well, that all depends. Often it’s the result of cutting corners or blind ignorance, but it all comes down to chance in the end. One thing’s for certain—the only thing you can truly control is your attitude.
4. Build good habits.
Standards and habits go hand-in-hand. Build the right habits and you’ll find things go smoother far more often than you might think. Some of the most frustrating things gearheads face in their daily lives are the direct result of bad habits. Don’t disrespect yourself by cutting corners. Remember, you do things right because it matters to you.
Safety first! We only get so much time. How much of it do you want to spend laid up in bed with an injury? Getting hurt costs time. You could lose five minutes putting a bandage on a cut. You could lose an eye. You could lose everything in an accident. Motorsport is dangerous. Be safe.
Know this: Filthy machines are no fun to work on. Grimy tools aren’t fun to work with. And a messy garage is a black hole where things disappear forever. Keep your machine, tools & workspace in good condition. Make it a point of pride. You will never—ever—regret it.
Always hang your keys in the same place and you’ll never have to look for them again. Plan the meet on the same night of the month each month and nobody will wonder when it is. Establishing routines and rituals frees you from having to think about things. You’ll be more consistent and more confident.
The Fast Track
We want you to succeed. The OGs of the automotive world are still out here. We remember being helped along and how amazing it felt figuring things out for ourselves.
The most common complaint among verteran gearheads is how nobody seems to do their homework anymore. Many of us spent years trying to get newbies to use the search on forums across the web. Facebook came along and suddenly nobody had to search for anything ever again, because nothing ever sticks around long enough to be found by searching.
Prove yourself the real deal and you’ll find the experts come out of the woodwork to help. If you can contextualize your automotive goals by talking about how the machine needs to fit into your life, demonstrate a solid understanding of the fundamentals, and can present a reputation as someone with clear standards who can be counted on to do the homework and see things through, you will quickly find yourself among the elite on the fast track to success.
Next Level Gearhead
People will see you as a next level gearhead; someone who consistently does quality work, has realistic standards, keeps the big picture in mind when working on the little details, and has a clear vision of what they want to achieve. There’s something special about that.
These are the OG gearhead life lessons.
They underwrite everything else you’ll learn on your automotive journey. Doesn’t matter which car you drive. Doesn’t matter how you use your truck. Doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak.