This is where WE are.
As much as we all recognize the transition from rookie to veteran, we don’t really talk about where we go from there. We reach a point where we either plateau, bail out, or go on to something bigger.
At TGP, we want to help gearheads like you have more fun playing with cars and find more ways to integrate your automotive interests with the rest of your personal and professional life—whatever that looks like—wherever you are in the gearhead journey. So let’s take a look at the journey.
We all gotta start somewhere, right?
Some of us grew up in gearhead families. Mom or Dad or someone else in the family was a gearhead and cars were a big part of growing up. Maybe Dad worked at a dealership or Mom loved her Acura. Growing up around cars and people who loved them naturally led us to love them too.
Some of us kinda discovered cars on our own. Hot Wheels, Micro Machines, scale models, radio control car action; maybe a discussion forum or two. We started playing with cars and never stopped.
Where did we go from there?
Generally speaking, we dove deep, learning everything we could in support of our performance goals. We learned how to do it ourselves, be that maintenance, modifications, or repairs. Along the way, we met people who became friends, even family in some cases. Playing with cars became something of a way of life.
From there, we became relative experts in our platforms of choice. We know what size wheels and tires fit our vehicle without modification and what’s possible with the right mods. We know how to take care of our machines and make reliable power over stock. And it isn’t long before we start seeing where we can use this knowledge beyond our chosen vehicles.
But then what?
At some point, we find ourselves at a crossroads; a fork in the road.
- We’re happy with where we are.
- We lose interest and walk away.
- We go pro.
We’re happy where we are.
Makes sense, right? If you’ve been playing with cars for a while, you know people who have taken each of these paths. Let’s take a look at these, starting with our gearhead brothers and sisters who are happy with where they are.
Perhaps the easiest group to imagine are those who love their platform so much they never leave. I know I’ve been there. I still remember swearing I’d never sell Daisy, my 1997 Eagle Talon—and yet I sold her 10 years ago. (I still run the Carfax report once in a while to see where she lives—currently Payson, Arizona.)
We all know people who are still playing with the same cars they were playing with when we first met them all those years ago. Scott’s still building his Talon. Adam still has his Montero. Easy enough, and yet surprisingly difficult for some of us. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)
There’s also those who are still playing with cars the same way, but have changed cars. Kris started rally racing in a first generation Dodge Neon. Today, he has a second generation Neon rally car. Andy and Mercedes’ camping rig went from the “Teal Terror” Sidekick to a Delica Star Wagon (to a couple SWB Pajeros) to a Delica Space Gear.
For some of us, it will always be about the car—THIS car—but for others, it’s what we DO with the car that matters most. Either way, whether we keep the same car or keep doing the same things with our cars, we’re happy where we are. We’re having fun and don’t need anything else right now, thankyouverymuch.
Until we lose interest and walk away.
Why do some of us walk away?
This is probably the most important question none of us are asking.
For some, a lack of clear goals in the beginning leads to a dead end where things have gotten too hard or too expensive, it isn’t fun anymore, and they straight up quit the game. It’s easy to point out the hacks who took a fast and cheap approach to power, but what about the good people who didn’t get the big picture until it was too late?
That’s what happened to me. I bought a DSM because she was absolutely stunning on the showroom floor the day I went to order a Jeep TJ. To this day, I am still madly, head-over-heels in love with the 2Gb Eagle Talon—but I haven’t owned one in years and, barring a lottery win, will likely never own another.
You buy a sports car—you want sporty driving. You buy the non-turbo, base model sports car—you get spunky, economical motoring and hubcaps. When I came into the DSM scene, I had no experience with motorsport beyond what I’d seen on TV. And when it seems like everyone in your community is talking about dyno slips and quarter-mile times, it’s ridiculously easy to slip into that mindset, adopting performance metrics that aren’t your own.
That’s how it was I found myself with a rough-around-the-edges, $2,000 daily driver with a $7,000, naturally aspirated race engine under the hood—that never saw a single pass down the strip and never put down any dyno-proven numbers. 14 years after buying Daisy, I knew enough about building race cars to know I’d built the wrong race car. I wanted to rally.Brian
Of course, 10 years later, I no longer have the rally car project I kinda replaced it with, either. I haven’t even volunteered at a rally in something like three years. And I doubt I could name any current WRC drivers; Ogier, maybe? Is Loeb still racing? I dunno. These days, I drive a 99% stock Montero so I can share automotive adventures with my wife and daughter (instead of leaving them to sit in a dirty paddock all day while I play cars).
Change is the only constant.
We all change. Even if you love what you do now, there’s still a chance that, one day, you might find yourself wanting something a little different. Sometimes that’s an easy decision to make. Most of the time, it isn’t.
Do you strip the car and start over? Do you replace it with a completely new project? Do you use the car to market a side hustle? Or sell it outright to fund your startup company? This is where things get really fuzzy.
Some of us go pro.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the years. For what I spent building a race engine for my Talon, I could have bought a used rally car, all my safety gear, and entered my first two races. Unfortunately, my time and money largely ran out after that and it was looking like it would take 20 years for me to complete my rally car build at the rate I was going. I sold the Galant and moved on.
On the career front, when all my efforts chasing more money after college resulted in my being miserable 40-plus hours a week (and nowhere near the money I was after), I threw that shit out the window and started chasing work-life parallel. The idea being, we can’t ALL be professional race car drivers—but we can certainly find ways to make what we do for a living feel more like living than just paying the bills. We can find work-life harmony.
When I say “some of us go pro”, I mean some of us figure out how to make all the pieces fit just right and live that good life we always wanted. The experiences we have, the things we learn playing with cars can often be applied to other areas of our lives. Translating gearhead experiences into professional work-life skills is crazy powerful in the right circumstances.
It isn’t just about money.
Let’s face it—we ALL want to make more money. The richest guy in the world, Jeff Bezos, who was making $4.4M per hour—back in 2018—and is currently on track to be the world’s first TRILLIONAIRE, wants to make more money—but there are other things we go after, too. Consider these alternatives to making more money.
- Playing with cars for less money. Making your money go farther.
- Flexibility to go play cars whenever. Having time to play cars.
- Getting paid to work or play with cars. Aw, yeah.
Regardless of what you do for a living, there’s a pretty good chance people do that in the automotive industry. We’re not limited to selling cars or working on them or slinging parts for Harry. Think about how many companies need sales, marketing, customer service, warehouse, accounting, human resources, engineering, IT, and even facilities help.
I mean, what, you think they don’t have air conditioning, computers, and bills to pay over there? Even now, TGP—as a loose collective of dudes making everything happen on personal computers at kitchen tables—could already use a LOT of help getting everything done. Our problem is we don’t yet make enough money to pay anyone to do any of the jobs so we do them all ourselves. #DIY
Now, I’ll admit. There are limits to this. Your favorite race team probably doesn’t need anyone to knit them lace doilies—but if they’re big enough to have a catering team when they race, there might be an opportunity for even a “lowly” burger flipper to get a foot in the door.
That performance brand you love might only be a couple dudes doing the best they can to get a small company off the ground after work—but maybe if you consistently show up and genuinely help them do that, they might be able to hook you up with a discount or let you test a prototype or offer you a job when they get that massive, game-changing order.
Or maybe your beloved OEM is hiring and could be open to remote work for the right candidate; someone like you with several years experience doing that thing you do in another industry. Every large company has the same, large company staffing needs. Could this be where your career shifts gears and cars FINALLY take their place at the center of your world?
These are the gray areas at the edges of the map we’ve all struggled to define. We’ve all seen examples of other people doing these sorts of things, but there’s a foggy patch between here and there. For the people at the plateau stage, THAT’S what TGP wants to clear up.
What good is having the money to buy all the performance parts you need and cover the costs of racing in a national series if you can’t take the time away from work to do it? Or you’re just too damned tired to pick up a wrench at the end of the day? I know several gearheads who have had amazing professional careers on LinkedIn—but haven’t raced in the better part of a decade—or pay others to build fine machines that spend most of their time sitting in the garage.
So this is where WE are.
TGP helps people build better cars, businesses, and lives. We want to share stories and information that helps gearheads like us—like YOU—wherever we are on the journey—get what we want out of life. This is where we talk about what works, what doesn’t, and how what we know about cars applies to the rest of our lives.
If you’re just starting out, we want to make sure we’re giving you a better look at the big picture so you can better plot a route that works for YOUR goals. And we want to share lessons learned and best practices from those who have gone before you remove any obstacles in your path.
If you’re happy with what you’ve got and where you are, we’re not here to sway you otherwise. We just want to make sure we’re sharing information and ideas you need to continue getting the most out of what you’ve got where you are. You are the bread and butter of the global gearhead community and the engine powering most of what we do in this industry. We love you and we want to support you.
And if you’re on that plateau, feeling like you want something new or different or more, we want to help you find it, whatever it is. We’re not saying everyone should start their own business or change careers—but we are seeing a lot of common themes from those who have and we want to share those ideas with you so you have more options than buy another car or find a new hobby, ya know?
Where are YOU?
Are you just getting started? Stuck in a rut? Looking for more flexibility or meaning? The Gearhead Project is whatever project the gearhead is working on—but it’s also the gearhead AS the project.
Here’s to your success. Whatever that looks like.
PS: Completely new website coming soon.
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