One of the coolest aspects of my job is that I get to travel around, meeting the most hard-core tuners on earth and driving the cars they've built. And that includes trips to test new, unmolested cars, too. Driving each new ride is always a hell of an adventure, but spending time with its creators is an experience that almost always leaves me reeling with excitement.
The thing that makes hanging out with these people so special is that they've found their true calling. You just can't build something amazing unless it was what you were meant to do. Oh sure, you can build a performance car, but you can't expect it to compete on the same level as cars built by people pursuing their passion.
While conversations with the passionate have been positively enlightening, I've been startled to find that, even in the highest levels of the automotive industry, there are still people who just aren't 'car guys'. They don't really care about the cars as much as they do about the money, the job security or the fame. They couldn't tell you what the WRC is or why the E30 M3 is the best M-car ever.
Now, I've had more than a few crappy jobs, and in them I could understand why many of the employees weren't passionate about what they were doing. Like aligning videotapes at midnight for minimum wage before vacuuming the whole place to leave at two in the morning. But even in the upper echelons of the movie rental business, I imagine it's unlikely many responded to the grade school question with "I want to be a higher-up at a videotape rental place." It's feasible that, in the videotape example, there are many people who are unhappy at work.
But I guess I just had this view that there are certain jobs where that doesn't happen. Where it couldn't happen. Like in jobs that are common answers to the "What's your dream job?" question-the jobs you feel you'd do with or without a paycheck. At a high enough level, the people that didn't like the subject matter would just be filtered out, right? They'd have to be. I mean, come on, just look at how competitive those industries are...
I know you're reading this thinking that the above phenomena must be impossible in the world of cars. But I'm telling you that some of the jobs you'd willfully slice appendages off to have are being staffed by people who couldn't care less about cars. Like the people that fill the seats in any other job, their calling probably wasn't in the automotive world. They find the same misery, the 'grind' that a guy like me found stacking videotapes after midnight.
If you're reading this, cars likely occupy most of your time, whether you want them to or not, like girls do for an 18-year-old boy. The reason you know a lot about them is because you've spent so much time researching them and burning facts and figures into your head. And you did it because it was the most pleasurable thing you could imagine doing. Imagine competing at a videotape rental company with people who went home after work and sat on the can with the latest edition of Videotape Rental World.
I'm one of these disillusioned people who believe there exists a 'right' place for everyone. Sure, that place changes as we change, but it's always there... somewhere. It's the place where your passion fuels the daily grind. The things that are chores for grinders come naturally for you, and you can push the limit to build something great. I guess the solace is that even if a grinder can make a car like yours, you can do it with a smile on your face every morning. I'm a sappy SOB, I know.
Associate Senior Editor