QotW: Who taught you about cars?

Teacher Appreciation Week starts today, May 8, but these unsung heroes aren’t just found in the classroom. Many of us had a relative, friend, or internet resource who fed our curiosity about cars, automotive history, or wrenching. Or perhaps you’re one of the talented few who learned on your own, in which case you have yourself to thank. In any case, we though it would be a good time to honor those who got us started on the road to car enthusiasm.

Who taught you about cars?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What Japanese car would you drive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland?“.

The question we had in mind wasn’t just for your run-of-the-mill apocalypse, but a Mad Max-style car combat free-for-all. Like the scenario depicted in Twisted Metal’s trailer, Alan‘s already prepared with his Outback XT 5-speed. Lakdasa ‘s Mitsubishi L400 made a lot of practical sense. On the other hand, streetspirit pointed out that of a Z32 with T-tops also has its practical advantages.

Regardless, it’s probably no-surprise that Toyotas were by far the most popular choice. Just about every piece of Aichi steel you could think of was suggested: Jim Daniels‘ supercharged Tundra, Nigel ‘s Hilux, Fred Langille‘s FJ Company Land Cruiser, Mark F Newton-John‘s Mega Cruiser. Even less battle-ready ‘Yotas got mentioned. Taylor C.‘s Hiace and f31roger‘s Previa made a lot of sense.

Ultimately, it was Michael K.‘s choice of a Toyota of a completely different variety that nabbed the win:

I’d drive a Lexus SC400 – built like a tank, sporty enough to evade the bad guys, quiet enough to sneak up on them.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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9 Responses to QotW: Who taught you about cars?

  1. Fred Langille says:

    Outside of modeling expertise, it was my late father who got the germ of cars going. When he passed away, Mom wanted to sell his car … he had been a mechanic at Lakehurst NAS where he helped develop new and better ways of launching and, using arresting gear, aircraft for the Navy. As a Chief Gunner’s Mate, it was still up his alley as it dealt with heavy machinery … so, it was traumatic to her to see that car with his greasy handprints on it. The car needed some basic bodywork so, my best friend and I spent that summer fixing both the rust on the headlights “brow” and, the body below the doors. It took us all summer to figure it all out and get it done. The car was done and we both were paid for it. I knew then that, while my expertise was small, I could do it but, I also knew I was better in designing a build and, getting the parts I wanted than the actual work on it. I was able to figure out what needed to be done than the actual doing then. Nowadays, I can do more than just make designs. I can do it or, at least figure out what the problem is to take care of the problem.

  2. streetspirit says:

    My dad, being an avid sailor and handyman/engineer himself he was all too eager to share his hobbies

    From a young age i got a head start rebuilding small marine engines, dissasembling and modifying my every toy with my old man in the workshop.
    Everything i own needs to be custom, they’d gift me a box of parts and some tools when i asked for a bike and i loved it that way!

    ‘you’re looking but you dont see’ was probably his favorite catchphrase.

    Whatever i couldn’t figure it out in the workshop he’d show me in the office using his old engineering textbooks and whiteboard drawings.
    When my interest in cars took over he got me books on suspension design and 8 year old me was all over it!

    Now 20 years later dad’s close to retirement i’m an engineer and starting my own business in suspension upgrades and chassis reinforcements.

    I’m gratefull to have that old fart as a father and a teacher.

  3. Joey Katigbak says:

    Cars had always been my passion since I could remember. There was something about being taken for a ride in that old 3-speed Toyota Crown and the sounds it made that always kept me awake even on long rides. Whenever I could, I would sneak into the garage, get in the drivers seat behind the wheel and just imagine myself driving around town. Then, when I got big enough, I’d pull the hood latch to open the hood and see what made this thing go. I loved the smell of gasoline and oil. That was the smell of motion for me. It was like the smell of Mom’s baking my favorite cookies in the early morning,
    When the time came, I would secretly “borrow” some of Dad’s tools and take things apart and challenge myself to put them back without breaking anything. My Dad would be pissed off when he needed his tools and find them in the trunk of my car, but he always found mine running perfectly. The first time I started servicing my own car, I felt really proud of myself. I just didn’t know where to dispose of the used oil and then discovered that the place I bought my oil at also recycled my used oil. Then, when I could afford it, I finally decided to take an automotive course in the local college only to find out that everything in the curriculum I could have taught in the class.
    The latest thing I’ve gotten myself into has been body shop and painting. I’ve restored a friends old Honda CRX and another ’77 Toyota Corolla since. I’m currently restoring an old FJ55 in my garage. I like the thrill of the hunt for parts for my builds although the wife still wonders why I keep these old cars in the garage for such a long time. I’ve thought about starting my own shop but am still gainfully employed in government. Maybe this hobby will remain what it is because of that, besides, I do have a few friends who come to the house on the weekends to ask for help with their cars. So they get a free service every now and then and I get my fulfillment.

  4. Taylor C. says:

    My folks were never as into cars as I was / am. We knew the basic maintenance tasks, but not much beyond that. We were plagued with some of the most critcal (yet unreliable) vehicles during our earlier years: Chevette, Taurus, and Grand Voyager. All were the Big 3’s attempt (some failed, some successful) at reinventing the automotive game.

    My dad bought me a Car and Driver subscription in August 1992, and I gradually memorized all the cars’ specifications. I always kept a latest copy in my college backpack as a study break as well.

    It wasn’t until after grad school that I finally had some money to shift my focus from bicycles to cars. The Miata was what taught me about cars. My good friend, Mark W., from college, provided guidance to a lot of the projects I did on the car. He lent a hand to learn me on how to drill and put a front lip on, add a strut bar (that needed slight modification) replace the suspension, add a roll bar, do a timing belt replacement, replace the clutch, and especially going to track days. He relays his current struggles with his FD RX-7, while I share my stories on old cars and old car problems

    Besides Mark, Keith Tanner’s Miata maintenance literature definitely armed me with further knowledge, like replacing the soft top, pulling the engine out to do an oil pan reseal, and fuel injector rebuild. Miata.net was definitely a good resource, and continues to be.

    On the intraweb, Honda-Tech definitely supplemented me with information on how to swap an automatic with a manual on my (then) 94 Accord EX wagon. A wealth of information, if not somewhat disorganized. LegacyGT.com kept my LGT wagon running smoothly during my ownership, and TDIClub provided much-needed DieselGate warranty information for times my car needed a tow. The authors of the 3rd generation Honda Prelude factory shop manual also provided step-by-step instructions on how to remove a cylinder head, gotta give them recognition where it’s due.

  5. Bryan Kitsune says:

    Here are some long-winded ramblings about me & cars. Not entirely on subject. If you’re trying to fall asleep, and reading “War & Peace” hasn’t tired you out, give this a read.

    Growing up I had some interest in car toys and that was about it. When I was around 6 I got a red Corvette dashboard toy (with working pop-up lights and everything), and I had a Ferrari Testarossa RC car from Radio Shack. I also had some Micro Machines (my favorite was a Porsche 911).

    My dad didn’t really work on our cars mechanically, and they weren’t too exciting to me. While my dad had driven a ’68(?) 442 before I was ever in the picture, by the time I was old enough to remember we had mid-80s Oldsmobiles. A station wagon and an Cutlass Supreme. They went to the mechanic often enough, but they didn’t really move the needle on my radar at that age.

    Skip ahead a bit. My sister got a ’78 BMW while in college (in Florida…from Ohio). It was a stick. This was pretty cool. She’s a little over a decade older than me, and I tended to think that she was the coolest person there was, so the fact that she thought driving a stick was pretty rad, that meant that it was. (And it is.) The Bimmer had a few issues, but I believe it met its end in a collision of some sort. This was a pretty big bummer.

    It was replaced with a 1986 Toyota Celica ST 5-speed manual. Since I was many states away, I didn’t see it in person. I think she may have mailed us a early-mid-90s-disposable-camera quality print. But my initial impression was that it was kind of a lame car to replace a BMW with. I didn’t think about it much.

    That is, not until I was 15 and getting close to getting my driver’s permit. My sister was going to be living back at home for a little while as she finished some practical experience for her master’s degree. During some discussion of this she made the mistake of saying she would sell her car to me for $1 because she was fed up with its non-functional air conditioning in the Florida heat/humidity. Certainly she said this in jest/frustration…not something any rational person would take literally.

    Well, my first car was a 1986 Toyota Celica ST 5-speed. I was of course, a desperate (non-rational) teenager and took her up on her “offer”. I wasn’t terribly excited about the car itself, because I still thought it sounded boring…but it was a car. I still had never really seen it in person (or even a GOOD picture).

    Not long after this, I was out with a friend and his parents on the highway when a little blue car drove up behind us with pop up headlights. It caught my attention. Then, I read “CELICA” across the front grille and realized it was the same model my sister drove. After that chance encounter I was excited. I don’t know if the Testarossa & Corvette toys had embedded “pop up headlights = awesome” into my brain or what, but I was so excited, I gave my sister 5 times her asking price. Yes, $5 cash…I even threw in my mountain bike. I imagine (and hope) my parents gave her some other money to make it a better deal for her. 0_0

    As to the point of the question, well, my sister taught me to drive stick in it. Actually, she taught me to drive, period. I hadn’t even driven (steered) an automatic before. She taught me to change my own oil, which was the beginning of me learning to do at least SOME of my own repairs/maintenance. My brother and I later did some learning-by-doing, as we worked on our Celicas (he later bought an st185, which was just pretty mind-blowing when I first rode in it and looked over the bulging hood scoop and listened to the turbo spool and the blow-off valve whistle).

    My sister and the experience of driving this Celica also taught me that cars –even non-sports cars– could be fun to drive and worth caring about. Not just A –> B appliances.

    I wish I could say I still have that ’86 Celica, but Ohio winters took their toll. Since 1997 there has only been about a 6 month stint without a Celica of some sort. However, for the past 15 years the only Celicas I’ve had are 7th gens. While the 7th gen Celicas are great cars, they lack one essential quality: pop up headlights. So, some 26 years since I first drove that ’86 Celica, I’m hoping to buy a 4th generation Celica and get back into a JNC. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to find as good of a deal this time.

    TL;DR – my sister

  6. Jonathan P. says:

    Well…um…aside from my Dad showing me how to do a pad slap on our old van and rotate tires, and an old friend showing me how to change oil, I learned all I know working on a lube rack at a dealership.

  7. j_c says:

    None of my family are car enthusiasts and when I was young only a couple of friends were and they were about as knowledgeable as I was. I didn’t think car magazines were that much better either.

    What taught me most about engines and mechanics were Carroll Smith’s “…to Win” book series. What got me enthusiastic about finally taking my car the track was Paul Frere’s Sports Car and Competition Driving.

    But what really got me started was everyone’s old friend the Haynes manual. The beginning of knowing how my car was put together was the gateway to comparing how other cars were put together.

  8. Bill G says:

    Back in the 60’s my dad’s love of cars and motorcycles both is what generated my interest in them at a very early age. He went on to teach me more about both in the 70’s as I grew up. (I myself am a fairly old man now.) In those days my dad hauled me and my younger brother to various racing events and even to movies related to cars and motorcycles. Perhaps a bit more unique in my dad’s case was the fact that he was a fan not only of American cars but also of Japanese cars and motorcycles, which wasn’t exactly common in the rural midwest where I grew up.

    My dad’s interest in Japanese vehicles began with Honda motorcycles (he owned Dream series bikes in the 60’s followed by CB series bikes in the 70’s). On the four wheeled side of the coin his first Japanese vehicle was a ’72 Toyota Hilux pickup, which was later joined by a ’77 Toyota Celica GT coupe. Not surprisingly, I began my association with motorized vehicles aboard a 1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail, followed by various other dirt bikes from Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki. Though I was building BMX bikes from the ground up on my own when I was a kid, when there was an engine involved as with the motorcycles, then so was my dad. In 1979 I bought my first car, a ’72 Triumph Spitfire (which sadly provided plenty of learning opportunities). However, this typically resulted in my dad taking over the work, showing me how to do everything in the process. While I did manage to soak up some of his wisdom, it wasn’t until I moved away from home and started working on my cars on my own that I really increased my knowledge of them. Yet I could still count on my dad for help over the phone when I needed it.

    I likely would have learned even more earlier on in life had I been able to take some of the shop classes that many of my friends did at the time. But as there was only so much time in the day and the courses that I needed to get into college conflicted with such things. I did end up going to college and eventually graduated. While I was away at school my younger brother totaled my Spitfire and as a result my dad gave me the Celica GT which stayed with me for a few years. After college I managed to snag a good job. For the price that many of my friends spent on a single car, I wound up with two. I found a great deal on a 1967 Camaro convertible and then I traded the Celica in on one of the few new cars I would ever buy, a 1987 Honda CRX Si. The CRX with its slick 5-speed and great handling was so much more fun to drive than the Camaro with it’s Powerglide transmission. While the Camaro was more of a cruiser, it was special in its own way, especially with the top down. I left the Camaro with my parents for a while so that they too could enjoy it. It seemed like the least i could do after all that they had done for me early in life

    Not long after that my dad passed away at just 52 years old. I still think about him often. I’m very grateful for all that I learned from him (and for all that he tried to teach me even if I wasn’t able to soak it all up). More than anything I’m grateful that he and I enjoyed a good relationship with one another while he was around. These days I have a 2001 Toyota Tundra and a couple of Honda’s — one motorcycle (a 2013 CB1100) and one car (a 2005 S2000). I wish that I could share these vehicles with my dad as I did with the cars of my youth. No doubt he would approve of them were he still around.

    My son who is now a grown man himself, did not end up with my passion for cars and motorcycles. That’s fine by me — as long as he’s happy in life then I’m happy for him. Yet he did learn to drive stick and actually still prefers driving manuals over automatics to this day. While he did not gain my passion for cars, he did still want to learn some things about working on them. Ironically, while working on his car in the past I had pretty much taken over the wrenching. My son had to remind me that the best way for him to learn was by doing so himself in a hands-on manner. As I handed over the tools I acknowledged that he was right. All while laughing at myself on the inside, slightly embarrassed. Once again I thought of my dad.

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