November 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s been a busy week of cheese making, visiting creameries and farms. I wanted to take one day out to make due on learning how to work on my car from two weeks back when a snowstorm got in the way. I’ve owned a classic 1973 Mini Innocenti (Italian) for 2 years now. It’s my day-to-day car. Originally I bought it because I liked how it looked and it was fun to drive. To be a real classic car owner though I think you need some understanding of how your car works. For me, part of that is truly knowing the car I’ve become very attached to better and part of it being able to better trouble shoot as problems arise (which they do).
I planned to go Wednesday but as I tried to start my car it wouldn’t turn over. Good timing! I relied upon my incredibly smart AAA investment to have it towed over to the shop. Early Thursday morning I headed over to Arvada, CO to Sports Car Craftsmen, a shop that specializes in classic British automobiles. (They don’t turn up their noses at Little Buddy even though he’s Italian.) I intended to just spend a bit of time learning routine maintenance on my car and then getting out of their way. Luckily, Ted, the wonderful and patient craftsman who works on my car, was kind enough to teach me a whole lot more about how my car works. Ted grew up in Boulder and was bitten by the car bug early on. He sees it as dangerous passion that leads to obsessively working on them (because you don’t trust someone else to) and finding yourself owning more than a handful before you know it.
He started out showing me how to remove the oil filter and drain the oil. His one complaint with the mini is how packed in everything is in the engine. To achieve such a small car, that still runs, things under the hood get crammed in there in undesirable places for maintenance purposes. Ted mentioned it often elicits choice words as he’s working on it. I guess having a woman around the shop cleans things up a bit. While there were a few old timers hanging around Ted said the ladies don’t show much interest. I think I was a bit of a novelty to have around.
Part of this project is swallowing any pride you have sometimes and just admitting you know nothing. Ted quickly saw how rudimentary my knowledge was. (I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know how many cylinders my engine was.) I felt that auto shame creeping in. I’ve always felt uncomfortable in auto shops and out of place with my lack of knowledge. Often it wasn’t just me feeling the way but how you’re treated by some of the people who work there. I’m lucky to know Ted. He made me feel at home and enthusiastically took me through how my engine works with no judgment.
Before when I would look under the hood of my car I saw a jumble of foreign objects, having no idea what they did or how they related to one another. Ted walked me through everything from how the car starts to what fuels it to what puts it in motion. Normally I shy away from trying to figure out mechanical things because it just seems foreign to me, but after just a day of learning what the parts do and how they interconnect I have more confidence that I could learn this stuff. There is a logic to it all.
One of my favorite aspects of this project is being around people who have mastered a craft. Ted and I grabbed some Indian food for lunch and I shared how envious I was of his work. My work has always had a huge level of subjectivity to it where I never felt I was really mastering anything. Everything was a collective effort so there was little authorship over my work. There is a logic to what he does and a beautiful result he has ownership over.
I don’t know if I’ve been bitten by the same bug as Ted, but I have had a strange desire over the past few days to take apart my engine and put it back together. I may stay on the safe side and wait until my next trip to the shop.
At the very least, now I’m not so afraid to look under the hood.