Tag Archive | engineering

Builder VS Accessory Installer

patina squarebody
I was recently asked an interesting, if not loaded question:
 
“Why do you hate patina builds?”
 
And that had the effect of pissing me off, because it proves that very few of these motherfuckers read anything beyond a word or two. I don’t “hate” patina. That would be a logical impossibility, or at the very last a psychotic reaction to something meaningless on any scale of importance, no matter how pathetic or sheltered your life may be. It simply wouldn’t make its way onto my list of things I truly give a shit about if I had to carry that list deep into the ten thousandth power.
 
“A better way to phrase this,” I responded, “would be to ask why I hold little respect for calling them ‘builds’ in the first place. And I say ‘little’ because with anything, there may always be an exception. I like to leave room for that, just in case.”
 
There is no design. There is no requirement of planning, beyond shopping in a catalog for what parts to replace with new bolt-in’s. It is an act of pure accessorizing, with apologies to that word for lessening its meaning in this respect. Unless you are creating an entirely new chassis, engineering fresh parts and whatnot to make this particular “barn find” (and for fuck’s sake, enough applying that word to every damned vehicle that has oxidized paint – if you literally discover a barn lost to the ages, and there is a mystery vehicle inside of that building, then yes, you have a barn FIND. We have been over this ad nauseam.) into something far outside of anything seen before in functionality, then you’re simply cloning the last 600 features from that magazine, you half-wit. To say that you “designed” a patina “build” is tantamount to saying that you “invented” a new dish for dinner, because you accidentally spilled canned chili on the spaghetti. Your reference to yourself as a “builder” or “designer” are what I’d refer to as “a real head-scratcher”, or maybe something closer to “obscenely over-optimistic”. What you do is truly something that anyone with some hand tools and general knowledge could pull off. It’s the color-by-number of the hot rod world. If it weren’t, there would be some variety. Think about it.
 
I view this “barn find, patina truck” scene as the dope-addled cousin of the “rat rod” movement: It’s a cliched caricature of anything it set out to be. These guys thought that a crusty exterior, set on a stance that looks broken at best was a way to be unique… a rebellion against a “sea of red ’32 Fords.” Now we have a sea of rusty C-10’s on smoothie wheels that look like the suspension just gave up. Sweet turn radius, pal. Almost as cool as that flat-brimmed hat holding your ears in. Can never be too safe.

I work my days away trying to help clients get the most of their vision into a build. I enjoy the guys who have PASSION and drive. That willingness to dive in and create something unique… an expression of an emotion in a mechanical object. These are the clients and the sort of car guys I want to be around, and enjoy the company of. On the other hand, I see the “patina” guys as looking for the quickest buy-in, and can’t jump that hurdle.

 
In fact, when you consider it, calling yourself a “builder” if all you do is slap a few parts, smoothie wheels and some airbags from a catalog under a rusty vehicle, that’s like playing the video game Rock Band, and calling yourself a “musician”. I certainly wouldn’t sign you on. Besides, I’ve heard that song played correctly a million times before. Even your best note-for-note rendition brings on a yawn no matter how ironic that retro script is across the face of your late-model amp.
Advertisements

Put Down the Frosting and Start Designing

show me
I have always been baffled that anyone who has no real experience building a car could ever consider customizing (or “designing”) one. I mean, consider the engineers who worked on the first computers. Guys like Gordon Bell or Alan Kotok who, having worked on the earliest computers like the TX-0 and so forth, and called upon their experience with the limitations of that machine when designing future machines (like the PDP-10 for example). They understood the machine. They had a grasp on the engineering behind the very function of it, and could utilize that experience in the trenches to craft each newer and better iteration. They found limitations in the machine. Weaknesses. They sought answers to the question “How can I make this BETTER?” …and they did so from the bones outward. They were connected to the very ideas behind what they worked on, and could thus move in new directions in an intelligent manner.
 
Being a custom car designer is no different. Without having an intimate understanding of the design and engineering of the systems which comprise the machine as a whole, it’s virtually impossible to “design” anything for it. Oh, sure, you can decorate that cake and put little frosting flowers all over, or plop a neat-o dingleberry or put some twist on an existing part, but you’re not really DESIGNING anything. If you’ve never torn a car down and then repaired things and put it all back together, you’re ill-prepared to hot rod anything. If you’ve never diagnosed an issue and then found a way to REPAIR a component (NOT simply “unbolt-and-replace”), or given thought to a shortcoming in the performance of or a component on said vehicle, and then engineered a fix, you’re not prepared to design ANYTHING custom for one. Even if you can imagine the shapes and flow of lines, or draw them in stunning detail, without that understanding and experience, you simply cannot effectively design fucking anything. You may be able to alter the look, but you sure as hell cannot design a better one.
 
This truth laid out, I find myself in an industry wherein I’m constantly reviewing and revising “designs” conceived by some talented illustrators, but the ideas presented lack application in any real-world scenario most times. And while I can’t blame these guys for trying, and certainly cannot fault them on creativity, I am forced to battle uphill, working through a pile of dreams and hopes that have gelled when met with the cold, hard truth of ENGINEERING. In almost every case, the pitfalls presented could have been avoided by having had some time in a shop, building and engineering solutions to the very design problems faced on each project. I’m forced to ask once again: How in the fuck can you DESIGN a complex machine when you LACK THE KNOWLEDGE OF HOW THE DAMNED THING WORKS IN THE FIRST PLACE?! In many cases, I’d bet that it’s innocent omission… But every now and then you come across a blatant slap in the face, wherein the “designer” doesn’t give the respect to understanding the very thing he’s working on in the first place.
 
Is it too much to ask to have armed yourself with core fundamentals like basic suspension geometry or structural engineering or even chassis architecture? I’m not asking for someone to know it ALL (shit… there’s ALWAYS something to learn), but if you’re “designing” a wheel arch or opening, and you give little or NO thought to the wheel/tire combo and the resulting radius needed to clear that nifty new fender lip and avoid rubbing, or are slicing into a panel to move it with no thought of how that will affect the understructure (or how changing THAT will affect the vehicle in terms of strength or handling dynamics, and where plumbing or wiring will need to be re-routed), then you’re doing it wrong. Grab a fucking crash book, or spend a day in the wrecking yard. Do your homework. Measure things. KNOW that car, and design it INTELLIGENTLY. “That door handle is sure slick, buddy… but you have left no room to utilize any sort of MOUNTING HARDWARE.” From the simplest things to the more complex, I find that some guys pass by function and go straight for “wow” factor.
 
This all brings us back to our pal Leepu. The guy has a TV show, and in a bio it is stated that he had visited GMI (General Motors Institute), and I quote from that: “However, he was put off studying there by the volume of technical work therefore he decided to open his own workshop to get some practical experience.” VISITED a school. Put off by technical work. This may explain why he’s so willing to slice into a main structural component on a vehicle and compromise the very bones of the car, or ignore things like aerodynamics or suspension or even pesky trifles like wheel fitment. Effectively, we are presented with a hack… a 1:1 scale kit basher. Don’t get me wrong, it takes some skill to weld two things together, but it doesn’t impress me when you have no fucking plan or explanation for just WHY you’re joining those things in the first place. And you lose all respect from me when the combination of those parts you’ve created is questionably functional at best, and marginally pleasing to look at on the best of days. I bring this guy into our conversation here because he illustrates, nay, REPRESENTS everything that is wrong with what is sold as “design” in many cases.
 
Our industry sees a few shining stars each year, build-wise… Cars that look great and perform just as well. Yet for each of those, we have a handful that are loaded with “custom” touches applied simply for the sake of applying them, and can barely tolerate a drive from the trailer around the fairgrounds and back. The price tags are high, yet the engineering level is limited. And therein lies my frustration: We have at our disposal some of the finest engineering with regard to components… Bolt-in ready chassis, near-1000 HP engines and transmissions that can live behind them. Wiring systems that allow for plug and play performance and luxury accessories in hours versus days. Everything engineered to free up time to ENGINEER. We have the perfect storm of self-perpetuating design advancement, yet we lack the manpower and the fortitude to raise the fucking sails and capture that wind. The work involved in hoisting those sails is metaphorical, of course, it being more a case of learning vehicle systems and construction, and then applying that knowledge to DESIGNING versus simply decorating another theme cake.
 
Yet, here we are, sitting back while the world consumes shitty TV show after shitty TV show that do nothing but slap what I and many more have fought to make a legitimate industry of… Watching two-bit hacks run around like primates, pantomiming to some “drama” written by someone outside of the industry, and playing up the “grease monkey” mentality. I don’t see this industry as a soap opera. I see it as the means by which I feed my family. It’s about passion and intellect and talent and drive. Applying experience, knowledge and a desire to not just hang a scoop or bolt some large-by-fucking-hugely-oversize rims to a car, but to change the game and dig deep into that original hot rodding ethic of working to make something better in all ways than it could have ever been imagined when it rolled off of the assembly line. And as I see it, if you lack the fundamental knowledge and skill set to be a true custom car designer, then you are nothing more to me than some panel-banging monkey on a reality show, and my sworn enemy in the business.
 
Don’t get me wrong: If the TV shows like the one mentioned above are some sort of satire, at least have the courtesy of mentioning that in the credits or opening sequence. Give a disclaimer before some idiot attempts to mimic this crap, or worse, walks away with the feeling that this is what our industry is all about. Over the course of our history, we’ve had enough black eyes handed to us courtesy of a few miscreants. We stand at the crossroads of becoming the legitimate powerhouse of creativity and engineering that can push us well into the next century, or we can become the punchline to a joke on some poorly-produced cable TV show.
 
That said, ask yourself the next time you sit at the drawing board if you’re a designer or a decorator. And don’t get me wrong, there is a place for both… But know that if you’re the latter masquerading as the former that while I’m laughing at your shit, I do sincerely appreciate the check that came with the job of actually making your flourishes into something that works… even if two-thirds of it wind-up in the trash. And if that doesn’t get you angry enough to step up your game, you can always get a TV show and blow signal flare smoke at that rear spoiler. Some people like to watch that crap, and with your TV money you can open that bakery and really decorate some stuff, cupcake.
%d bloggers like this: