March 6th, 2005:
Need for Speed
Part III

About this time every year, my thoughts turn to internal combustion and the joy it brings to the world… or at least my world. In previous articles, I’ve rambled on about “car cool” and “common sense.” This time around I would like to address some things that I’ve realized about my personal experience with cars. I am an opinionated person. I base my opinion on my experience. Since I have yet to experience everything, I can’t pretend to know all. With this realization, I’ve decided to open up to components of the car world that I previously avoided or sometimes outright criticized.

Many people have shared their preferences with me. Though I accepted their opinions, part of me would not let go of preconceptions that will ultimately hinder my ability to see everything out there for what it’s worth. One person in particular has shared a lot of his experience with me, and some of it I’ve taken for granted… until now.

Brad is a character that I met at work. He shares a passion for cars that I respect. His opinions on performance and aesthetic are often in contrast to my own. His current ride, a late model Mercury Cougar, started out stock with a body kit. Then custom wheels and window tint. I’ve always prefered performance to appearance, so I was not quick to recognize the improvements he made to his car. His passion went beyond the external modifications to his car. He organized a local Cougar club that later spawned an annual gathering for owners, Cougarfest. Brad took it upon himself to contact corporate sponsors, choose a location, and organize a professional event. His Cougar-owning peers look up to him. I realize now that I do too.

I don’t have the where with all to coordinate such an effort. Autosport is something I prefer to appreciate in a more solitary way. It’s kind of a zen thing. Alone with some tools and a car, elbow deep under the hood, I sometimes find a peace that I don’t associate with any of my other interests. Brad is interested in the community aspect. In addition to Cougarfest, he participates in several car shows per year. He has taken several awards for his Cougar, and I believe that he earned every one.

A few years ago, Brad went beyond aesthetic improvements and installed a major performance upgrade: a Vortec centrifugal supercharger. This is no small task and Brad had few peers to guide him. He did the work (with a few extra hands) and the results are stunning. This upgrade got my attention. However, it was more than a single step… it was yet another step in an ongoing process to realize his vision.

Shortly after the supercharger upgrade, Brad started to compete in SCCA Solo events. At this time I was pretty hooked with drag racing (at a local strip, of course) as well as turning a wrench or two for a SCCA road racing team. Though I was curious about Solo II, I didn’t venture out on my own and try it. Maybe I was scared to try something without anyone guiding me… maybe my longterm goal (road racing) blinded me from this short term satisfaction. In any event, Brad continued to gain experience while I sat by and watched.

Eventually I accompanied Brad to a Solo II event. It was a blast. Over the past few years, I learned a lot about the sport… I also learned a lot about motorsport physics. Though I have no immediate plans to continue with autocross, I learned a lot about it, thanks to Brad.

Brad is quiet. He doesn’t make a show of his interest… apart fromt he decals on his car (wink). When he wants to work on his car, he simply walks out to his garage and starts working. I, on the other hand, require a lot of prep to start working. I research my projects online, block out a day on a weekend several weeks in advance, and focus intensely on the task at hand. Brad is happy to work a few hours, clean up, and jump thorough a sprinkler on the lawn if the moment strikes him.

This I respect above all. He doesn’t stress over his hobby, though he is undeniably passionate about it. It’s a seamless part of his being. I wish to be like this. I want to just do… not plan, process, and participate. There’s a zen to Brad’s way that I hope to find… maybe it’s something I’ll discover this year. Maybe it’s something that I’ll never quite get. In any event, I’ll continue with this example as an inspiration and another experience to add to my personal “files.” Everyone’s experience is unique, but I can’t deny that other’s experience affects my own.

Further information and related links:
Brad’s Website
Milan Dragway
Waterford Hills Road Racing

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