On Projects and Hobbies

I have been building and playing with my little car for almost thirteen years now. When I first started the project I envisioned having it on the road within three years (because I wasn’t going to be one of “those people”), driving it, racing it and moving on to better things. In hindsight: I was naive.

In fact, it became a running joke. I was talking to one of my friends on the phone the other day about the car and how progress was going (it turns out I actually barely talk to people about the car anymore). I stated it would more than likely be on the road in less than a year. He jested that I would be saying the exact same thing next year. In my early twenties I would have taken this very personally, as an attack on my capability or my word or some other nonsense; forgive me, I was naive. The reality is, he might be actually be right and more interestingly: I apparently don’t care.

Something I have come to realise is that the core value in a project like this is not in finishing it. Great, you get a ludicrously expensive mildly fast sports car; you could have bought a Miata and had the deposit for another house instead. You’re an idiot Josh.

The value in building a car is in overcoming the complexities, the new skills you learn and the time you get to spend with yourself (or with a friend or family member if you are doing a shared project).

On the outside looking in, if I had undertaken this project to get a sports car at the end, then yeah that’s absurd. That’s funny. That’s a joke. So I can definitely see why people can see it that way. Heck, I even see it that way!

But in reality, it’s all about “The Journey”. It’s a cliché. But it’s a cliché for a reason. It turns out its most likely a truism, as true for building cars as it is for life.

To build the car I have had to learn welding, fabrication, fibre glassing, painting, wiring, engine building, suspension design, upholstery, blah, blah, blah, the list goes on. It is unlikely I would have been exposed to these things had I not taken on the project. I have also had to learn my limits, my likes and dislikes. I know that I can hammer on at a project for going on thirteen years without giving up, that’s pretty cool right?

I have also learnt that I desperately need time alone. Those six to eight hours a week I spend squirrelling away surrounded by four walls and a car is incredibly cathartic. I listen to music, I listen to audio books, I listen to talks from modern philosophers and sometimes, more often than not, I listen to nothing at all. The sound of tools. The sound of my own thoughts. It’s a much needed break from the outside world.

Regarding the three year plan, I think it’s do-able depending on what you choose to build, your starting skill level and where you are in life. But I had none of these stars aligned. I chose a complicated custom build, with little to no experience (I had built a stock car that was all) and I was nineteen years old. I look back at that kid and I think: you had shtick you handsome fool.

Since I first cut metal I have:

  • Gained a degree in Mechanical Engineering (4 years of my life)
  • Changed jobs four times, excluding an industrial placement year
  • Changed location five times
  • Changed house eight times
  • Switched careers
  • Moved the Locost between four locations
  • Gained two cute dogs and held onto a mega fiancé (marriage pending COVID)

All of the above is not conducive to completing a project car and that is okay, because of all the above is life. Reality. Stuff that happens outside of the garage. Stuff that matters.

I think what I am trying to say is, when I sit back and look at what I have achieved in thirteen years I say “wow, I am proud!”, and that’s what hobbies are all about. Progress in a sea of uncertainty and change. A constant when everything is variable.

So go out, get a hobby, don’t set an end date, and just enjoy yourself.

ManDoCar: Episode #3, Painting Dinghy’s, Man Do Compressor, Nissan Leaf Smugness

It happened again. Alex and I got behind our microphones and discussed the state of our hobby projects and many other random pieces of Engineering.

Dinghy updates, paint types, the magic of radio 4, man do compressors, compressed air cars, the Nissan leaf, electric car ownership, tesla’s, drag simulation, smugly pre-heating your car, the Locost’s shiny bodywork and the label “sports car”

Follow us on Twitter @ManDoCarPod

ManDoCar: Episode #1

I couldn’t bring myself to write a full article on how the car is getting on, so I decided to do something a little different: a podcast! Enjoy. All the relevant pictures are below as well as dingy chat!

We discuss painting, IVA preparation, driving at Snetterton, engineering learning, SpaceX hydraulic systems, faulty brake callipers, peak performance, why limited slip differentials rock, the Hoonigan donk, exhaust wrap, and lastly, engineering in a pandemic.

Dingy Chat

Pantone 333c Colour Chip

The Locost

New steering rack mount. Major surgery!
The chassis finally in a state to clean and paint. Spring 2020
Chassis all cleaned up and steering rack back in
Steering joint over the 10 degrees required for IVA
A very clean and red engine block
ARP Main Studs. Lovely.
Plastigauging a main cap
One of the old big end bearings. Not nice at all. These were new not long ago.
Inside of the drp sump pan.
New seat padding by JK Composites.
Bottom end back in the car.
The entirely wrong brake calliper slides …
… this is what they should look like
A freshly rebuilt and cleaned diff. Kaaz Limited Slip inside!
Auxiliary belt idler. Makes the engine much quieter.
Front lights! Looking great
Oil on plug #1. Not fouling, but not great. Need to do a proper break-in before any concern.

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