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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/7/23 4:34 p.m.

Working on your own car can be equal parts fulfilling and frustrating, but what about working on a car that’s not yours?

Whether it was helping a friend work on their project over a weekend or fixing up a car for a less-than-knowledgeable family member, what is your favorite memory of working on someone else’s car?

Read the rest of the story

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/7/23 4:55 p.m.

Quite a few years ago now I had a friend that was a major player in the 4x4/Jeep world here in New England. Well at 36yo he ended up getting diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His young family lived in NH in a converted 3 season camp and the pipes froze every winter etc. He was walking dead.

Well, the community and I flipped out. He had a ragged '97 TJ and a couple of us decided we'd take it, restore it, and raffle it for the family and Shane. I told him I was going to steal his Jeep and he said (a catch phrase of his) "The keys are in it."

A repair business close by was in so me and Dominic went and took the Jeep. Dom owned a very reputable Jeep place about an hour from me and a couple from Shane. I went to Dom's every day after work and we started the build of Shane's Jeep. The 4x4 community came out in droves to help whether it was to BBQ a bunch of food, pass tools, whatever.

We hit up all kinds of vendors with the story and many, many of them offered what they could for the cause. It was berkeleying sweet when we were done and we were finally able to show Shane his Jeep.

It ended up being raffled to the tune of $80k. It was enough to get the 3 season camp pulled down and Shane got to see his family move into a brand new modular home. He passed shortly after.

The funeral was amazing, they had to set up a PA system outside the church so we all could hear the eulogy etc. A conservative estimate was 150 off road vehicles there. "Shane ate bugs" was the start of his eulogy by his cousin. It fit Shane to a T.

A guy in UT won the Jeep but he did not want it, he just bought a few tickets to help us out. Dom's 70yo dad ended up paying the guy a fair price for the TJ and it stayed in New England.

It was the worst thing I ever had to do as well as one of the coolest things I have done.

Ranger50 MegaDork
3/7/23 5:14 p.m.

When it leaves and never returns.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
3/7/23 5:29 p.m.

In reply to preach (dudeist priest) :

Great story

3/7/23 6:36 p.m.

I restored   a Bugeye ( documented somewhere on this forum) for the family that originally bought it as a birthday present for the wife. They really liked the car and hung on to it for way too long in hopes that someday they might  find the resources to restore the car.

Turns out they could have easily restored the car and had much more had the father sold the Victoria Cross he had in the den, earned by his father in the battle of Hong Kong. He instead donated it to the Canadian War museum. 

I learned from that effort that I prefer to work on cars that go away when they are done. If you build them on spec you lose a lot of $$$.If you are enabling an owner, then it is fun to spend their $$$  to get them what they want and do what you like to do.

When they are gone, I prefer to never work on the cars again.



preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/7/23 6:56 p.m.
Datsun310Guy said:

In reply to preach (dudeist priest) :

Great story

10 years later his boy bought a '50s CJ-5 and we gave him the tools and some help to get it going. Car clubs are life.

buzzboy SuperDork
3/7/23 7:05 p.m.

In May 2018 I was driving across the country with my best friend. Lake Tahoe to Raleigh. We had spent a night in Madison, Wisconsin and didn't know where to go next. I said, "we met that guy Matt at the CMP Lemons race. He lives in Grand Rapids and likes Mercedes!" 

That night we ended up in a driveway drinking beer and pulling the drivetrain from a w124. Turned a passing acquaintance into a friend and honorary member of our race team. 


tomtomgt356 (Tommy)
tomtomgt356 (Tommy) GRM+ Memberand Reader
3/7/23 7:08 p.m.

Mine isn't as good a Preach's, but is funny.


In college one of my friend's car wouldn't start. Several friends worked on it for a few hours, jump start, clean terminals, clean spark plugs, clean distributor cap, etc. Nothing they did would work. I get back from class and they say "You're good with cars, see what you can do." I hop in, turn the key, and it fires right up. The look on their faces was priceless.

NermalSnert (Forum Supporter)
NermalSnert (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
3/7/23 7:37 p.m.

Working on a friend's '69 TR6 in the back of Fairhope Bicycles after work. It was in the summer 1979 and we had taken the head off to be rebuilt and spent several nights in a row working on it. To this day when I smell Permatex it takes me straight back there. Man those were good times.

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/7/23 9:21 p.m.

Sitting under the open hood of my friends C10 pickup playing with the distributor while he did full throttle acceleration runs. We were 16 and someone told us this would make it faster.

kb58 UltraDork
3/7/23 9:27 p.m.

Changed the clutch on my sister's MG Midget. Good lord was that a learning experience...

kb58 UltraDork
3/7/23 9:27 p.m.
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) said:

Sitting under the open hood of my friends C10 pickup playing with the distributor while he did full throttle acceleration runs. We were 16 and someone told us this would make it faster.

While he was doing the runs?!

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
3/7/23 10:34 p.m.

I have this clear memory of being at my buddy's house when we were 13-14 years old then wandering next door to the 19-20 year old neighbor who had just bought a beater blue '65-'67 Impala convertible needing a new top. 

Standard questions from 2 kids sitting on their banana seat bicycles; whatcha doing? Can we help?

So we spent the afternoon helping him clean out the interior and trunk.  Pulled the seats.  Eventually he bought a new white top.  I don't remember his name but the blue color and white top is a clear image burned into my brain.  

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/8/23 11:30 a.m.

on the opposite end of the spectrum, when UncleDavid came to pull the Protege LX powertrain to swap into the 323, it was a super solid and effective time. In roughly 4 and a half hours we pulled the engine, transmission, axles, hubs, front subframe out and had it lowered onto a rollerskate and wheeled into the garage. 

3/8/23 12:08 p.m.
kb58 said:
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) said:

Sitting under the open hood of my friends C10 pickup playing with the distributor while he did full throttle acceleration runs. We were 16 and someone told us this would make it faster.

While he was doing the runs?!

We used to do this with inboard engine boats.  And yeah, I had the same mental image of a person ridding in the engine bay of a truck while adjusting the timming. Was scary enough in the boats.

DirtyBird222 PowerDork
3/8/23 1:07 p.m.

I have a lot of great memories working on friends and families cars. 

One of my favorites though came from a few years back at the Sebring Champcar race. The Embry Riddle team was out there with an 80s 300zx and it didn't pass tech and it was late in the evening. My team and my buddies team who we always pit with and hang out with, rallied the welder and tools necessary to get them race worthy. They were on track the next morning for the start of the race and were very appreciative of the help. 

I also taught one of my troops how to change their oil, rotate their tires, and check their car over (brakes, ball joints, axles, coolant, etc). Now every time they do it they send me a picture and a thank you. 

wspohn SuperDork
3/8/23 1:37 p.m.

Most fun?  Slipping an unused con rod locktab onto the bench right after a friend had zipped his engine build up and put the pan on a new engine build.  laugh

The person in question had a tendency to not check things so was ready to believe that he'd left something out. I let him off the hook before he started taking it apart again.

Same guy was rebuilding a Triumph GT6  short block when I walked in. He told me that the engine had suddenly locked up and wouldn't turn and he couldn't figure out why. I walked to the other side of the engine stand an instantly knew what happened. The machine shop had returned a TR6 crank instead of the GT6 crank he had sent in. It had the same dimensions so it fit right in, but it was longer stroke so of course the first piston that popped out the top of the block (on the other side from where my friend was wrenching) had a ring pop out, thus freezing the engine in place.  I bet him a bottle of wine that I could solve the puzzle  (I shared it with him when he paid up after I showed him the piston sticking out through the block face).


GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/8/23 2:46 p.m.

The 2018/2022 PLB AW11 provided quite a few memorable moments, plenty of excitement when it caught fire or threatened to cheeky


Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/8/23 3:05 p.m.

Back in the early 2000's I had pretty much given up working on cars and was happy to let my mechanic fix anything that broke on my Acura or Ford van.

Then I started dating a girl who had a '93 Passat GLX wagon 5 spd and a '97 M3.  A girl who had a severe distrust of mechanics.  That started me down the path of working on cars again... this went into high gear when she bought a 2003 MINI Cooper S. Not because the cars would break, but because she and our friends liked modifying them.  A couple of scary episodes of getting those cars on jack stands is why I bought a scissor lift.

My favorite story of working on her cars was when she bought a set of Craven Speed strut tower reinforcement plates for her car.  She had previously bought a set of M7 branded plates, but for various reasons lost to me, she didn't like that brand and didn't want any of their products on her car. Also worth mentioning, we had already had the strut towers "fixed" at a local MINI shop in Philly.

The new plates arrived on a Tues.  In theory, installation should take about 10 min. and I'll be done in time for dinner.  Pop the bonnet, three nuts on each side to remove the M7 plates. Install the Craven bolt extensions. Fit the new plates. Bolt them down. Even the torque spec is low - about 15 ft. lbs. 

Bonnet up; remove the nuts - plate doesn't come off.  Why? Because the plates are a POS and didn't prevent the tower from mushrooming again. 


After some cursing and swearing, I wrestle the plates off the towers.  Then I get the jack out, put the front of the car on jack stands, remove the wheels and proceed to pull the front suspension off the car in order to fix the mushrooming (because the OEM strut plates also deform and have to be removed from the car to fix).  I pound everything flat again, reassemble and install the new plates.  

As I was torquing the wheel bolts, it hit me - this is my ex's daily driver. The car she plans to drive to work the next day. Yet despite starting the job fairly late on a random Tuesday evening, it never even occurred to me I wouldn't be able to have the car back together.  

I felt like I turned a corner on my car wrenching that night and felt like there were few projects I wouldn't be capable of doing.

I've had a number of amusing or interesting memories of working on cars, but that is my favorite one.


Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/8/23 3:13 p.m.

I was SrA Asa, on night shift at Andrews AFB.

Buddy with an S10 comes banging on the door in the middle of my sleep cycle, so 3PM.

"I've been working on swapping this belt tensioner for hours, it isn't holding tension.  I grabbed Jesse and Mike, we can't figure it out, can you look?"

"You owe me." And I shambled out into the beautiful day, looking hateful and trying to shade my eyes. Get to the truck and Brandon wiggles the tensioner to show me it isn't holding tension despite the bolt being tight.

I point and say "its on backwards."

".... what?"  

"Its on backwards.  That ear is supposed to go in that recess for the spring to work against.  Turn it around and it'll work."

He did.  It did.  I nodded and shambled off while he apologized for waking me and promised he would make it up to me next time we went drinking. 



Not my favorite time cause I was quite annoyed at being woken, but it was still amusing to see the look on all of their faces as he and our two other friends all individually thought "E36 M3, I'm an idiot."

jgrewe Dork
3/8/23 4:34 p.m.

My most memorable and fulfilling car was owned by a friend that I shared a shop with. There were 4 of us, I was probably the youngest by 20 years.

One of the guys had been gathering parts to build a 914-6 copy to go vintage racing. I had helped him along the way welding reinforcement panels and a new floor in the tub. I put a cage in it and helped him start hanging the upgraded suspension etc. He found the correct 6 cyl and transmission and sent them out to be freshened up.

He's at the shop one day and says something about "this pain in my side" and goes over to the VA to get checked out.

Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He has a few months at the most.

I'm looking at the pile of parts he has and figure everything is there. I talk to another friend and we decide to do our own "Make a Wish" project. Working late nights we paint the car, get the engine in and wire it up.  The owner, Steve, was able to be there for some of it but he was getting weak.

We start the engine for the first time about 2am one night. I tell my friend Paul to go through the gears with it up on jack stands. He puts it in 1st, the wheels go reverse. He tries reverse, the wheels go forward. The transmission guy had assembled the transaxle for a 911 and put the ring gear on the wrong side.

By this time Steve is in Hospice at the VA. I go over to Bay Pines VA and talk to the police about bringing the race car over to see if we can get him in it at least. I explain that Steve was one of the guys on the USS Pueblo that was a POW in N.Korea during the Vietnam war. One of the officers steps up and says, "I'll give you a police escort, where does it have to come from?"

The shop was only about a 3/4 mile from the hospital, we limped it over there in the one forward gear since we didn't have time to fix the ring gear issue.  Steve was too weak to get out to the car but he got to hear it.

After Steve passed his brother took the car and had some guys run it on track up in Hutchinson Island.  There is a video of the car on youtube but I had no luck embedding it. If anybody can do that it can be found be searching "HSR at Hutchinson Island June 2010"

Here is a little more about Steve Robin. Scroll down and there is a pretty good bio on the school site.


The car was also on an episode of My Classic Car. Season 14 Ep. 23 Dennis Gage closes the show sitting in it. If you look closely at the hood you can see a spot on the passenger side where the sliver paint looks different. That was from a quick repair after a bug dropped in the wet paint. The number on the car is #55, Steve wanted that because of his Jewish heritage and in Japanese 55 is pronounce "go-ju go"



bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/8/23 5:12 p.m.
kb58 said:
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) said:

Sitting under the open hood of my friends C10 pickup playing with the distributor while he did full throttle acceleration runs. We were 16 and someone told us this would make it faster.

While he was doing the runs?!

Like I said we were 16. 

madmrak351 Reader
3/8/23 7:06 p.m.

Helping my boys build bagged S10s. Both were in high school when they did this. Good times! More recently helped a friend cage his track day car. We became even better acquainted through the process. 

JThw8 UltimaDork
3/8/23 7:52 p.m.

So many stories from the days of the BABE rally but I guess the one that sticks most with me is a team which we were in direct competition with for the lead shows up at the hotel at 2am on a tow truck.  That wheel bearing we warned them about that morning after they asked us to look at it ended up worse than expected (and they did nothing about it) so it seized up and locked up their front wheel.  It had been a loooong day for them so they had to head off for some sleep.  My co-driver and I woke up early and hit the parts stores, bought tools and parts.  We pulled the front hub apart and the bearing was heat welded in place so another run to buy a dremel and we cut it out.   Had their car back on the road before the morning starting gun.   They ended up beating us but that sure beats winning by default.

Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/8/23 8:16 p.m.
jgrewe said:

After Steve passed his brother took the car and had some guys run it on track up in Hutchinson Island.  There is a video of the car on youtube but I had no luck embedding it. If anybody can do that it can be found be searching "HSR at Hutchinson Island June 2010"

John, its this button right here.



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