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Barnstormin’: Necessity Is The Mother Of Addiction

Barnstormin’: Necessity Is The Mother Of Addiction

Through comments and conversations, I have been lucky enough to read about how lots of BangShifters got their hooks into the car hobby. For some, things started well after their got their driver’s license and they became obsessed with the car they drove around every day. For others of us like me, it started far earlier than that. After this weekend I think I’ll be able to have a moment that both my son Tom and I can trace back to when the proverbial “light bulb” lit atop his head. Don’t get me wrong, Tom has been car crazy since he was able to form a thought in his brain, but on Saturday it was the first time he was actually able to use tools and do more than hand me wrenches on a job and boy was he into it.

We weren’t doing any real crazy stuff, just doing the rocker arm swap that I told you about in my last Buford T Justice update. I’ll have the rest of the story for you this week but the good news for Tom was that since the car is so low and he continues to grow like a weed, he was able to reach the top of the engine pretty easily. I had him popping the new rocker arms on the studs and prepping the polylocks by backing the set screw out of them so I could thread them on and set the lash. Here’s where the necessity thing comes in. See, I have a weird relationship with the crank bolt in the front of the engine in Buford. I really didn’t want to be rolling the motor over with a bar and depending on that bolt so I had Tom in the driver’s seat “bumping” the engine on my command as I ran through the valves. It made quick work of the job and he got to have some “seat time” which he was all excited for. After buttoning up the engine again and hitting the key, the car fired right up and I could see in his face that he had “the feeling”. You know the one I am speaking of. The little bit of “I did that” which he’ll get every time he sits in, looks at, or hears the car run.

This wasn’t a setup either. I am not the pushy dad type so when we went out to do this it wasn’t as though I gathered him up and told him, “here’s what we’re going to do today.” He was naturally interested and as soon as I asked him if he wanted to help he was right on it. He got really excited when I told him to get the rocker arms out of the box as he was expected to be on wrench grabber duty again. His promotion was right on time. In doing the work we had a couple of conversations about what the various parts did and how they did it, what a camshaft actually was, how the pushrods moved, and just the basics of what is happening inside an engine. Did he retain it all? Probably not, but I know some of it stuck.

If we really want to have a strong “next generation” of hot rodding, we have to start handing kids wrenches and parts, and talking to them. I am not suggesting every seven year old in America needs to know what the differences are in type of rockers and valvetrain technology but they need to know that you are interested in their help and actually teaching them something. I’d bet dollars to donuts that every person reading this right now with a kid (especially the guys who are always into or under something at the house) could have the same experience I had last weekend and all it takes is a smile and a benevolent attitude. There are guys too high strung to ever do this and frankly, those are the guys who have kids and say, “I don’t know why Billy never got into cars like I was?” The car as part of the family is one thing. The car as your favored child is another.

Like usual, we were on a time crunch and got the job done just as my wife was starting to hint to us that it was time to clean up and get ready to leave. We had enough time to fire the car up and listen for noises/other weirdness but no time to actually cruise the thing. It poured buckets on Sunday so there was no point in heading out to do smokey water burnouts. I told him if the weather was OK when he got off the school bus today, we’d go terrorize the town and check out the results of our handiwork. I am pretty sure the kid will be staring at the clock from the second his fanny hits the seat this morning.

The underlying message here is that as many people sit around and bemoan the fact that “kids just don’t like cars anymore” they could be helping to fix that problem. Hot rodders are built not born. There’s a path of self teaching at a later age or there is a path of mentorship at a younger age by friends, family, a neighbor, etc but they are both paths that need to be taken for someone to actually be “into cars”. For every kid that touches a rocker arm, maybe 2 of ten actually get the hook set in their arm and become full tilt car freaks. That may not seem like much but it is infinitely (literally) better than the alternative, which is zero.

With any luck, by the time you read this, Tom and I will be out cruising and listening for any noises out of our new rocker arms, because that’s what hot rodders do…and we both are.

rocker1 rocker2

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15 thoughts on “Barnstormin’: Necessity Is The Mother Of Addiction

  1. Blue'67CamaroRS

    Thanks Brian. i think a lot kids here in the modern age don’t get true hands-on experience any more. I let the grands kids (2boys) watch, when we wrench and they’re definitely interested but not quite as old as your son, but soon!

  2. Pizzandoughnuts

    Brian, this is exactly what kids do need today. A loving parent more concerned about setting a great example for there kids, I can guarantee you that he will not forget this wonderful memory that will last a life time for him.

  3. cyclone03

    Nice job Brian.
    I’m one on the other end of the spectrum. I pushed to hard with my daughters and ended up driving them away from hot rodding.
    I learned, I’m taking it slow with my grandson.

  4. Scott Liggett

    “Mrs. Lohnes, this is Tom’s teacher. We don’t know what happened with him today, but he was so distracted at school today. Started babbling away about rocking and pushing. It made no sense at all, but we could tell he wasn’t listening to the lesson today”

  5. Chip

    This hits a nerve- Spent the last two weeks on and off rebuilding the gate of my 12′ trailer, which was hashed, but functional when I bought it for a pretty good deal. Would have gone (a lot) faster, but I taught my 14 year old some Fabrication and Welding lessons, and the 11 year old came out and welded, which he enjoyed. Now, instead of a full width billboard gate that stops upright, we have a bi-fold gate that lays in the bed. The Kid had fun showing it off at the Motocross track. “That’s slick!” “Thanks, My dad and I built it.” They’re good boys.

  6. elkyguy

    and another gearhead is born!—great job brian,patience is the key here–i’ve got to admit when i wrench on something,and it’s not going well,i have a tendency to get a little testy–not the best way to show a youngster how it’s done..

    1. Brian Lohnes Post author

      Me too, Elky! This was pretty smooth sailing but I totally get where you’re coming from.

  7. John T

    Brian, your story is wonderful and you are spot on, the spark needs to be lit in a fun way for kids to take an interest and start to do things for themselves.. my son used to watch me make stuff for the car and was interested from an early age – one day (I think he was maybe 6?) he said ` I want you to build me a robot’ so we only ever got as far as doing one leg in metal out of odds and sods but I really didn’t know the magnitude of what he wanted to do, and he was too young to use power tools etc so he’d go off and come to me and say drill a hole here or cut that.. one day ( about 12 – 13) he basically said ` no offence, dad, but you’re kinda holding me back, I want to build a dalek ( as in Dr Who) but I want to do everything myself… took him about 6 months, but by the end of it it is full sixe, remote control, speaks in a proper dalek voice and drives around the house…since then he has made many amazing things, won prizes at the Royal Show and been invited to exhibit as ` poster boy ‘ for an electronics company, won a trip to Malaysia, and now studies props and set construction. I am SO proud of him…current project is a beautiful remote control model of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang about 2 ft long, built from scratch but he won’t let me film it until its done – dunno if the link below will work but it shows some of the build piks – feel free to use them! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=254610541376903&set=a.164337070404251.1073741824.100004838766862&type=1&theater
    – please take the time to have a quick look at his youtube channels to see some of his amazing work.. https://www.youtube.com/user/MarshFacev2

  8. Adam

    My 9 y/o son has been with me every step of the way doing my Lightning engine + T56 swap into my Vic. He loves it, and I love having him out there with me.

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