Gearhead Fever is hereditary!
We all know how contagious “playing with cars” can be. That first free mod – be it removing a boost control solenoid for an extra pound or two up top or cranking the torsion bars for the inch that gets you another mile – when it goes right, it’s a beautiful thing. We surround ourselves with those who share our passion for mechanical progress. We help each other achieve success. It’s Gearhead Fever and it’s clearly contagious.
Some of us, however, grew up with gearhead parents. While overzealous gearhead parenting can drive kids away from motorsport, a healthy balance of exposure, collaboration, and fun does the opposite – it passes the fever to the next generation. Four plus years ago, when I interviewed my
friend brother Greg Wallace, we predominately talked about his Evo (link), but Greg had this to say, “The Mitsubishi fever will soon be passed on to my oldest son, [Glenn,] who has requested a 2G Eclipse as his first car!”
Now, Glenn’s in college, rocking a mutual
friend’s brother’s old 2GNT. As much as I loved the idea of this story, I wasn’t entirely sure how it should flow at the beginning, so I started with the basics.
[bd] Glenn, when did you first decide you wanted your first car to be a 2G DSM? Why?
[Glenn] Well, I really wanted my first car to be an Evo, but that would never happen unless we struck it rich in the lottery. While my dad was racing his Evo, I was right around the age to start looking at a first car and he brought up how cheap a used 2G [DSM] could be had. Helping him turbocharge his 99 GS and going for rides in that car when it was pushing 375HP sold me on that idea. Not to mention the great looks of the car.
[bd] When you say you were right around the age to start looking at a first car, what age is that? Were you big into cars before that? How so?
[Glenn] I’d say probably around 14, which sounds a little young, but the plan was to get a car that needed work and have a really nice 2G by the time I got my license. I really got into cars when I saw the first Fast and Furious movie. I was around 6 or 7 at the time and probably had about 15 models of the green Eclipse by the time I was 10. Alongside working on those (making exhausts out of bendy straws and body kits out of cardboard), my dad was building his Eclipse, so most of my time was spent working on the models or helping work on the real thing. When my dad got the Evo, I was old enough to really start learning how to wrench on things and by that point, I was already hooked.
[bd] As a new father myself, I know I occasionally think about how I’m going to get my automotive shit together in time to soundly introduce my daughter to the world of mechanical self-sufficiency. Knowing you used to be into racing on two wheels, did you always see Glenn growing up in motorsport? Was any of this your idea or did you take a complete hands-off approach and let him come to discover it on his own?
[Greg] I’m a firm believer in letting kids be kids, exposing them to everything you can, and letting them pick their own path in life. But it was very clear early on Glenn would be his father’s son. Maybe it was being track-side at 6 months? Once I saw the spark though, I exposed him to everything I could; motorcycle road racing, auto-x, auto road racing, building and blowing up motors, race prep, behind the scenes at track events, etc.. Most importantly, he saw me doing all of this work and building relationships – not handing the keys off to a shop just to write a fat check later.
[bd] Having so much more parenting AND motorsport experience than I, can you shed a little light on why getting a kid involved with cars, maintenance and modification is a good thing?
[Greg] I think Glenn is a perfect example of why this is important. At 19, he’s in college, working part time, and has tackled every issue on his 16 year old car himself (with very little assistance from me); researching and buying his own parts, and doing his own work. Zero dollars paid to someone else for any of it.
Those are real dollars saved, and he will continue to be able to do that for the rest of his life. Who doesn’t want free money? And with any luck (in due time of course…) he will pass that down to his children. The two of us are driving cars that are collectively 39 years old. Cheap to work on, cheap to insure, and cheap to own. Cheap doesn’t mean that they aren’t a blast to drive however.
[bd] Greg. How did you see this spark manifest? What are the signs?
[Greg] Well at age 2 he was grabbing wrenches from the toolbox to help “work” on the race bike at the track. His interest only grew from there, following me from bikes, to autocross, to the dragstrip, to road racing cars. LOTS of great people along the way in each discipline also fueled his budding passion. 10 years old and riding to the grid in a full-on gutted TT car. Who gets to do that??
[bd] Glenn, your dad’s comments on motorcycle racing get me thinking. A lot of us had bikes before we had cars. I know my dad had some kind of Honda 750 when I was very little. If he’d been racing motorcycles at the point in my life when I was riding my bike everywhere – you know, like you do before you have a car – I wonder if I’d be the cager I am today. For all the mechanical/motorsport experiences you had growing up, which stand out most to you? What were some of the things you liked best about being involved in all that?
[Glenn] One of the more notable experiences was when I was in, oh, probably 5th grade (2006) and my dad woke me up at around 5:30 in the morning. I thought I was late for school because he never woke me up – it was always mom’s job. Once I was awake enough to realize I wasn’t late, he told me we were going to Putnam Park to watch One Lap of America. That was really the first time I really remember being at the track, short of a few times to the local drag strip for test and tune on his 2G.
Soon after that I started going to track days with him and, besides the bragging factor, going back to all my friends at school saying I got to spend the weekend around race cars, meeting people and learning new things at the track have really helped my understanding on things like suspension setups and timing and scoring. I’d say that easily the thing I liked best about being at the track was the wealth of knowledge around me. Without that, I doubt I would be who I am today.
[bd] Another one for Glenn. Between you and your dad, a number of us who have known you for years have been cheering for you along the way. You bought a known-quantity of sorts in Andrew’s old 2GNT, and we’ve seen plenty of pictures of you working on and enjoying it ever since. This is a weird time in life, when we deal with graduation, going back to school, getting real jobs, moving out. It’s one of those first opportunities to really think about what we want out of life. With so many priorities and challenges on your plate these days, what do you want to get out of this, your first car?
[Glenn] For right now, a fun daily driver. I have plans to have it turbocharged by the [Buschur Racing DSM/EVO/GTR] Shootout in 2015. I’ve already rewired the car to run MS2 [MegaSquirt] and I’m learning my way around tuning it. Beyond that, I want to use the car as a showcase of what crazy ideas I come up with and how I made them work.
Ideally, after college at some point, I will make it a road race car. I have some really crazy ideas for that (first AWD 420a that isn’t an auto?) and some others I don’t want to reveal quite yet. I want to see this car go places. Ever since my dad had his 2G and Evo, I’ve always wanted a car I can work on and be proud of and, even if I don’t reach my ultimate goals, the car has already provided me with those two things.
[bd] Back to Greg, now. It’s one thing to tell a random, possibly nameless peer how to do something on a forum, and every gearhead has had to do a little maintenance/troubleshooting/repairs for family members, but does the coaching/instruction take a different line when it’s your kid? Do you find yourself more attentive to details or safety or such? How important does this stuff feel when you’re sharing it with your son compared to others?
[Greg] I may be a bit biased, or maybe a lot, but he is one of the smartest people I know. He sees solutions to problems I can’t fathom. And he has the ability to design, fab, test, and improve whatever is in his mind’s eye, whether it’s mechanical, electrical, or software. To that end, I try to guide his runaway enthusiasm with real world results and failings, most from my own experiences.
I also lead instead of spilling the beans. Effective troubleshooting is a huge part of being self-sufficient in my opinion, and that has to be grown as well. He has been taught safety first above all else, and that a hack fix doesn’t belong on any vehicle, any time. That being said, I do obsess over what he is working on to make sure there is nothing either of us are missing. He probably doesn’t know that, but it is still my job to protect him, something I don’t extend to the same obsessive degree to others – there isn’t enough time to obsess over everyone!
[bd] In a sense, we are all our brothers’ keepers, right Greg? I like to think that, if we play our cards right, we can drive a sort of renaissance of gearhead responsibility. No single one of us can obsess over everyone, but many hands make light work. If we show an interest in the success of a few people around us, we can ensure there’s enough safety/quality/performance obsession to go around.
Glenn, one final question for you. You said you want to see this car go places. Where (literally and figuratively) do you want to see it go, and why? What’s it going to take to get there?
[Glenn] I want to see it as a full-out road race car at some point. Ideally around 400HP to all four wheels. The biggest challenge aside from money will be the AWD swap, but in doing all these modifications, more than just see myself, succeed I want to learn.
Through success or failure, I feel like that is what this car is all about to me. Just swapping to Megasquirt has taught me more than I ever thought I would need to know about an EFI system, and I learn more about its features and capabilities every day. So to specifically answer your question, I want to see the car go very fast and do many unconventional things (AWD 420A). Getting there is going to take a whole lot of learning.
[bd] Very nice. Greg, same question. Where, literally and figuratively, do you want to see your car go, and why? What’s it going to take to get there?
[Greg] My car? It changes nearly every day. Commuter, auto-xer, road-racer, drag car. The good thing is the platform is so versatile, I can do all of those things with the same car and give up very little. It’s not quite an Evo (a car I won drag race events, auto-x championships, and nearly a road-racing championship with, all while driving the car nearly every day), but it’s close enough (for now) and it’s old school cool.
The other day someone asked when it would be done. “Never” was my reply. I never see them on the road anymore, so I want mine to turn a few heads and be ready to whoop some ass no matter where I decide to take it.
. . .
“Never.” Spoken like a true gearhead. And it’s clear this passion has been passed down from father to son over the course of some two decades of exposure to the challenges – and rich rewards – of being a gearhead. The machines bring us together, but it’s the people who keep us together. That’s the biggest single benefit to being a gearhead. When will these chains be broken? Same answer. Never.
Thanks to Greg and Glenn for sharing their story with us. Really appreciate it.