It’s going to be epic.
Our world is increasingly disinterested in cars and trucks. We’re losing interest in actually exploring the world beyond our tiny, digital screens. We need more drivers who truly appreciate vehicle ownership. Here’s what we’re going to do about that (and why it scares me).
Vehicles represent freedom. Freedom to come and go as we please and explore the world on largely our own terms. Freedom many of us take for granted; to the point where the majority of new car buyers are gleefully handing over control of their property to unknowns in pursuit of incremental convenience. The automotive appliance is about to go autonomous. Personal motoring is approaching event horizon and there’s nothing we can do about it. Or is there?
I think it’s time we empowered those less fortunate with the freedom of the automobile. The seeds of this idea were planted last year, when I discovered the Shitbox Rally in Australia – and had an opportunity to interview both the event’s founder and participants who entered from America. I’ll be republishing both of these articles on the site in coming weeks, as they’re pretty damn inspiring, as is the new Mystery Box Rally. If you’re already familiar with these two, you might have an idea where we’re headed.
Recently, I finally managed to connect for a phone call with James Carter, founder of BeLegendary.org. We’d rescheduled the call multiple times, as it’s damn hard for me to find time to actually talk on the phone these days. (Ask Jesse Lewis of Exhale Performance) Fortunately, I was covering a night shift last week, had a couple hours available during the day, and we had a quick chat that lead to something truly inspired.
James is not a gearhead in the sense we use here at GBXM. He can tell you how much his performance bike (as in bicycle) weighs and I’m sure he understands the reasoning behind modern bikes having more than one “speed,” but he didn’t get the reasoning behind the gearbox in Gearbox Magazine.
The gearbox transfers the engine’s power to the wheels, making motion possible. Changes in gearing affect acceleration, fuel economy (efficiency), top speed, and towing/load-handling ability (torque). GBXM|united wants to transfer gearheads’ power to the ground, empowering gearheads to accelerate their lives, move efficiently, at higher speeds, with the power to handle heavier loads.
Upon learning this, things were made clear and James reminded me that people these days, more than ever, are looking for two things:
- fun, unique experiences
- that mean something
WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO
We’re going to roll out the GBXM|united colors and organize our first gearhead event. It’s most likely going to be a trip across Death Valley in cheap cars for charity. Might start in Las Vegas. Might start in Los Angeles. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
- limited 10 teams of 4 gearheads
- teams meet at starting point (let’s say Vegas)
- teams cross Death Valley en route to finish (LA)
- upon arriving at finish, cars are donated to a charity
- each team spends $500 or less on a vehicle (purchase, donate)
- unlimited budget for vehicle modification
OPTION 2 – same as above, but with the following differences
- each team spends less than $1000-$1500 on a vehicle (purchase, repairs, mods)
- vehicles are restored/prepared for daily driver reliability
- upon arriving at finish, cars are given to people who desperately need them
- each vehicle includes a basic tool kit (Harbor Freight?) and Chiltons/Haynes manual
HOW I SEE THIS PLAYING OUT
We build our teams and pool resources – a combination of self-funding and raising donations – to get our machines. With Option 1, we go nuts. Crazy rattle can paint jobs, giant papier mache tail fins, mismatched engines, you name it. So long as these things are street legal (30 day, temporary registration?) and insured – and you think it will make it across Death Valley – sky’s the limit.
Just remember these machines will likely be scrapped in the end. (Seems a waste of a good car, to me.)
With Option 2, things are little more restrained. The idea here is to apply our gearhead expertise – mechanical know-how and technical resources – to hook up people who really need them. Think “Mechanic’s Special” on Craigslist. We find nicer, severely marked-down cars, put a couple hundred bucks into them – essentially saving them – then make the same trip across Death Valley, ultimately giving them away.
Assuming we start in Vegas and end in LA, we’ll all meet up at a specific place and time for pictures, announcements, official livery/decal packages, and maybe some surprise challenges/instructions I’m not about to leak at this point in time, suffice to say things will be more pedestrian, should we go with Option 2. Then we’ll roll out together, accompanied by experienced overland guides (in proper off-road vehicles) who selected our secret route across the Mojave Desert and can assist with vehicle recovery, first aid, and emergency situations we might encounter along the way.
Initial looks at Google Maps suggest this will be a single day drive, but it would be a full day of driving once you factor in meals, fuel stops, shenanigans. While I think it would be cool to spend the night in Death Valley, I’m trying to keep things relatively compact. If I’ve learned anything from a decade volunteering at rallies, things like this take more time than just the start-to-finish. Right now, I’m thinking this would be the schedule.
- Friday, teams arrive with their vehicles in Las Vegas.
- early morning, drivers’ meeting, depart for LA
- all day, adventure in Death Valley!
- early evening, arrive in LA, award ceremony & party
- morning, vehicle donation ceremony
- teams go home
How do we get home afterward? Good question, and something I’ve got to figure out. Right now, it could be every man for himself, but I also like the idea of chartering vans to drive us home – or at least close enough to home that friends or family could pick us up. I’ve got a couple other ideas, but you can see how quickly – and often – I’m coming up with questions as I start planning this thing.
Thinking about this a few days, now, Option 1 is easier for us. Cheaper machines likely on their way to the crusher are almost a nothing-to-lose proposition, and a deserving charity ultimately gets more than a couple grand cash in the end, so it still does a lot of good. Even so, something about three of my best friends and I meeting a single parent with two jobs who has to spend 4-5 hours a day on the bus to get where he or she needs to go, and then saying:
“Here’s the keys and title to your new car. My friends and I have fixed it up for you. It crossed Death Valley. It will cross town. There’s a tool kit and service manual in the trunk, but if you ever have any questions or anything, we’d like to invite you to our private, online forum, where we can do our best to keep you on the road.”
To me, Option 2 just seems more meaningful. I mean, this would mean gearheads not only making an immediate and measurable difference in peoples’ lives, but also add to the number of people on the road who appreciate their machines for what they really are – freedom. Bonus: These people are empowered to handle their own maintenance and basic repairs, meaning these machines could be the start of a new generation of gearheads!
WHEN ARE WE DOING THIS?
Right now, I’m thinking winter 2014, if not spring 2015. As you can see, there’s still a LOT to figure out. Right now, though, I’d like YOUR feedback. What do you like most about this? What do you like least? What makes you concerned? What am I forgetting? Do us a favor and share this one around the intarwebz. This is the start of gearheads giving back. We’re gonna change the world. One car at a time. Are you a gearhead like us?
EDIT: I forgot got mention why this scares me. This is a major undertaking requiring much planning. So nervous. Ordinarily, I’m the kinda guy who has all his ducks in a row before launching something, but people need time to plan for things like this, so I need to get things moving. I want this event to be an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. I want it to make a remarkable difference in peoples’ lives. And I want to see us actually do it. It’s hard enough for me to find time to source stories, update the site, yadda yadda – now I’m going to have to make phone calls (ugh), meet people, and plan even more travel time away from home. It’s going to be a struggle. It’s worth it, though. You’re worth it. Will you join us? Thanks.