You remember that old saw, "Call me anything you want, just don't call me late for dinner." If there's one thing that holds universal for the entire hobby-and that covers a lot of ground-it's the fact that everybody's got to eat. Lowriders, off-roaders, drag racers-it doesn't matter. We're all breaking bread together. There's also another saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." I was recently reminded how true that really is.
Faced with a long holiday weekend, and the need to finish building the project Chevelle's big-block on a deadline (you can read about it next month), I contrived a cunning plan to beat the odds and finish ahead of schedule. I'd been begging Andy Mitchell of Outlaw Racing to help me out, and made him an offer he could not refuse. Help me build my engine in one Saturday, and I'd grill him a ribeye he wouldn't soon forget.
You laugh, but just check out those little sidebars we print every month. How many times have you seen in the cost breakdown of a car the price for something measured in cases of beer instead of dollars?
Let's just say I was emboldened to offer Andy that ribeye, and I had good reason to think it would work. For starters, I can't even count the number of times it worked on contributor Steve Dulcich. The key to success here is in how you prepare the meat. Starting with a thick, marbled cut, you rub olive oil, garlic, cracked pepper, and salt into the steak. Lots of salt. Let it sit a few hours, throw it on a super hot grill, and sear it to lock in the juices. With Dulcich, I learned that you've also got to supplement the ribeye with plenty of Guinness. (As you may have figured, beer is often going to be an important part of the equation. And let's not forget with Dulcich there's the need to undo a whole day of swilling NOS energy drink.)
But why a ribeye? Besides the fact that I just like them, I think guys are caught just a little off guard by it. They're expecting dogs, brats, burgers, maybe even pizza, but I raise the ante. The gravitational pull is like a black hole-there's just no escaping it.
The currency of food in the hot rodding experience is not to be underestimated. Go to the drag races any weekend, and look for the pits with the most activity. The common thread will be food. These racers are smart because they've figured out that when it's time to fix something, borrow a tool, or sniff out a replacement part, food (and beverage) is the lubricant that makes it happen.
Wanna get your hoopty built in a hurry? Forget about that walk-in tool box. What you need, bro, is a fridge full of beer and a Weber grill. You will be amazed at how many friends come out of the woodwork. I'm talking about friends with tools, parts, and, most importantly, skills. And that's where Andy comes in.
The first time I met Andy, I knew this guy was good. For starters, he doesn't shoot his mouth off about all he knows and how other engine builders suck. He's an intent listener. That's the number one sign of a great engine builder. Secondly, Andy and I hit it off immediately. Here was a guy I could relate to via gastronomic communication.
So there I was on Memorial Day weekend, my daughter by my side, grilling ribeyes in front of Andy's shop. We're hanging out, having fun, and, yes, an engine is getting built somewhere in there, too. And you know what the best part is? I'm going to remember this day every time I drop the hammer in my Chevelle. (Try buying that with a checkbook!)
In a way, my column this month is a how-to tech story. It's about how to get something done when you don't have all the know-how. You don't even need to know how to cook. If you can dial a phone and order a pizza, you're in the game. On a more serious note, at the end of the day, it's not about your car, it's about the friends you keep and the memories you make. If you read PHR and don't come away with that lesson, I'm afraid I haven't done my job.