Mike Korecz: daring to be confident in his ability to build the most wickedly wonderful '6
It takes a certain kind of guy to meet a tough project head-on. You only have to read the story on Mike Korecz's '69 AMC Ambassador to be reminded of that. (See "401-K Plan," page 42.) A story like Mike's is good medicine for those guys trawling a Super Chevy swap meet looking for a trim piece for a '69 Camaro, and cryin' because they couldn't find it the first time they went looking for it. Even if you don't like AMCs, you need to read Mike's story, if for no other reason than it won't make your quest for a '67 Mustang center console seem so bad.
We can all learn a thing or two from Mike, like how to keep an open mind and find alternatives to seemingly impossible problems. I just looked online, and I could only find one decent '69 AMC Ambassador for sale-anywhere. Finding N.O.S. parts for a car like this must be like trying to find Spanish treasure. Still, Mike found the solution in the tight-knit AMC community, and when all else failed, he built his own parts from scratch.
But you don't have to own a rare breed of car to approach a problem with the same mindset as Mike. It helps to have a passing familiarity with the raw materials and the tools that shape them, but even if you don't, there are people hidden in the nooks and crannies of even the smallest town who can help you. The day I discovered my neighborhood waterjet job shop was an epiphany for me. The idea of designing a part out of cardboard, then bringing it to someone who can make it a reality-and make it better than the original-is a liberating thing.
Last month, we brought you the story of John McBride and his '67 Chevy II. In spite of the huge aftermarket supporting these cars, John decided to set all that aside, and build a truly world-beating supercar in his garage. Like Mike, John met the challenge head-on, learning a whole new skill set in the process. How cool is that?
Both of these guys are extreme examples of DIY fortitude, but you can partake in their success on your own terms, and at your own depth. These guys have inspired me to take my own baby steps into areas I've typically left to other, more qualified folks. I reasoned that if they can do something really hard, then I should be able to do easier stuff. The best thing about this approach is that if you do screw something up, it's in the seclusion of your own garage.
Just remember that you're looking for small victories here. As a kid, you change the plugs. Then dad lets you rebuild the carb. Next thing you know, you're pulling the motor in your first car and rebuilding it. Every goal you achieve is the bedrock for the next bigger thing. Guys who build this kind of incremental knowledge about their own cars have a confidence you can't buy with a checkbook.
When I was younger, I had a lot more of this confidence, though it was mostly because I was poor, and had to do the work myself. Honestly, the magazine environment spoils that because everybody is reaching out their hands to help you, and it's hard to refuse, being on a deadline. But things are changing at PHR Central. Whenever I can, I'll be doing stuff myself. Bottom line is, if I can do it, then so can you. Yeah, there will still be times when I'll wuss out, and let a pro with a better set of tools handle something that's over my head, but I'm going to try to get my hands as dirty as they let me. For instance, just last month, I even align-honed my own block.
As the Chevelle project enters the final stages and gets ready for the track, I'll be thinking about another car and another challenge. Maybe it will be something farther off the beaten path than the Chevelle. Maybe an Oldsmobile? A Mopar? A Mercury? Some magazines call this daring to be different.
That kind of sounds like cross-dressing at Halloween to me. We'll just call it daring to be confident.
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