A Dose of Reality

Note: At the time of this posting, Flickr’s website was down for maintenance. Maybe I’ll create a separate post at some point with some photos from WekFest Chicago- though I didn’t really take many and they are undoubtedly not very good. I think this post stands on its own OK without photos though.

I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t been feeling a little bummed out about my car since driving four hours East to attend WekFest Chicago this past weekend. Attending car events and hanging out with friends can be a great motivator to push you to strive for something better with your own projects- but it also has a way of sometimes making you feel that your creation is inadequate.

It’s been a while since I have attended a car show of any kind so I haven’t felt this way in a few years, but I was reminded of it on my drive home from the weekend’s festivities in Chicago. It’s no secret that the condition of my car’s paint is a major stress factor for me, but in recent years I have done a pretty good job of learning to live with it and be appreciative that I have a car like this at all given the current stage of life I find myself in.

As soon as I parked the car inside of the convention space at Navy Pier early Sunday morning and began to attempt to wipe the grime off of it from the rain I drove through in Indiana the day prior I knew that I was in trouble. I’ll be the first to tell you that my detailing knowledge is virtually nonexistent. It’s one of those things that I have always wanted to get better at, but never really spend the time or money to actually learn how to do it properly. I want the results without putting the work in. Aside from using a typical off-the-shelf clay bar kit and applying a quick coat of wax by hand, I really don’t know how to do it. Though I spent several hours on trying to detail the car’s paint the weekend prior to the event, it looked like I hadn’t even tried to get rid of the swirl marks and other blemishes.

The lights in the convention hall were incredibly unforgiving. While the car might look OK from a few feet away in my garage or while cruising down the road, a stage like this really drew attention to just how rough the finish really is. The hood, roof, doors, and rear quarter panels are still the factory paint applied by Nissan 26+ years ago- and it shows. The clear coat on the hood is gradually beginning to excuse itself from the hood. Rust on the bottom of the A pillars and along the windshield is slowly trying to claim the car as its own. Meanwhile, items that have been repainted hastily by less than enthusiastic body shop employees show runs and other blemishes. They’ve never been color sanded or cut and buffed properly.

As a whole the details just aren’t quite there yet. As a person that is often praised for his attention to detail online, this doesn’t sit well with me. My car just doesn’t feel like a representation of what I am capable of right now- and that’s something that often eats away at me if I am honest. I don’t like the thought of someone being disappointed when they see my car in person when compared to the photos they saw on the internet. I think that is why I strive to be so modest and honest about the car’s true condition. I don’t want to fake the funk or try to pass the car off as something it isn’t.

I was talking about this a bit at the WekFest pre meet the night before the event with my friend DPK David from California. I met David in 2011 at Import Alliance in Nashville. David built a beautiful example of an EG Civic coupe many years ago that has influenced a lot of people since it was first built, including the owner of the car that won Best of Show at WekFest this year. I’ve talked to David about my quest to source all of the moldings, weather stripping, and other items for the car for the day that I can finally paint it properly. David encouraged me to hold off on painting and refreshing the car for a few more years so that I can enjoy driving it without worrying about something happening to it. We discussed all of the stages of a car he has experienced and that it’s difficult to drive your car a few states away for an event when it’s completely refreshed and show-ready because you want to keep it nice. Things will inevitably happen to the car if its driven- no matter how careful you are. It’s just the way things work.

Attending an event like WekFest reminded me that there are different approaches to building and enjoying a car. While it certainly wasn’t true of every single car there, most of the builds that attend these events were made to do just that- attend car shows. So many of these vehicles with perfect engine bays and immaculate paint were brought there on a trailer and driven a few thousand feet inside the venue. And to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with building a show car- it’s just not what I have done and I need to remember that. It’s so easy to go to a car show or read about an event online and see photos of perfect shaved engine bays and want to do the same thing to your own car, but without building it to be a dedicated show car (or deciding to never drive it) this just isn’t really feasible. At least not without a massive time and financial investment that is.

At the same time, I don’t have the “this is a drift car” excuse to lean on either. One of the primary reasons I wanted to attend WekFest this year was because a bunch of my friends from Final Bout were attending with their drift cars. I only get to see these guys a couple of times per year, so it’s always a treat to be able to hang out with them. I drove to the show with my good friend Melvin and the guys from Team ProceeD- but even in this group I felt that my car didn’t really fit in. Their cars are loud both physically and visually, covered with complex vinyl graphic schemes and flashing lights. My car probably looked like that of a normal person driving down the street that got caught up in a group of wild drift cars when we were cruising to the show. It draws a fair bit of attention and seems loud when driving alone around my small town, but in this context it goes largely unnoticed.

But maybe flying under the radar is what I set out to achieve anyway. Simplicity is more or less my M.O. these days. A factory aero kit with a subtle paint color, appealing ride height, and a nice set of wheels is really all I want. It was difficult for me to find a lot of cars that I appreciated at WekFest- though some of this is just due to the fact that I am getting older. The old cars that I love and appreciate are not as plentiful as they used to be, nor are they as easy to build. It only makes sense that the younger generation has moved on to modifying newer and more accessible cars- I’m just not familiar with most of them. I saw a lot of cars with strange things done to them like rainbow colored lights, flashy vinyl wraps, large over fenders, and interesting slogans plastered all over them. It felt pretty gaudy to me, but I guess in a way a lot of that is just how the car show scene works sometimes. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing these things on drift cars, but that feels different to me.

I guess when it comes right down to it it feels like my car is essentially a master of none. It’s not clean enough to fit in at a car show, but it isn’t wild enough to fit in at a drift event either. It’s too low to be a road race car. It’s just kind of… a car, I guess.

My S13 is currently filthy from wet roads and is covered in fur from a dead deer I couldn’t avoid and ran over on the way home from the show, but I decided to drive it back to the office today after my lunch break. As I was getting in the car to leave, Alicia walked over and showed me a scuff on the side mirror and asked me if it had been there. She explained that she accidentally bumped into the car with the kids’ bike trailer yesterday and scratched it. Though I never like to see the car get banged up, I smiled a bit and laughed. Like it or not, this is reality. This is the stage of life I find myself in right now and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It might be difficult when attending an event where it feels like everyone else’s cars are perfect and mine is far from it, but I’ve got to keep perspective- as difficult as that might be.

As I cruised back to the office from the house, I was reminded once again of how much I enjoy driving and owning this car. There’s certainly tons of anxiety and frustration that comes along with it, but actually getting to drive it around and enjoy it always makes me feel better about its condition and what may be in store for the future. I’ve definitely considered parting ways with my S13 coupe chassis and the items I have collected for it in order to repaint my hatch, but I think it probably makes sense to hold off on that and try to be patient. With any luck I’ll have the opportunity to get both of these cars in a place where I will be proud of them one day. Holding onto that goal might not be the wisest thing, but for the time being I think that’s what I will try to do.

I’m not sure where I am trying to go with all of this rambling, but thanks for reading this far. I had a great time in Chicago this weekend with some really great people. Thank you to Melvin and Jen for letting me crash at their place and to Nick from TF Works for inviting me to park in the Mackin Industries Rays/Advan booth at the show! Also thank you to David, Joey, and Yasu as well as the rest of the WekFest crew for making a stop in Chicago and traveling to the midwest. I think any time respected figures in our community make an effort to travel out here to visit or hold an event it is worthy of appreciation.

By the time you read this post, Alicia and I will be on our way to Final Bout Gallery in Shawano, Wisconsin! We are looking forward to seeing everyone. Please be sure to stop me and say hello if you see me around. Safe travels to everyone as they travel to and from the event! Thanks as always for stopping by.

Damon

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3 Responses to A Dose of Reality

  1. rm6330 says:

    Don’t sell the coupe, be patient!

  2. BelfastBuilt says:

    I struggle with this a lot too. Part of it comes from being impatient and a little but of anxiety. However, I like to drive and be out with my cars which eases my anxiety about “things being perfect”. I’m not a track guy, drifter or a car show enthusiast. I just like to drive. Things will fall in to place !

  3. Tuzzio says:

    One of the best things I ever did was hit the r/autodetailing subreddit, and do a lot of reading. Friend of mine really pushed me to grab a griots garage DA and some foam pads, and my 240 was the second vehicle I ever touched with one. You’d be amazed how even going over the whole car with a polishing compound and a finishing pad or a light cut orange pad will make a night and day difference. Nothing to be afraid of man. I polish my coupe the beginning of every year.

    Cheers D,
    -wild steve

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