By Chris Bright
The idea of the words “meditation” and “blast” being used together is a bit of a mindbender, but last week they converged for me. My good friendEd Godshalkasked if I could lend him a hand because he’s crashing to get a car ready on a tight deadline. I had been pestering him for some time about coming over to have him mentor me on automotive mechanics.
First, a bit about Ed. He is a car guy’s car guy. Ed doesn’t do things in half measures: he has taken cars to the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, driven in the Mille Miglia, raced, climbed mountains, and you get the idea. He embraces cars that are interesting and eclectic regardless of status or value. He is a foremost expert on Lancias and the influential Cisitalia marque. He is not in it for awards or attention, but just because they bring him joy. I want to be Ed.
The project he called me about is a Belly Tank Racer. These are the ultimate in “upcyclcing.” Take leftover WWII materiel, slam a powerful engine into and add some wheels, trailer it to a dry lakebed, and see who goes the fastest. Pretty primitive but the pure essence of auto racing when you think about it. Ed is restoring one and expects to do test speed runs in the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon in mid-September.
With only two weeks until “go” time, there’s a lot to do so he finally took me up on my offer. (A true act of desperation, methinks.) He had asked me if I would tackle the glamorous job of media blasting a batch of parts. I was excited to do it and have a hand in bringing this piece of history back to life. I pulled up to his shop midday on Friday dressed in grubby work clothes and a stupid grin.
He got me set up on the media blaster right away. Ed graciously got all new media (glass beads, fyi) because the old stuff looked more like what you’d put on a baby’s bottom. He showed me how it works and left me to it. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it but I realized this was going to take some time. Luckily, I am ambidextrous which ended up being a big plus so I could switch back and forth as grip exhaustion set in.
After a while, I found myself in a bit of a trance. I was completely absorbed by the process watching cruddy parts go in the box and new-looking ones come out. It was unbelievably satisfying and, after a hectic week, was unexpectedly calming.
Not to get all "woo woo" on you, but I was reminded of a passage I had read by a famous monk who wrote about the joy of a menial task. (He was referring to washing dishes.) Don’t approach these simple acts like they are a nuisance or keeping you from something else, appreciate them for what they are. A time to rest your mind and make something better by applying your manual labor. Heck, don’t take it from me or the monk, take it from science.
It’s what makes working on cars a joy and recharges us. It may be detailing a car, doing routine maintenance, or a repetitive task required during restoration. (Wet sanding, I’m looking at you.) It’s great to be out driving on the roads or gathering with car friends, but some of the best moments are those spent alone on a weekend afternoon or an evening after work doing something to make your car a little better. It is a great way to unwind.
So, now that I have a sum total of 3 hours of experience in media blasting, I’m available for hire. I can get you a good recommendation -- with the emphasis on the word “a.”
A huge thanks to Ed for being generous with his time and allowing me to be his padawan.