Last year around this time, I wrote about the rebuild and return of my beloved Honda Civic to the Western States Championships at historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Yet, here we are again and I am baffled at how it could be possible that I am writing about the same thing — because my car is still not done! As a regular guy who works a full-time job in addition to running a NASA region and tries to be a good husband and loving father of two growing girls, I like to think I have some great excuses. But the reality is I simply did a poor job with time management and I underestimated the amount of time the project would take. Sound familiar to any of you?
For example, I decided to add a transmission fluid cooler to my car. It didn’t have one previously and I have always suspected high transmission fluid temperatures were the source of shifting problems at about the halfway point in most sprint races. My initial estimate to add this was a few hours, but when you add up the time to research which pump and cooler to get, analyzing where and how things will mount, welding of the bungs to the transmission, the plumbing, wiring, etc., it can quickly double, triple, quadruple or more your original estimate.
Also, let’s not forget those heart-sinking mistakes you make along the way where you have the perfect idea in your mind of how something will work, only to find out that custom part you spent all weekend making interferes with your intermediate shaft and has to be totally redesigned! Going into this rebuild project, I even estimated what I thought was a high approximation, knowing things always seem to take longer than expected. Upon reflection, I could have doubled all my estimates and only then would I have been close.
There is good news at the end of the day, though. I am confident this car could have been done long ago if I simply prioritized speed. However, I made a commitment that I would prioritize quality, engineering sexiness and not taking shortcuts over simply getting it done quickly. Not only that, but I also decided to improve every aspect of the car from the ground up, starting with a bare chassis that was acid dipped. Each part has been upgraded in some way: either stronger or lighter or better looking, or a combination of those attributes. I am excited for the final product, but I’m also getting anxious as the big event draws closer and closer, and the temptation to cut corners increases.
We have a local event next month where I will have an opportunity to shake the car down if I can get everything done in time. It will certainly be a race to make that happen and it will take some pretty precise task lists and scheduling between my other responsibilities. However, if I resist the urge to install Pokémon Go — just to see what all the fuss is about — and I am careful to limit my time spent browsing Facebook, then I think it is an attainable goal. Any free time I have I need to spend in the garage because it all adds up.
Good time management, proper prioritization, motivation and another 100 hours or so and I’ll hopefully be seeing you — while driving my racecar — at the track soon.