Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Modifying

Look, Doris, someday you're going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work. And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover those are the only things worthwhile.

- Payne, John, perf. Miracle on 34th Street. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1947. Film.


Christmas is, by far, my favorite time of the year. Nothing can compare to the food, the decorations, the music, the movies, the smells, the close-knit camaraderie of family and friends, and the general mood of the season. I look forward to Christmas all year and I find myself disappointed when it has passed. The stereotypical postcard images of Christmas in a warm home with stockings hung by a fire and a brightly lit Christmas tree, candles, and Poinsettia plants do much to evoke that cheerful holiday spirit in me. In light of these cliché images of the holiday season and the compassionate and sentimental personal reflection that this time of year elicits in many, I would like to share my ruminations about modifying. And life...

To many people modifying the car they own and love is not simply a hobby. It is an addiction, or even an obsession. I can relate well to this truth. I have owned a Mazda RX-7, a Nissan 350Z, and currently the Infiniti G37S on which I have spent countless hours and dollars. Constantly researching, planning, and discussing, I can say that I may suffer from a mild addiction. On more than one occasion I have had to use my love and passion for modifying my cars to put life into perspective. My experiences are, in many ways, cliché, but they have helped to define me as a person.

I do not have access to any car I want and I do not have the rarest parts at my immediate disposal. The efforts that go into the vehicles that I have been lucky enough to own come with a lot of genuine thought, consideration, and planning. Not to mention patience and a skill for counting my pennies. I do not skimp on the parts because I know I will not be happy with the end result. Early on in my “modding” career I learned to do things the right way after I was ripped off via eBay trying to purchase “authentic” parts. I have waited almost a year on separate occasions for three different body kits, I have endured close to nine months of waiting for a set of wheels, I have dealt with all the headaches and the anticipation of procuring those authentic JDM parts. Sometimes the process of modifying a vehicle can be trying and frustrating, but it is all worth it when you see that box delivered by UPS or FedEx waiting by your door.

I spent a considerable amount of time researching RX-7’s before I made a purchase. The first week I had it, I had already spent a few thousand dollars of savings on aftermarket parts. I had a vision for this car and I was brimming with excitement. Before I hit the two-week anniversary of owning it, parts still in transit and temporary plates still on, I let a friend drive it. In the early hours of the next morning, I woke up in a hospital bed, looking at the blood all over my clothes, wincing in pain, wondering what had happened. Broken ribs, internal bleeding, a concussion and some other minor injuries, at that point, were nothing to me compared to the pain of seeing the damage done to that car. The Jaws of Life had ripped the passenger side door off extracting me, and a telephone pole managed to crinkle all else that remained of the car. It was totaled. That was the closest I have ever come to death. 

When I learned of the accident as I awoke in the hospital bed, my first inquiry was to the wellbeing of my best friend. I wanted to make sure he was okay. What I didn’t realize at the time, having suffered from a serious concussion, was that my best friend had not even been in the car with me. The experience was eye-opening for me, to say the least. I thought about that accident for months afterwards. The mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from which I suffered did much to provide some perspective. It managed to open my eyes to my life.

Weeks later, still reeling and recovering from the accident, I considered my family and loved ones. I realized that, as much excitement and love I had for that car, it was far from the most important thing in my life. The insurance check I received from the RX-7 being totaled did not go towards a replacement. It went towards Christmas gifts for my family that year – the best Christmas gifts I will likely ever give. Recently I found myself looking at pictures of modified RX-7’s on the internet and it really made me miss mine. I never got to see the end result of my vision.

But, I suppose, if I hadn’t been in that accident, I probably never would have owned my Nissan 350Z. It was a leftover 2003 that I purchased in June of 2005. For almost three years I put the majority of every paycheck I received into that car. I practically devoted myself to it. Three sets of wheels, four body kits, four spoilers, four full exhaust systems, two big brake kits, two suspension overhauls, custom interior from stereo system to seats, and much more… The endless possibilities for aftermarket parts for the 350Z make it a modifier’s dream. However, after going through a tough spot personally in 2007, I decided to part it out and sell it. My passion for that car was not a secret to anyone. Everyone knew how much it meant to me and how I enjoyed it. But I thought it was time for me to be “responsible” and get my life in order. I thought selling my car was a good start, not only financially, but symbolically.

I sold my Z and all the aftermarket parts I had for it (including new, never installed parts – a Project Mu big brake kit, 19” Volk CE’s in Magnesium Blue in, then, aggressive offsets, a Vertex spoiler, and a set of Cusco coilovers). I sold my Z to buy an engagement ring for my girlfriend.

I was ready to devote myself to something other than my car. I was ready to make a lifelong commitment to someone I loved. When things did not work out with that person, I was left with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and in my heart, for months afterwards. Years afterwards. I had lost the person I loved most in the world on top of the object I loved most. In a matter of weeks.

I look back now and consider all the clichés I have heard over the years and realize that, just as well as they apply to one’s personal life, they can also apply to modifying a vehicle. I have heard them all. Ad nauseum… “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” “Everything happens for a reason,” “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” “If you love something, set it free…” I have digested all of them.

All the pain one can endure, whether it be physical pain from a concussion or broken ribs, the pain of a totaled car, the pain of a broken heart, or the pain of years of passion, hard work, and devotion into a vehicle lost before really being able to process the reality and finality of losing it… It all contributes to one’s character. The pain I have experienced has made me who I am. It is another cliché to suggest that what does not kill you makes you stronger, but I think I may be one person who can vouch for the validity of this particular cliché.

With some perspective, speculation, and some difficult ordeals and life experiences under my belt, I can say, at this point, that I am lucky. I am lucky to be able to reflect upon it all and realize that life is too short (yes, another cliché). Enjoy it. Appreciate it - even the small things. Hug your loved ones. Let them know how much they mean to you. Especially around the holidays. Have fun with your hobbies and passions - that is what I am doing now with the G. 

I can also say that the woman for whom I do end up purchasing an engagement ring better be keen on the idea of registering with a JDM parts retailer.

1 comment:

  1. wow bill, i didn't even know about the rx7. happy new year! keep posting, they are great to read.