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Working in the Automotive Industry

ChrisM

Mostly harmless.
929
990
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
SoCal
This is something that I've been really curious about. How do members wind up working in the automotive industry? Are you an engineer of some kind? A mechanic? Do you own a performance shop? Maybe you're a manager that oversees something tangentially related? Perhaps one of our sponsors can tell their stories? I'm really interested to hear how people can wind up working in any part of the industry, how much they've enjoyed it (or not), and things of that nature. I'm sure someone doesn't just wake up one day and say "I'm going to start the best Mustang shop around" with no experience. Or maybe they do? Did you start at an early age, or maybe it's something you discovered later? I know some of our members have extensive histories detailed in their various builds and profiles and those are really fascinating. I don't know what I don't know, and I'm really interested in learning about how things came to be if you professionally work on, in, or around cars. Not everyone is out there racing Formula 1 or crushing it with IMSA. What all is out there?
 
240
260
Exp. Type
Time Attack
Exp. Level
Under 3 Years
SoCal
I have a friend who worked for HAAS Formula 1 as an aerodynamicist. He didn't like living in South Carolina though so he moved back to Socal and now is an aerodynamicist for Honda Indy car. He has Bachelors and Masters in aerospace engineering.
I used to work at a small Toyota repair shop during college.
I'd love to go work for Ford as an engineer but I don't want to move to Michigan
 
I've been a technician for 30+ years. I grew up around cars. My dad had his own body shop where I spent most of my childhood. I only do repair work, I will not do performance work because that is what I like. If I started doing performance work for a living I'm afraid it would become just work. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, if I didn't I wouldn't have stuck with it for so long. I do not and will not own a shop, too many headaches. I like the challenges. No two days are alike in this field. It is also continuing education. Vehicles are everchanging and if I don't stay up on new developments I will be left behind.

I think that's it. If I think of anything else I'll chime in later.....
 
I also have just over 30+ years in the automotive industry. Early half I worked on the sales side for two different performance manufactures and then moved to the IT side of parts distribution.

If you are looking to work in the automotive aftermarket check out the SEMA job board:
 
457
418
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
10-20 Years
Kansas City, Missouri
I've been a car guy my whole life, it's been the only thing I cared about since I was like 10. When I was in 2nd grade we did a time capsule at school that we opened our senior year. In 2nd grade I wanted to be a car designer. After I got out of the AF I went to school at SAMTECH in Houston. While I was in school I started at Oreilly's then went to NTB as a tech and then started working at GAP Racing building protouring cars and restomods. We built some really cool stuff and sent to SEMA a few times, won some awards. I left and went to Vintage Fabrication closer to home in Missouri. I got out of the industry about 3 years ago and now I'm a CMM programmer. I do miss the job satisfaction of building cars. I'd love to get back in the automotive side of things in some capacity.
 

Ludachris

Chris
Staff member
Moderator
1,221
1,251
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
5-10 Years
Newcastle, CA
The closest I've been to working in the automotive industry is managing automotive forums and doing web/marketing consulting work with automotive businesses. Though it hasn't been as immersive as I had originally pictured it would, I've been lucky enough to meet a ton of people who own (or work at) shops, make/sell parts, build and modify cars, race cars, etc, and most of them are as passionate about cars as I am. There's nothing like working with car people and talking cars, but it can be a little tricky finding a career you actually enjoy doing in this industry - especially one that can also pay the bills.

I've been working on websites and web marketing for over 20 years now. It's allowed me to work directly with automotive business owners, helping them grow and expand in the online realm, but I've scaled back on the consulting side of the business to get back to focusing on automotive communities and media tied to the automotive culture in recent years - I love running forums like this. There was a time when I was self employed doing only this (doing consulting work and managing forums), and I loved it, even when I wasn't earning much from it.

But sometimes you need to make sacrifices. So I took a day job ~10 years ago doing web work in a non-car related industry in a move towards stability, and though it certainly has been stable, it's not been fulfilling in the slightest, and some days it's soul crushing. But it's something I've worked through to ensure our girls have what they need, and the medical benefits are good. My wife was able to stay home and be with the girls that whole time and only just recently started working again last year. I'm itching to get back into the automotive world again, full immersion.

I feel like the best impact I can make on car culture is to try and keep more people engaged with it, and work on keeping more technical information archived and accessible, especially at a time when so much of it is getting diverted to social network "chat rooms" where it gets buried and lost forever. That means focusing on forums like this, blogs, and other media formats. Part of what I do is bring people together to discuss things that they have in common, which I feel is important in a time when the the world needs more of that. But that's the beauty of car culture - we all have that one thing in common, which tends to override all the other things we don't. If you're a car guy/girl, we can be friends and chat about cars until we're blue in the face.

One of the things I plan to do going forward for my own self-growth is to tell more stories through editorial articles and maybe even videos - stories from shop owners, car builders, race teams, racers, enthusiasts, etc. I hope this will compliment the member discussions taking place in the forums here on TMO. I've always envisioned an ideal work day that involves me visiting shops and learning more about their passion and history - what drives them, what projects they're working on, and then sharing that story with others in a meaningful way. I've always admired story tellers and I would love to do that well. I see that as being my future in the automotive industry.

:thatrocks:
 

xr7

TMO Addict?
422
427
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
5-10 Years
Minnesota
I started wrenching when I was very young. Dad had the tools and my older brothers would advise but if you wanted it fixed you did the work. My first project was a used bike. First exposure to left hand thread. A bike was everything. Started working on a farm at 14, fixing farm equipment and cars. The owner was a T-Bird collector and we ended up with a T-Bird junkyard. First car at 16, 63 Ford 2dr sedan originally a 406 4 speed car. Had a HP 352 in it when I got it. Burned oil like no tomorrow. Bought a 390 from the junkyard and swapped it in. Went to trade school for diesel mechanics. I went the truck route. Worked as a mechanic from '74 until '97. Worked fleets and dealerships, 9 years with GMC Truck and Coach division, left when the heavy truck group was sold to Volvo. Became a fleet shop supervisor and eventually added fleet management in. Spent the last 19 years managing 450 vehicle fleet, building 60 some plow trucks a year, spec'ing replacement vehicles for the fleet etc.
I really enjoyed all my jobs over the years. Three different fleets and 4 different dealerships. Retired 5 years ago. Now its just my fleet of 3 cars, 2 trucks, 2 motorcycles and 1 travel trailer. I do my own work.
 
3,669
3,534
I grew up around racers, there were 2 of them in a 3 block radius, plus it was the middle of the muscle car years. bought my first car for $20, got it running drove it in high school then built up a 2 door 56 Chevy wagon. (ANY of those cars I wish I still had) Went to trade school while pumping gas at night, then went to work for Kelly Springfield (tires) as a tech. got fired from there (best thing ever) went to work at my neighbor's race shop, so I was working 8 to 3 at the repair shop, 4 to midnight at a venue for the city ( got to see all the cool bands of the late 70s and had tons of street cred for getting my buddies in). Then went to the fire academy in 1978, but back then firefighters only got paid about $8K per year at 56 hours a week, so I had to keep my day job. Did that for about 32 years, then went to see a friend of mine race at Daytona for Phoenix/Subi and the rest is history, for the past
11years.

If you want a ruthless, challenging job then working on a race team is it, I've seen guys last for less than 4 hours. You produce, or you're gone, that's not necessarily bad, I've always had a good work ethic so if anything I was always pushing boundaries, which, for the most part is rewarded on most race teams. The bad parts are budgets, last year we won the IMSA GS class, this year no sponsorship money so I went from the penthouse tot he outhouse overnight. That being said, I've been working and filling in for several other teams, the next 5 weeks, I will be home 8 days, and working for 3 race teams at 4 locations for 3 race organizations. One of the reasons I've been busy is that since I'm (supposedly) retired I can get on a plane in a moments notice. A few weeks ago I got home on an early Monday morning at 2 AM, got a call Monday at 2 PM to get back on a plane for another team who were in dire straights.
you gotta be flexible that way.
 
Last edited:
457
418
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
10-20 Years
Kansas City, Missouri
I feel like the best impact I can make on car culture is to try and keep more people engaged with it, and work on keeping more technical information archived and accessible, especially at a time when so much of it is getting diverted to social network "chat rooms" where it gets buried and lost forever.

One of the things I plan to do going forward for my own self-growth is to tell more stories through editorial articles and maybe even videos - stories from shop owners, car builders, race teams, racers, enthusiasts, etc. I hope this will compliment the member discussions taking place in the forums here on TMO. I've always envisioned an ideal work day that involves me visiting shops and learning more about their passion and history - what drives them, what projects they're working on, and then sharing that story with others in a meaningful way. I've always admired story tellers and I would love to do that well. I see that as being my future in the automotive industry.

:thatrocks:
@Ludachris an online magazine type section to the website would be dope! Tech articles, interviews, etc.
 

yotah1

Ford Employee
334
442
Detroit
I've grown up with a dad who was working as a race engineer for Kawasaki Racing and World Endurance, then went on to work at car dealerships so he wouldn't travel so much and be with us more. My parents met racing enduro motorcycles, and my grandfather was an airplane that flew a whole lot of different planes in some really remote locations at a time when flying was still synonymous with pioneering, he then retired and rebuilt motorcycles, race bikes and race cars for fun.

SO you can say I was born in a family of petrolheads I guess :)

I became good at drawing stuff when i was 4-5 years old, so I kept doing that as I loved it. Turned it into my job today, after a masters degree in automotive design in France. I've worked for Ducati on the Panigale, Toyota on various minivan and SUV projects in Japan, Land Rover on the Defender concept car in 2010, GM Europe with the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal and the Astra GTC racecar program, then PSA Citroen on several production interiors and 2 concept cars, and moved to Detroit in 2015 to join Ford as an exterior designer. In the past 6 years almost, I've helped design the Lincoln Corsair, designed the Mustang Mach 1, did the CobraJet and Mach E 1400, and plenty of other cool stuff I can't talk about yet...
Meanwhile, I started doing trackdays in 2011 in Germany, going to the Nurburgring on a regular basis, modifying my car to get faster and faster. That got me into wrenching even more when I moved to the US, buying a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda fastback that I've been building for 5 years into a vintage Trans Am inspired track car, adding my own design touches to it as I go to make it truly unique.

There it is, in a nutshell.
 
I don’t currently work in the automotive industry but have in the past. Nothing that serious though. Changing tires in high school and college and working at aftermarket parts stores. I was into drifting a bunch when it was getting popular in the states and have a bunch of friends who have made it a career in varying capacities. From people like Vaughn Gittin who obviously has OEM support to other friends who have parts companies and shops or work on teams. Like most industries I think your experience depends mostly on the company and role. OEM’s have big money and big politics, but many aftermarket parts companies are run in a kind of amateur fashion. Not all, but many. And like most other jobs and industries, some love it and for some it’s a slog. I feel like there’s two types of hobbyists who take up work in the industry: those who it feeds their passion and keeps it going and those who it ruins. So if you’re considering work in the industry really try and see which camp you could fall into.
 
457
418
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
10-20 Years
Kansas City, Missouri
I've grown up with a dad who was working as a race engineer for Kawasaki Racing and World Endurance, then went on to work at car dealerships so he wouldn't travel so much and be with us more. My parents met racing enduro motorcycles, and my grandfather was an airplane that flew a whole lot of different planes in some really remote locations at a time when flying was still synonymous with pioneering, he then retired and rebuilt motorcycles, race bikes and race cars for fun.

SO you can say I was born in a family of petrolheads I guess :)

I became good at drawing stuff when i was 4-5 years old, so I kept doing that as I loved it. Turned it into my job today, after a masters degree in automotive design in France. I've worked for Ducati on the Panigale, Toyota on various minivan and SUV projects in Japan, Land Rover on the Defender concept car in 2010, GM Europe with the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal and the Astra GTC racecar program, then PSA Citroen on several production interiors and 2 concept cars, and moved to Detroit in 2015 to join Ford as an exterior designer. In the past 6 years almost, I've helped design the Lincoln Corsair, designed the Mustang Mach 1, did the CobraJet and Mach E 1400, and plenty of other cool stuff I can't talk about yet...
Meanwhile, I started doing trackdays in 2011 in Germany, going to the Nurburgring on a regular basis, modifying my car to get faster and faster. That got me into wrenching even more when I moved to the US, buying a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda fastback that I've been building for 5 years into a vintage Trans Am inspired track car, adding my own design touches to it as I go to make it truly unique.

There it is, in a nutshell.
Damn, you're living my dream.o_O
 
3,669
3,534
I've grown up with a dad who was working as a race engineer for Kawasaki Racing and World Endurance, then went on to work at car dealerships so he wouldn't travel so much and be with us more. My parents met racing enduro motorcycles, and my grandfather was an airplane that flew a whole lot of different planes in some really remote locations at a time when flying was still synonymous with pioneering, he then retired and rebuilt motorcycles, race bikes and race cars for fun.

SO you can say I was born in a family of petrolheads I guess :)

I became good at drawing stuff when i was 4-5 years old, so I kept doing that as I loved it. Turned it into my job today, after a masters degree in automotive design in France. I've worked for Ducati on the Panigale, Toyota on various minivan and SUV projects in Japan, Land Rover on the Defender concept car in 2010, GM Europe with the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal and the Astra GTC racecar program, then PSA Citroen on several production interiors and 2 concept cars, and moved to Detroit in 2015 to join Ford as an exterior designer. In the past 6 years almost, I've helped design the Lincoln Corsair, designed the Mustang Mach 1, did the CobraJet and Mach E 1400, and plenty of other cool stuff I can't talk about yet...
Meanwhile, I started doing trackdays in 2011 in Germany, going to the Nurburgring on a regular basis, modifying my car to get faster and faster. That got me into wrenching even more when I moved to the US, buying a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda fastback that I've been building for 5 years into a vintage Trans Am inspired track car, adding my own design touches to it as I go to make it truly unique.

There it is, in a nutshell.
I took drafting in high school, back before all the cad cam stuff (way before that) I've always been real good at drawing, and it is still my hobby. We were very fortunate to go through at a time where work was done on a drafting table and not some computer. I am still particular about what time of pen I use (Pilot G2 medium) and how I print information (like marking the sides of tires). I blame the current crop of fugly LMP cars on cad cam and engineering design, compare a new prototype to a Ford GT MkIV or a Porsche 917 or Ferrari of the same period, absolutely beautiful cars. I personally feel that there should be a BoP requirement for ugliness in LMP.
and while we're at it, take the chicanes out of the Mulsanne straight

BoP this thing for a .250 restrictor
1631108230485.png

srsly, no comparison
1631108428431.png
 
I grew up with an interest in cars. I had nitro R/C cars as a kid and was always playing with small engines. When I was old enough, I started working on the family cars, just doing simple things like brake jobs, and oil changes. Then after I graduated high school, I got my first Mustang and started doing some modifications to it. At that point I needed to choose a college major. I knew I liked turning wrenches and being around cars, but I didn't want to be busting my knuckles and destroying my body with such a physically demanding job. I also didn't want to end up hating my hobby because I turned wrenches every day for work.

In my first year of college, I decided I wanted to go in a direction that would allow me to work in the auto industry with a mix of hands on work as well as some time at a desk doing the analytical and calculation type of work. I ended up deciding on a degree in mechanical engineering. Between my junior and senior year, I got a paid internship working for a vehicle manufacturer. At that point I was hooked and knew that's what I wanted to do. After I graduated, I ended up finding a job as a field engineer. I travelled all over North America to dealerships and plants to help resolve difficult issues or collect evidence of potential engineering or manufacturing defects. It was a really fun job that really taught me to think on my toes and be self sufficient.

After 2 years of field engineering work, I ended up going back to school to get my master's degree in mechanical engineering. Now I'm working for another manufacturer as a reliability engineer. I help come up with sample sizes for testing and often work alongside the design engineers to help them catch any potential issues before a design goes to production. It's an interesting job. Some days it can be a lot of monotonous data crunching, and other days I get to be involved in some pretty cool projects.

I've been in the automotive engineering field for 9 years now and I'm happy with the path I've chosen.
 

TymeSlayer

Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...
3,711
2,527
Exp. Type
HPDE
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
Brighton, Colorado
I took drafting in high school, back before all the cad cam stuff (way before that) I've always been real good at drawing, and it is still my hobby. We were very fortunate to go through at a time where work was done on a drafting table and not some computer. I am still particular about what time of pen I use (Pilot G2 medium) and how I print information (like marking the sides of tires).


I took three years of drafting in high school and still am involved with "Blue" prints but like Blacksheep says, things are certainly different now. Most folks will tell you my handwriting is so legible and neat the often ask me to write on boards and signs for them. Cursive? What the hell is that?
 
I,too, took drafting in high school. I had printing down to perfection.In fact it took over my method of wring to this day.I have completely forgotten how to write cursive over the years, except to sign my name on something. Drafting and mechanical drawing by hand are becoming (if not already) a lost art. My favorite pen to use is the sarasa 0.7
 

xr7

TMO Addict?
422
427
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
5-10 Years
Minnesota
I remember my second grade teacher telling my mom that my printing was so bad that I should be a natural for cursive, yea, turns out my cursive wasn't very good either.
I did enjoy mechanical drafting, pencil, T-Square, ruler, compass, triangles, templates for circles and ovals and french curves for the rest. Masking tape for securing the paper to the drafting board.
Still have it all except for the T-Square.
 

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