If you have been watching anything on the news, you know that Chrysler and GM are still in deep trouble. Ford has been buoyed by the fact that they didn’t take any government money and they picked a great CEO. A comment that I didn’t think made sense during the congressional hearings came from a GM exec that is no longer at GM because President Obama had him removed. He said something to the effect of “Our problem isn’t that we don’t build good cars, it is that we build cars to good.”
I have only had five different GM cars in my personal fleet over the last 26 years. The first was a 1966 Corvette that I let a buddy drive and he burned the car to the ground. I had the air filter off to work on the car and he drove it that way. This one wasn’t GM’s fault, it was mine. The second was a Chevy Nova, the worst car I have ever owned. I bought it used, and used hard at that, not GM’s fault. The third was a Chevy Fleetside pickup truck I bought new. It had electrical troubles the day I bought it. Fourth was a Saturn sedan that had so many issues, engineers flew out from Detroit to fix it. After that car I swore off all GM products.
This year my partner and I created the Rust Bucket Racers. The Rust Bucket Racers is a charity racing team to raise money for kids with cancer. The deal is simple, all the drivers have to fund the racing and all the sponsor money goes directly to the kids. We are shooting for 95% or more of the money going directly to research or kids in financial need. We added my Dentist, Jack Stephens and another former board member from the local chamber of commerce, David Brewer.
We signed up for the 24 Hours of LeMons racing events. The idea is to buy a car for $500 and make it safe enough to race. The only car we could find at that price last year was a 1993 Chevy Cavalier. The car was originally delivered to Canada so it had seen a lot of road salt in its time. You could see the road through most of the floor boards and the doors. When we tried to weld the roll cage in the car the floor would fall out as we were welding. I was sweating that the car would even make the race.
Saturday morning of the race, the inspectors gave it the “OK, good enough” sticker so we could race. They also started placing side bets on how many laps it would go before blowing up. There were 140 cars that started that day. The head of the race was the most positive of the group when he bet 20 laps.
I have to tell you that I was stunned and amazed when we were in the final laps Sunday afternoon. I was driving the last hour when I got flagged for a violation. The judge said “Dude you gotta get this piece of junk back on the track” so we worked our penalty and were on the finishing lap.
I want to put into perspective what our team did with a 1993 Chevy Cavalier. We took out the interior, welded in a roll cage, put on new tires and brakes and finished out by running that car on a race track for nearly 20 hours. 10 hours on Saturday, and 10 hours on Sunday. The car was driven by six different drivers, only one had any previous racing experience (me) and one other had any track experience (my brother). The rest had never been on a race track. That engine didn’t have any coolant, only water is allowed for safety. I am 100% positive we took that engine several hundred RPM over the limit, downshifting into the tight back corners and we didn’t suck a valve, blow a ring or drop the transmission.
We placed fifth for our class which was a huge victory to me and a total redemption for GM even though I have been a Ford loyalist since my Saturn. On my way home, towing the car, I saw a Chevy dealer with a sign, “May the best car win.”. I couldn’t help but smile as I was leaving a trail of rust all the way home. As hard as the Canadian road salt tried to kill that car, it still had spirit and just finished a grueling race that over 25% of the participants couldn’t finish.
No matter what the economy brings, run your business like that Cavalier ran the race. Never give up, others will quit and you might not be in first but you can still have some fun in the fight while you survive in an economy when others don’t. We are going to run that same car again February 20 and 21st, You can follow us on Twitter and You Tube so you can keep up and see if the Cavalier can do it again.