Do you have an automotive side hustle? | Column

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Nov 21, 2021 | Column | Posted in Columns | From the Dec. 2021 issue | Never miss an article

What’s your side hustle? Have you been able to put a passion project into play?

Do you gig with a local band? Offer welding services to local racers? Trick out die-cast cars that you sell via Etsy?

I guess mine started with photography. Race car photography, of course. 

As a student at UGA, I had Road Atlanta about an hour away. Once I figured out how to request a media pass–hello, business center fax machine–I was set. I might have also made up my own official-sounding company name and printed some letterhead on one of the Mac Pluses in the computer lab. 

A photo pass meant a front-row seat with the possibility of selling some pics–or at least getting them published. And maybe that would, one day, lead to getting paid. (A boy can dream, right?)

I landed some early takers, too: the Atlanta Region SCCA newsletter plus Alfa Owner, SportsCar and a magazine out of Florida called Grassroots Motorsports. 

But I never launched my own venture. Instead, I started full-time at GRM about two years out of school. Closest to doing my own thing has been my BMX/punk rock/whatever zine that, sadly, has been on hiatus the past two years. Things got busy, you know. 

If you think about it, most large companies started as small ones–just an idea hatched by someone with some entrepreneurial spirit. Hop into your time machine and go back a few decades, and today’s cornerstone companies like Hagerty, FCP Euro and Tire Rack once operated as little mom-and-pop shops. (Check your old, old issues of GRM for those early Tire Rack ads: “OUR SALES PERSONNEL ARE CAR ENTHUSIASTS LIKE YOU.”

Over the last 30-plus years, one of our Central Florida locals grew a little BMX side hustle–stickers and T-shirts at first–into some of the biggest brands in the industry: Subrosa, Rant and Shadow Conspiracy. In addition to supplying all manner of bikes, parts and gear, his companies back some of the scene’s biggest riders and events. 

Ronnie Bonner is still at the helm of that BMX juggernaut and seems just as passionate as ever. During a recent podcast interview, he said something that rang loudly: “If you take, you must give.” 

He explained that a little further: “If you’re going to make something from this, you must also make sure you’re giving back into it.”

In this case, he was talking about supporting the scene–doesn’t necessarily have to be money or involve a lot of time, he stressed. His point was that those in the position to give back should do so. And over the years, we have personally enjoyed much of his hospitality.

Following Ronnie’s lead, here’s some giving back: four side hustles that add a little spice to our motorsports world. 

  • Maybe the best way to sum up the One Hell of a Town! online store: It offers an enamel grille badge featuring a pink flamingo pool float, with each one serial-numbered. You’ll also find keychains and air fresheners featuring the 1980s’ greatest hits plus stickers–lots of them. If you want to tell the world that you love terrible cars via some sticky vinyl, this store has it. 
  • Last time I checked, Porsche Punx’s lineup only featured five items–two of them sold out. And if that’s not punk rock, I’m not sure what is. Its famed Venice hat–among my most prized possessions–is NLA, but I might have to pony up for a Bad Brains-inspired T-shirt featuring one of the world’s most loved air-cooled machines. 
  • Everyone needs some flair for their jacket, backpack, camera strap or whatever. Enamel Garage makes these little enamel pins–they’re just like five bucks each–featuring caricatures of automotive legends like the Honda CRX, Datsun 240Z and Porsche 993. Designs come and go, meaning–that’s right–each one might well be a collector’s item.
  • When Nissyota’s store pops up, there’s cool stuff inside–like manga-influenced oil change reminder stickers. Some recent tweets have hinted that future offerings will include throw pillows that highlight some deep cuts from the SSR wheel catalog. 

Do you have an automotive side hustle? I’d love to hear about it.

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View comments on the GRM forums
parker Reader
11/18/21 2:54 p.m.

I wasn't smart enough to figure out how to make money with an automotive side hustle so I switched to photography.  In 2018 I left my "day job" and the side hustle is now my sole source of income.  It took 12 years.  I started with magazine articles in 2006.


calteg Dork
11/18/21 3:10 p.m.

Yup, been flipping 3-4 cars a year for the last 16 years.

RadBarchetta New Reader
11/18/21 3:15 p.m.

I think we may have killed Enamel Garage.

Also, I need one of those "I <3 Terrible Cars" stickers on my Triumph.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/18/21 4:02 p.m.
RadBarchetta said:

I think we may have killed Enamel Garage.

Also, I need one of those "I <3 Terrible Cars" stickers on my Triumph.

Well poop on Enamel Garage. Love their stuff.

You can check them out on Instagram, too. 

msterbeau New Reader
11/18/21 4:12 p.m.

I'm pretty sure every automotive designer/stylist I know has had a creative, money-making outlet during their career. I'm no different, though not doing anything currently. I have at times done automotive photography, car illustrations, motorsport graphic designs, body kits, magazine illustrations and a few other things.  

iansane HalfDork
11/18/21 4:12 p.m.

I'm trying to. I just do weird motor/transmission swaps for locals.

Olemiss540 HalfDork
11/18/21 4:22 p.m.

Sure do! I buy lusty cars at the bottom of their depreciation curve, spend 1000 hours fixing/upgrading until they are perfect, and then sell them for a loss. 

obsolete GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/18/21 4:26 p.m.

Sure, I buy parts for projects, stick them on a shelf or in a plastic tote somewhere, then a couple years later, I sell them for less than I paid for them!

Mr. Peabody
Mr. Peabody UltimaDork
11/18/21 5:58 p.m.

I've always had an entrepreneurial way, and always done something on the side. I think it runs in the family.

I've been interested in camshafts since I was a kid, and with what I'd learned over the years racing cars with no aftermarket, I recognized  a market in need, and started a side business doing custom camshaft grinding. That soon evolved into custom cams and cylinder head work, then sourcing and selling all the associated parts. At one point I had to decide whether to scale it back or quit my job and pursue it full time. I did neither and took on a partner, but a few years ago, as the market slowed, and I got old,  I decided I'd had enough, sold all my parts and now only grind every 3 months or so.  When I fully retire from my day job, I may decide to build a few engines a year, but I'll probably continue to flip bikes and the odd car.

octavious Dork
11/18/21 6:12 p.m.

My friends pay me in beer to have my help and use my garage and tools for brake pad/rotor or oil changes, and electrical issues. 

I also accept chocolate chip cookies as a form of payment. 

jmc14 HalfDork
11/18/21 6:13 p.m.

I have a passion for the 50's-60's sports racers.  I've been fortunate to be able to design and build several cars inspired by those shapes.  I've been building for almost 20 years now. 

Some  people that have seen my cars have wanted to build their own.  Since I had to create molds and jigs I've sold some kits. This is a hobby for me.  

Having Fun 

NOT A TA UltraDork
11/18/21 7:34 p.m.

I do a few different things. As far as automotive, I designed billet aluminum center caps for A.R.E. wheels so Torque Thrust and other model wheels can look unique or have a more factory appearance. Also fabricate chassis reinforcements and reproduce some parts for 2nd gen GM F body cars. Laboratory Fourteen is the name of the company.  is the online store.  Everybody likes pics so here's a couple of my products.







Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/18/21 7:40 p.m.

Actually, I'm considering taking on something that the business wouldn't. Won't be lucrative but it would be cool. But I guess that's why it's a side gig and not a main gig.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/18/21 8:26 p.m.

When I was in the Navy on shore duty I had multiple jobs and side gigs.  One of them was doing vinyl on cars and race cars.  I may start doing that again, as I want to do something pretty cool for the challenge MR2.  I'm struggling with how much to invest in a new cutter.  When I divorced my first wife I sold the cutters, large printers, heat presses, all of it.  I bought the stuff for my Subaru cut and put it on myself.   It got some wrinkles, but I had 3 kids under 10 that wanted to help, and since it's a rallycross car, sure why not.  When I go full rally replica later, I will take the time to do it perfectly.




Mr_Asa PowerDork
11/18/21 9:15 p.m.

For a year or two I worked on old Fords that people would bring into the shop that I was a service writer at, but both my manager and corporate didn't want to mess with them.  I'd write down my phone number and tell them to call me and I'd come poke at it and give them an estimate.

Broke even a couple times, beat the hourly rate a couple other times, then stopped being a service writer.  It was enjoyable for the most part.

Tom1200 UltraDork
11/18/21 9:23 p.m.

I used to wheel and deal on Datsun parts. It paid for my racing for several seasons. On occasion it brought extra money into the house, usually at a very handy time, so the wife liked it.

Don't know if the paid instructor gigs counts but I did several of those as well.

These days I'm blessed that my job pays me very well.

With that said I've been encouraged to start writing again. While I managed to sell some short stories many years ago it didn't exactly pay well.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/18/21 9:57 p.m.

Small update on my side hustle: I'm back making zinessmiley

I'm sighed up for Orlando Zine Fest December 18, so I need to have the next issue finished and printed by then. So I'm a working on it. 

CrustyRedXpress HalfDork
11/19/21 7:00 a.m.

Dig those enamel pins-they even got the Honda's Phoenix Yellow right. 

Good luck with the Zine!

Andy Neuman
Andy Neuman SuperDork
11/19/21 7:43 a.m.

This describes my automotive side hustle 

DjGreggieP HalfDork
11/19/21 8:43 a.m.

I do automotive video-graphy as a hobby. I wanted to become the 'next big thing' in the YouTube car world, but I own an Intrepid and then it became dormant for 3 years getting paint so I had nothing world posting (like track days) so now I mostly attend events and film as much as I can to put that footage to music, it really doesn't pay at all, but its fun! Hopefully I plan to attend more events this coming year depending on how busy my paying side gig (wedding DJ) keeps me. 

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/19/21 9:20 a.m.

Standalone installs, tuning and systems and now doing some other important hard parts (gears, engine parts) for specific platforms. Likely it's my retirement gig.

JStrobel80 New Reader
11/19/21 9:22 a.m.

I have been stuck at home with an injury, so I taught myself how to do illustrations and am creating posters like this now. Considering selling them if there is enough interest. (I was advised by another user to watermark my work in another post on the forum) Thank you! Farnsworth House and 356 NO.1

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/19/21 9:48 a.m.
CrustyRedXpress said:

Dig those enamel pins-they even got the Honda's Phoenix Yellow right. 

Good luck with the Zine!

Thanks. Got another piece written and pasted up last night. It's kinda like my real work but different. 

BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/19/21 12:01 p.m.

Never turn your hobby into your job.  

Then you've lost a hobby but you're still working.


I might be lucky that I have a career I really like, though.

parker Reader
11/19/21 1:02 p.m.

In reply to BA5 :

It depends.  I have so much freedom now and even when I'm working it's about a gazillion times better than working for someone else.

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/19/21 1:21 p.m.

I take many, many photos at events that I attend ( but have never charged for the pictures. To me, that adds more responsibility to cover all the cars, take great photos and upgrade gear. I just want a way to burn off nervous energy at events...when I feel like it. I suppose I could ask for donations or something, but its a hobby and sometimes turning a hobby into a business ruins it. (and sometimes it makes you rich LOL) 



therieldeal Reader
11/19/21 1:39 p.m.

I make and sell transaxle adapter plates on the side (Mazda BP engine to Toyota E15x transmission).  They aren't a fast moving item at all (well, at least not until my customers get them installed wink), but the sales do help supplement the budget for my other automotive hobbies.  I've finally started amassing my own collection of metal fabrication tools, hoping to start selling engine/transmission mount sets along with the adapter plates at some point.

A friend/customer of mine just broke into the 10's this week!

SupraFiend New Reader
11/19/21 3:34 p.m.

In reply to BA5 :

Let me revise that. Only turn your hobby into your job if you understand that you're also going to have to get a new hobby.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/19/21 4:07 p.m.

One Hell of a Town just shared this–coming soon.

Billy_Bottle_Caps GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/19/21 4:10 p.m.

I use to part out Porsche 924/944 for awhile on eBay. Not a big fan of the platform lately, so I just flip an odd car every now and then now.

grapeape New Reader
11/19/21 5:33 p.m.

When I have time, I enjoy automotive art as well. I try to do slightly cartoonish versions and also do custom designs of people's rides. I've done hundreds of designs, and try to sell them on some different websites like Etsy, Zazzle and Cafepress.  It used to be a nice little extra $$, but the sales haven't been as good as they once were. Here are a few that might interest this group.


AClockworkGarage Dork
11/20/21 5:18 a.m.

In reply to grapeape :

You re exactly who I've been looking for. Let me know when you have time to do a couple of pieces.


That said I, in the past, had a small shop selling crap made from car parts and wahtnot. The business closed when I moved cross country but I still have some stock if anyone is interested.

slowbird UltraDork
11/20/21 6:27 p.m.

In reply to therieldeal :

Oh, it's that car! I've seen videos of it before. He's pushing a lot of power so it makes sense he needed a better transmission. The stock ones don't hold up under boost, it's a known problem in the BP/Escort GT tuning world.

Who knows, maybe I'll need one of those adapter plates someday devil

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham UberDork
11/20/21 6:32 p.m.

I moonlight as a chauffeur. Mostly weddings. Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II. 

jh36 Dork
11/20/21 6:35 p.m.

I bought a Rolls Royce SC II and started a vintage wedding car business with my son. It was a ton of fun for several run and operated by EdHigginbotham. It paid for a cool car in pretty short order, and now is dropping money to the bottom line. I imagine it will be a way to stay busy in retirement. Edit...see above post!  Hahaha!

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham UberDork
11/20/21 6:40 p.m.


Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham UberDork
11/20/21 6:41 p.m.

I also sell Mocal oil cooling products. If you need anything to make the slippery stuff less hot, let me know. 

jh36 Dork
11/20/21 6:43 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

And...they are cool. I have laid my hands on a few of these stuff.  They are passed around my shop and thoroughly enjoyed. 

jh36 Dork
11/20/21 7:25 p.m.

In reply to Ed Higginbotham :

Owe you a beverage. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/20/21 7:26 p.m.
grapeape said:

When I have time, I enjoy automotive art as well. I try to do slightly cartoonish versions and also do custom designs of people's rides. I've done hundreds of designs, and try to sell them on some different websites like Etsy, Zazzle and Cafepress.  It used to be a nice little extra $$, but the sales haven't been as good as they once were. Here are a few that might interest this group.


Grapeape, let us know when you're looking to take commissions. 

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/20/21 7:37 p.m.

In reply to Ed Higginbotham :

I paid my way through college as a chauffer. In some ways it was the ultimate college job - most of the time you're waiting for the client, so you get a lot of homework done, and it keeps you busy on weekend nights so you blow less money on booze and women. 

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
11/21/21 2:45 p.m.

I am lucky enough that the only "hustle" I like is my job.

I do professional exhaust, header, turbo and IC fab (and really anything relation).  I worked at another shop for years (that was like 95% strictly exhaust) while I did turbo fab stuff on my time.  Now that I have my own business I get to do it anytime.

I have been working on special chassis parts for Terseos (Tercel-Paseo), and I currently make the only 3-point strut brace for these cars

However I have been itching to get into composites, primarily for self use.  But I can definitely see it becoming a side hustle once I have things down and sorted to perhaps do small runs of stuff for odd cars.  The first thing I want to create is carbon fiber hoods for 95-99 Tercels.  I have 3...and they all have either rust and or dents from negligent previous owners.  I got a nearly perfect hood from the JY to make a mold from.  Just have to find time and get materials.

Toot New Reader
11/21/21 6:14 p.m.

In reply to Olemiss540 :

At least you sell them

gumby GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/21/21 7:37 p.m.

I help my dumb racecar friends do dumb racecar things. Sometimes it pays, other times not. *shrug*

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/21/21 8:58 p.m.

A couple of times, but not in a number of years.

My ex- ran a reasonably successful side-hustle making custom tire bags for new MINIs and later Smart cars.  She would make them in custom colors to match an owner's cars (within the available colors of duck cloth from JoAnn Fabric). Then she bought a computerized embroidery machine and added additional options. She also made cargo liners for R50-56 MINIs. For awhile she was selling some in bulk at a discount to a local MINI vendor.  For awhile we had a good system going where she would get an order in, I'd help by cutting out the fabric and then she would sew them pieces together.  Then I think it started to wear on her as her real job responsibilities increased (along with her pay scale) and it got to the point where the few extra $ wasn't worth the loss of free time.  When we tore most of her house apart for a major renovation, it gave her the excuse to shut down the hustle and never restarted it.

My own side hustle was limited to making MFE "service position" tools for the R50/52/53.  This was back when Moss MINI was selling the tool for $100 and I would sell them for $50 with about $10 or so of materials and a few hours of cutting, drilling and threading a bunch at a time.  I sold 7 sets (including the set I made for myself) before Moss eventually dropped their price to $50 as well.  I have the parts to make more, but probably won't get around to it until I need a set to work on my own car.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/21/21 10:16 p.m.
jh36 said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

And...they are cool. I have laid my hands on a few of these stuff.  They are passed around my shop and thoroughly enjoyed. 

Thank you for the kind words, and the next issue's quickly coming together.

Instead of writing tonight, though, I made a mix tape for the zine.

Sarah Young
Sarah Young Editorial/Art Assistant
11/23/21 9:53 a.m.

In reply to RadBarchetta :


David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/23/21 10:38 a.m.

In reply to Sarah Young :

Thanks, Sarah, and we updated the piece with the link to Enamel Garage's Etsy store. Now go get your 37 pieces of flair. 

dculberson MegaDork
11/23/21 11:05 a.m.

My automotive side gig has been pretty well documented here:

I sell stuff, not always automotive related, but still lots of car stuff. It's built up into a nice nest egg I'm planning on using as my "racing fund" once I get back to racing! (Kids make it hard..)

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