What’s your favorite memory of working on someone else’s car?

By Colin Wood
Mar 8, 2023 | project, Shop Work, Project car, Discussion

Working on your own car can be equal parts fulfilling and frustrating, but what about working on a car that’s not yours?

Whether it was helping a friend work on their project over a weekend or fixing up a car for a less-than-knowledgeable family member, what is your favorite memory of working on someone else’s car?

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preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/7/23 4:55 p.m.

Quite a few years ago now I had a friend that was a major player in the 4x4/Jeep world here in New England. Well at 36yo he ended up getting diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His young family lived in NH in a converted 3 season camp and the pipes froze every winter etc. He was walking dead.

Well, the community and I flipped out. He had a ragged '97 TJ and a couple of us decided we'd take it, restore it, and raffle it for the family and Shane. I told him I was going to steal his Jeep and he said (a catch phrase of his) "The keys are in it."

A repair business close by was in so me and Dominic went and took the Jeep. Dom owned a very reputable Jeep place about an hour from me and a couple from Shane. I went to Dom's every day after work and we started the build of Shane's Jeep. The 4x4 community came out in droves to help whether it was to BBQ a bunch of food, pass tools, whatever.

We hit up all kinds of vendors with the story and many, many of them offered what they could for the cause. It was berkeleying sweet when we were done and we were finally able to show Shane his Jeep.

It ended up being raffled to the tune of $80k. It was enough to get the 3 season camp pulled down and Shane got to see his family move into a brand new modular home. He passed shortly after.

The funeral was amazing, they had to set up a PA system outside the church so we all could hear the eulogy etc. A conservative estimate was 150 off road vehicles there. "Shane ate bugs" was the start of his eulogy by his cousin. It fit Shane to a T.

A guy in UT won the Jeep but he did not want it, he just bought a few tickets to help us out. Dom's 70yo dad ended up paying the guy a fair price for the TJ and it stayed in New England.

It was the worst thing I ever had to do as well as one of the coolest things I have done.

Ranger50 MegaDork
3/7/23 5:14 p.m.

When it leaves and never returns.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
3/7/23 5:29 p.m.

In reply to preach (dudeist priest) :

Great story

3/7/23 6:36 p.m.

I restored   a Bugeye ( documented somewhere on this forum) for the family that originally bought it as a birthday present for the wife. They really liked the car and hung on to it for way too long in hopes that someday they might  find the resources to restore the car.

Turns out they could have easily restored the car and had much more had the father sold the Victoria Cross he had in the den, earned by his father in the battle of Hong Kong. He instead donated it to the Canadian War museum. 

I learned from that effort that I prefer to work on cars that go away when they are done. If you build them on spec you lose a lot of $$$.If you are enabling an owner, then it is fun to spend their $$$  to get them what they want and do what you like to do.

When they are gone, I prefer to never work on the cars again.



preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/7/23 6:56 p.m.
Datsun310Guy said:

In reply to preach (dudeist priest) :

Great story

10 years later his boy bought a '50s CJ-5 and we gave him the tools and some help to get it going. Car clubs are life.

buzzboy SuperDork
3/7/23 7:05 p.m.

In May 2018 I was driving across the country with my best friend. Lake Tahoe to Raleigh. We had spent a night in Madison, Wisconsin and didn't know where to go next. I said, "we met that guy Matt at the CMP Lemons race. He lives in Grand Rapids and likes Mercedes!" 

That night we ended up in a driveway drinking beer and pulling the drivetrain from a w124. Turned a passing acquaintance into a friend and honorary member of our race team. 


tomtomgt356 (Tommy)
tomtomgt356 (Tommy) GRM+ Memberand Reader
3/7/23 7:08 p.m.

Mine isn't as good a Preach's, but is funny.


In college one of my friend's car wouldn't start. Several friends worked on it for a few hours, jump start, clean terminals, clean spark plugs, clean distributor cap, etc. Nothing they did would work. I get back from class and they say "You're good with cars, see what you can do." I hop in, turn the key, and it fires right up. The look on their faces was priceless.

NermalSnert (Forum Supporter)
NermalSnert (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
3/7/23 7:37 p.m.

Working on a friend's '69 TR6 in the back of Fairhope Bicycles after work. It was in the summer 1979 and we had taken the head off to be rebuilt and spent several nights in a row working on it. To this day when I smell Permatex it takes me straight back there. Man those were good times.

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/7/23 9:21 p.m.

Sitting under the open hood of my friends C10 pickup playing with the distributor while he did full throttle acceleration runs. We were 16 and someone told us this would make it faster.

kb58 UltraDork
3/7/23 9:27 p.m.

Changed the clutch on my sister's MG Midget. Good lord was that a learning experience...

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