Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic
by Rob Siegel
Adventuring on the Printed Page
The New York Times- June 2, 2013
Review by Dana Jennings
"Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic" reminds me of summertime Saturdays when I was a boy and Dad and his buddies would park their rides - Mercs, Caddys, Chevys - in our broad dirt dooryard and make out with them. It was a wrench-twisting ardor full of grunts, cursing and the sizzle of beer bottles bursting open.
Rob Siegel, a writer with permanent grease under his nails, would've totally been into it. And this funny, frisky book tells why.
Mr. Siegel is a geophysicist who for more than 25 years has written a column called "The Hack Mechanic" for Roundel, the BMW Car Club of America's magazine. And he confesses that he's all about "lusting after, chasing, buying, nurturing, driving, keeping (to the maximum extent that I have money and space), and occasionally selling cars..."
Ahab had his great white whale, and Mr. Siegel has his BMWs, mostly from the early 1970s. In parsing his obsession, Mr. Siegel ranges from the lure of older cars to the alpha male behavior of a lot of car guys. But he leavens his memoir with "actual useful stuff" (his phrase): tools to own, what to do when the damned car won't start, how to get a smoother ride.
And "Hack Mechanic" is flecked throughout with nuts and bolts of wisdom: "Neither men nor cars are really all that complicated." You're not "a real mechanic until you've drawn blood." "Parts cars are the equivalent of organ donors."
At over 400 pages, though, the book could have been chopped and channeled a bit for better literary aerodynamics. Even so, "Hack Mechanic" zips along nicely, and there's no question that Mr. Siegel would've fit right in with Dad and his pals. But they might have been a bit skeptical of his breadbox BMWs.