Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic
by Rob Siegel
Rob Siegel's Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic rings poignant and true
Roundel book review - June 2013
After a long courtship with renowned Bentley Publishers, Rob Siegel, our hometown Roundel hero, has finally done it, distilling years of the insight shown in his columns and adding thoughtful commentary to create Memoirs Of A Hack Mechanic. It's the ideal collaboration: A quick tour of www.bentleypublishers.com, the Bentley website, reveals a wondrous world of brilliant coffee-table literature for the diehard car geek, as weil as real nuts-and-bolts technical reference books-induding some of the best BMW repair manuals on the planet. It seems a natural place for Siegel to set up camp.
A brief observation regarding Car Guys: Although we're not personal friends-to this day, he won't return my calls-I admire Jay Leno's approach to collecting, driving, and occasionally restoring some truly significant automobiles. I like his sense of whimsy and humor, even when he's discussing a priceless mechanical masterpiece. I like the persona Leno puts out to the media as "a car guy's car guy," but it's not really fair; most car guys don't have a full-time crew of professionals constantly maintaining a fleet of hyper-expensive one-of-a-kind iron, or a 3-D digital printer capable of manufacturing any part they need on a moment's notice.
And most car guys stress out-bad. Have you ever seen Jay Leno stressed out over a car-or, really, over anything?
My favorite car guys are those preserving what they have, often on a tight budget of time and money, balancing real-life needs with a desire and passion for tinkering and improving their often humble rides. Guys like Rob Siegel.
Siegel would have you believe that there's nothing terribly extraordinary about his own life or character, but don't you fall for it. His take on all things automotive is one to be admired, perhaps even emulated. His approach to cars-in this particular case, BMWs-is much like his approach toward life in general; in all things, Siegel seems to invest due diligence.
What makes his first book, Memoirs Of A Hack Mechanic., so appealing? Siegel has a perfect life. He has a thoroughly patient and understanding wife, creative and intelligent kids, a bunch of neat old BMWs, and a moderate income that allows him to pursue his automotive hobby with a passion many of us share. Is there anything here that doesn't sound appealing?
More and more apparent as I read his book was the earnest effort Siegel puts forth to maintain healthy relationships with people as weil as his stable of cars. What saves this book-and it's a hefty one, mind you-from oozing its way into some gooey gag-inducing treatise on Zen and Automotive Well-Being is that it's filled with real-life conundrums, a tasteful sprinkling of foul language, and some very useful automotive diagnostic advice.
Meeting Siegel last summer, I quickly discovered that he truly is as sincere and kind as he seems in his Hack Mechanic columns, so I was understandably fearful that this book would somehow get all its warm-and-fuzzy germs on the rest of my tough-guy automotive library. Imagine how relieved I was to hear that Siegel, too, has hurled a wrench or two in his day. "Take THAT, Buddha!" Sure, he's a bit of a hippie-but he's my kind of hippie.
Like some of the Eastern philosophical texts I read in my youth-pick a Sutra, any Sutra-I note that Siegel often expresses repeated lessons to his readers, couched in different allegories. These lessons are important-like not sweating the small stuff. Enjoying the visceral. Using the things life gives you-without using them up-and using your senses before passing judgment.
And sometimes knowing when to give up and walk away.
Don't worry, car guys; Memoirs Of A Hack Mechanic. is 100% about cars ... mostly. The book is packed with wonderful yet humble tales of irresponsibility, danger, frozen iguanas, friendships, and phrases that include the words "reefer" and "sex." Siegel's writing shines a light beam chock-full of positive energy, along with an exposure to our collective hobby-one that non-car folk will appreciate and even enjoy.
While Siegel revels in the kinships we form through our shared interest in BMWs and cars in general, and explains why working on our cars brings us so much satisfaction-no easy task, that!-he also reminds us that we need not be bad or antisocial people while we pursue these passions. The many tech tips are just icing on the proverbial cake-and there's a pile of icing on this cake, I assure you!
As much as I try to avoid the comparison, I keep coming back to the Erma Bombeck quotes I heard when I was a kid. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bombeck was a hero who brought light, truth, and humor to a host of women who felt that their lives held little value to the general public, or somehow couldn't be understood by those who worked outside the horne. Siegel might be the car guy's Erma Bombeck: He has now let this car-guy business out of the closet, cracking it wide open to the rest of the world, exposing our secret selves.
We're sensitive. We're caring. We're nurturing. We love our families. We're a little nuts-but we're good inside. If you give us some space, we can be trusted to do the right thing.
Rob has done just that, through the publication of this heartfelt and illuminating new book.
Article from and courtesy of Roundel Magazine - June 2013