Home BMW History Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic

Bimmer - November 2013

Book Review: Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic by Rob Siegel

Bimmer - November 2013

Rob Siegel had a tale to tell, and tell it he did in Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic (a memoir with actual useful stuff). In fact, I think he tells every story of his life with cars that does not include actual sex in cars-though one gets the sense that such tales would have been included in an unexpurgated edition. It is a frank and revealing look at a unique life, one many of us view with envy: Siegel has owned 50 BMWs!

But that's all beside the point. Here's why you should buy his book and read all 432 witty yet textbook-like pages: If you are holding Bimmer-and you are-in Siegel's book you will find yourself. Not on every page, mind you, but reading it is nonetheless like peeling back layer upon layer of the Personality of a Gearhead. It's a fascinating realization to become sentient of the You in this book. If you're interested in knowing, it will tell you why you are the way you are. It may even open a window on You for your significant other.

Siegel doesn't withhold the ground truth. Chapters like 1. How Cars Imprint on You Like Bodysnatchers, 3. So Why Do Men Love Cars Anyway? and 47. I Don't Get to Date 18-Year-Olds just plain lay it on the line for the whole damn world to see. Meanwhile, have a man tissue (aka beer) ready for the chapter about Yale Rachlin, the late editor emeritus of Roundel magazine. Yale discovered Rob and made him into the writer he is today. (Yale did the same for me.)

The book's parenthetical subtitle should not be construed to mean that no other memoirs contain useful information-quite a few reveal why you don't really want to be president, for example. Siegel's book includes eight chapters on Actual Useful Stuff (capitalization in original), meaning technical information from his life with cars that you may, in fact, find useful. Topics include tools, what causes no-starts, making old cars dependable, cars to buy and cars to avoid and fixing air conditioning. (Siegel finds A/C worth the hassle in vintage Bimmers; I do not.)

A chapter covering restoration (and "why it makes no freaking sense") is entirely pragmatic and truthful about the costs involved and how they can be contained by starting with a rust-free car. Here's where Siegel and I sort of disagree. Financially speaking, he's entirely correct, of course. Yet I become attached to "old friend cars" that need me the most, to my eternal financial detriment. At press time, he owned eight cars, seven of which were sojourning on their way to their next caretakers. I have three BMWs. I had three BMWs in 1995. I'll have the same three BMWs when they plant me in the ground. Two were rusted to oblivion before restoration; I saved them. It helped that I was a bachelor. Saving cars that aren't rusty to begin with, as Siegel did, can go a long way toward marital harmony.

In that regard, Siegel's book further distinguishes itself with forthright tales of his wife and three sons and how his "car thing" has grown within a stable, loving and supportive household. Heart-warming? Yes, it is. A surprising number of my readers confide that their spouse does not know they own a certain car, and for good reason.

In short, you'll find everything you need to know-and more-about why you're a gearhead in Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic. Can you handle the truth? It's not a bad truth: We're just different from normal people. You might want to find out how and why, which might just save you from writing your own darn memoirs. - Mike Miller

Bimmer - November 2013
Article from and courtesy of Bimmer - http://www.bimmer-mag.com/issues/118