As a reader, you’ve witnessed the Cape’s kwaaiest machines reviewed in these pages over the years, and quite likely you’ve thought to yourself: “Well, I’d certainly like to get me some mods on my cabbie.”
Bobby Nitro knows the gut appeal of a thrumming motor, some lekker bodywork and a nice smooth bonnet, so he has called on an old pro in the game to give you some advice.
Ladies and gents, meet Mike Tech, the masterful mechanic who will be featuring in this column at least once a month, discussing all things petrolkop from a technical point of view.
Drawing on his decades of experience, Mike will be revealing the hints, tricks and basic knowledge you all need to get some wisdom about your car.
Now, we need to say up front, some of this stuff you’ll be able to do at home, the small things like changing plugs, but there will definitely be activities with the “do NOT try this at home” sticker. The main idea, says Mike, is “how not to be bulls****ed by your mechanic, to get enough know-how that you understand better what is being suggested.”
Bobby Nitro first met Mike at the Drift track, getting a superheated car back on the track in a short time.
Some of the work Mike does is with Sean February and his drift team, keeping the E30 running for years and now Sean’s new build, a Nissan S13.
Mike, who studied at the Technikon in Kasselsvlei Road decades ago, earning up to an N3, started out in a panel shop, and says he did “many specialised courses over the years to keep at the cutting edge”.
Since 2001, Mike has been a freelance mechanic, like many, through the art of the Spin with Drift Doggz.
“That’s where I met the Februaries,” he says. “Travelling to the spin events together and then progressing onto Drift. But I pulled out because of the expense and started helping Sean with his car.”
Mike’s real passion when it comes to the work is conversions.
In fact, when Bobby visited this week, he and his team were fitting a BMW 540 M60 V8 engine into a 318 E46.
Suffice to say, there was little room over in the engine bay. Mike’s team includes Michael Lee and Jenino February on the technical side, and Andre Nel is The Transporter.
Mike says: “It’s more fulfilling to do conversions because I develop my knowledge, as we are diving into the unknown most of the time.”
He continues: “Even in the panel game, the restorations were what kept me going, the Mustangs and Camaros. It’s extremely satisfying to strip a car bumper to bumper, fix and renew, and put it back together again.”
Asked if there is anything he doesn’t do on cars, he says: “I’m an all rounder, and do everything except maybe wheel alignment.”
So, what can you as a reader expect in the soon-to-be-famous “Mike Tech” column? A lot, is the short answer.
Starting with basic car care, checking fuses and changing bulbs, we’ll move on to simple services like oil changes, air filter and how to know when to change spark plugs.
Then there’s brakes, how to identify noises and vibrations, disc versus drum and ventilated versus solid.
The cooling, exhaust and fuel supply systems will be covered, as will suspension, clutches and the like.
And that’s all just to get us going, the next level in Mike Tech will describe the do’s and don’t’s of modifying your very own car, and that’s where it gets even more exciting.
We will also be inviting your questions and comments via email.
Bobby wanted to ask Mike a question about the first time he met him, when he had five minutes to get a Drift car back on the track following a technical hitch. Mike says: “The pressure is huge, to get the job done in time you have to panic and stay calm at the same time, and 90 percent of the job is dealing with the heat of the engine. The pressure is like a drug, though, Sean is driving but I’m feeling the adrenalin.”
Bobby wanted to know what they do when the problem is baffling.
Mike says: “I’m from the encyclopedia generation, so I’ll call a friend and most of the time you’ll find somebody who has solved the problem and learn from him. Jenino is from another generation entirely and points to the two Michaels saying: “These guys have already ‘downloaded’ the info into their brains, if I hak vas, Google is my friend.”
Asked about what is required in this game, Mike replies: “It’s about passion, without passion you won’t succeed, and some have the passion while others just have the money.
“Also, we do what we need to do and for the rest we enjoy ourselves. Don’t let the sport consume you, it’s about making friends after all.”
E-mail Mike Tech on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 079 648 2251. Michael Lee can be found at email@example.com and 073 928 5334.