Greg Friend: Reciprocating Mass
Growing up, if it had a motor and wheels, I was interested. Like many kids of my era, my favorite toys were Lego and Hot Wheels. Lego because they are the ultimate customizable toy, and Hot Wheels because they were the closest thing to real cars that I was allowed to play with. When I wasn’t playing, I was required to “help” my parents fix whatever was broken around the house, whether it was a car or the garbage disposal. They encouraged me to disassemble things that were broken so I could see how they fit together and therefore learn about how they worked. Lucky for me, I enjoyed that kind of thing.
My First Love
Exposure to the innards of mechanical devices helped to build in me the confidence necessary to do the same thing with my future vehicles, like my first car, an ’88 Ford Bronco II. It was side-swiped driving home from high school one day, which led me to replace a fender and repaint the car using the funds from the offending driver’s insurance company. A year later I sold the Bronco in order to purchase my first vehicular love: a 1973 Mustang Mach1.
To say the Mach1 was rough when it became mine was an understatement. It was living in truck junkyard pick-your-part and barely ran, but all I saw was its potential. The original light-blue exterior had developed a chalky texture, but the sheet metal was relatively unscathed.
The 351 ci Cleveland engine and C6 transmission were in decent shape and would quickly become road worthy. Unfortunately, the interior had become a multiple-family home for the local rodent population and the rat excrement had created holes in the floorboards. After scouring and disinfecting the interior and filling the holes in the floorboards with fiberglass (I had yet to learn how to weld), the Mustang became my daily driver through my years in college.
Any Excuse to Upgrade
The best part about a vehicle that needs a bunch of work is that it’s easy to justify upgrades, even when on a college-kid budget. The way I see it, if you’re going to spend the money on a replacement part, you might as well just spend a few more dollars to get a better, aftermarket part.
After driving it for awhile, I realized the car had a lot of potential to go much faster than it had off the showroom floor, and I started to get into street legal drag racing. So, of course, all my money and time went into upgrading and restoring my Mustang. I raced the car whenever I could, but soon my enthusiasm was focused in a slightly different direction.
On to Motorcycles
I knew that I didn’t want to become a teacher, but an English Lit degree didn’t give me many appealing career path options. I applied to custom car magazines with hopes that I could combine my love for literature with my passion for cars into a career. My automotive journalist aspirations took an unexpected turn when I was offered a position at a custom Harley-Davidson based magazine, Hot Bike.
I certainly didn’t plan to get into motorcycle mags. In fact, my parents hoped that because I was already into cars that I wouldn’t get into motorcycles. Instead, I jumped in with all the fervor I had for cars. I quickly obtained a motorcycle license, a motorcycle (my second love), and a camera and within a few years I was the editor of my very own magazine, Street Chopper. From that point forward, I lived in the custom Harley world through magazines and marketing for companies that make motorcycle parts.
Through those years I owned and sold a handful of cars, bikes and trucks but I kept the Mach1 in my garage while I pursued thrills of the two-wheeled variety. I learned a bunch of things during that time that I’ve found to be helpful within all motorsports, like the basics of welding, how custom/aftermarket parts are almost never actually “bolt-on” and an infinite number of ways to break zip-ties when I’m not trying to.
Back to the Start
And, like the reciprocating mass in a combustion-based engine, I’ve returned to some of the things that drew me to motorsports journalism in the first place. I dusted off the Mach1, am regularly driving it and excited to drag race it again. I’ve realized the benefit of focused energy on a limited number of vehicle projects and sloughed off the projects I don’t have time for. Additionally, I’ve realized how important it is for me to be creative in my work, which is exactly what attracted me to Driving Line. I love the vehicle variety, oddball articles and entertaining editorial and can’t wait to contribute.