Recently somebody posted an inquiry on the Model T forum asking for opinions on a mechanical issue. One anonymous character commented, "sounds like another case of someone doing it themselves instead of spending a couple bucks and hiring someone that knows what they are doing." Naturally, this kind of snotty remark from somebody who chose not to identify himself drew some strong reactions.

Since reading those posts I've been meditating on the subject of hiring a job done versus doing it yourself. Some pointed out that an important part of the antique car hobby for many people is the enjoyment they derive from learning to do their own work. In this category there is a wide range in the degree of do-it-yourselfing, from minor tinkering to mastery of all aspects of restoration.

There's nothing wrong with paying somebody else to do the work if you lack the aptitude or the attitude. Some folks just enjoy owning and driving an antique, and have no interest in doing their own wqork. When the Pope hired Michelangelo to paint the ceiling, and when Selznik hired Victor Fleming to direct Gone With the Wind, they were doing a service to world culture. In some degree a guy who pays to have an old vehicle resurrected is performing a service to history.

But there's nothing wrong with somebody devoid of experience aspiring to learn a job, whether it's for enjoyment or to save a buck. Like many hobbyists, I enjoy learning the many little tasks that go into a restoration. There's a certain satisfaction involved in solving a puzzle.

Also, I was raised by folks who came through the Great Depression, and they were raised by nineteenth century farmers, so I have a decided aversion to parting with dollars over something I can do (or learn to do) myself.

Another factor in doing a job yourself is embodied in the old saying, "If you want it done right, do it yourself." Sometimes that should be amended to, "If you want it done at all..."

An example is my recent turntable adventure. The Panasonic Technics turntable I've had for about thirty years suffered from a bad start switch. Sometimes the motor would start and quit, and sometimes it wouldn't start at all. I bought this particular turntable because it would play not only 12 inch LP's, but also 16 inch radio transcriptions. When I searched the web for new turntables I found that a new one with that capability would cost several hundred dollars. I took my defunct unit to the Panasonic authorized repair shop in Wichita. They had it for a week and charged me a $20 service fee to tell me they couldn't fix it because parts are no longer available. Faced with a choice of spending hundreds of dollars or not being able to play electrical transcriptions, I studied the old turntable. I noted that the speed selector switch had three positions: 33 rpm, 45 rpm, and OFF. I opened the thing up and located the faulty start switch. I soldered in a 3/4 inch piece of paper clip to bypass the bad switch. Now I switch the turntable on and off with the speed selector, and it works like new. This is not the first time I had to fix something myself when "professionals" couldn't figure it out. Again, it was a case of "If you want it done right (or at all), do it yourself."


January 1, 2009