A driving passion

By Christine Paradis

Car enthusiasts enjoy spending time under the hood. (photo by Jeremy Wilburn)

Summer road trips may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t make car enthusiasts any less enthusiastic. Unsure about what fuels their interest? Fitchburg State’s Paulo Vieira can shed some light on cars as a hobby.
Like many others, Vieira said, his own interest in cars began for a practical reason – as a way to cut down on trips to the mechanic.
“I’m more hands-on,” Vieira said. “I don’t like dropping my car off at a mechanic and having them say they ‘fixed’ it.” This led to a chain reaction as Vieira became fascinated with modifying his cars.
“If something goes wrong with my car I want to be able to fix it,” he said. “I want to be able to know how my car works, and if I want to upgrade it I want to know the quality of work that goes into it.”
While Vieira is a typical under-the-hood car enthusiast, other members of this subculture focus more on the appearance of their cars.
“Some people like the look; some people are ‘show’ vs. ‘go,’ Vieira explained. “Other people like to make their cars faster and perform better.”
Personally, Vieira said, he’s “more about the speed.”
Upgrading and repairing cars, however, comes with a fairly steep learning curve that can be surmounted only with time and willpower.
“It’s all stuff you learn,” Vieira said. “I can’t go out and rebuild a whole engine myself, but if I had the tools and the time I could probably figure it out.”
With that being said, Vieira feels that more people could be handy with cars if they put just a bit of effort into it.
“It’s a lot of common sense,” Vieira said. “If people took that extra step to try it out themselves, they’d know more.”
Vieira already has a few friends interested in cars, and they find ways to connect with even more people who share this interest.
“We have forums that we go to,” Vieira said. “We met a guy and he actually rebuilt my friend’s engine.  He’s helped us out with tons of stuff and now we’re good friends.”
Working on cars as a hobby tends to be seasonal here in the Northeast; in the summer, Vieira said, “I could easily spend 15 hours a week if I work on it every day.”
Car parts do not come free or cheap, so money is a big factor in this hobby.
Recalling his first used car, Vieira said, “It needed a lot of work.  I spent $400 on new tires, $1,000 on a suspension kit including labor, and $200 for an intake. It adds up after a while.”
So if you think cars might be the hobby for you, make sure you have a few things first: time, money, an iron will, and a thirst for knowledge of all things cars.