“What is a gearhead?”, you may be asking.
There is no desire for an academic definition, for it is about passion and performance, not just theory. It’s about engagement, not passive observation. True gearheads have dirty hands and a grin from ear to ear. They long to hear an engine roar, or challenge a fast, sweeping curve like a romantic pines after a poem. It’s about spending, no investing, half a week’s pay to gain a tenth of a second or “g”.
Yes, gearheads are unique. Cars, or any form of motorized transportation, are their passion, their purpose. Yet, there is more; an unquenchable desire to understand and improve. They view the manufacturer’s car as a starting point, not the finished product. They are immersed, involved in its perfection. While they may enjoy a great debate about the merits of a particular car or modification, they proceed to action, not satisfied with mere speculation.
Their love of cars is not limited to a specific brand or configuration. A rear-engined Porsche 911, a Dodge Charger Daytona and a Classic Bentley S1 can live in peace, each evoking a different but positive reaction.
It’s not merely about quarter mile times, lap times or fuel economy. Gearheads cherish the sound, smell, and feel of vehicles of all sorts; theirs is a never-ending quest, a purpose that is never satisfied.
Gearheads are of all ages and cultures. They trace their linage back to those who invented and refined the internal combustion engine, and beyond to those who tamed horses and invented the wheel. Their spirit excites and inspires. Gearheads form familial bonds, either with blood relatives, like a father and son bonding over a restoration, or “adopted” family, such as best friends traveling together to vintage races. Yes, gearheads have a warm heart, but it pumps high-test gasoline!
Are you a gearhead? Will you enjoy this website and even contribute content? How do you know?
Consider, for a moment, the following characteristics of a typical gearhead. Do you:
- Enjoy improving the performance of your car more than waxing it or adding neon lights to the undercarriage?
- Visit car company websites to design your virtual dream car and then search dealer inventories although you cannot afford to buy it?
- Appreciate the fine detail of classic, concourses automobiles, but long to hear, feel and smell them when serving as elegant transportation, not just resting as a static display?
- Distinguish between truly special and more common siblings; the Focus ST vs. Focus, Jaguar XKR vs XK, Cadillac CTS-V vs. CTS? Do you value the difference between a 5.7, 6.4 and 6.2 liter Hemi?
- Know that the 1965 Corvette was the first to have disc brakes, the last to offer mechanical fuel injection and the only year for the 396 cubic inch “porcupine” engine?
- Easily distinguish the smells of burning oil, boiling antifreeze and overheated brakes?
- Have experience with rebuilding a carburetor, replacing brakes or a clutch or setting ignition timing and dwell?
- See “285/35 ZR19” and immediately
translate it to the performance level and cost of the car wearing that size?
- Delight in the sound of the opening of a Holley’s secondary’s or the pop and crackle of the exhaust when letting off the gas?
- Know the relationship between engine torque and power?
- Think the concept of “fuel economy” is great for a daily driver but don’t consider it relevant to your performance car?
- Prefer a manual transmission whether it has three, four, six or more gears over even the most advanced fully automatic transmission?
- Think in terms of apexs and trail braking when entering a sharp corner at speed?
- Change the cams and exhaust on your Harley or Honda in an attempt to gain a bit more mid-range torque? And then do it again for the same reason?
- Feel that a bit of brake dust on your alloy wheels is a badge of honor, particularly after an exhilarating drive on the road or track?
No, this list is neither absolute, nor comprehensive. Indeed, we welcome your insights concerning our description. What would you add? What would you clarify based on your experience? We will update this list from time-to-time based on your feedback.
You may be a fledgling gear head if only half of these experiences resonate with you. However, if your heartbeat doesn’t quicken and your mind start exploring possibilities, you will likely prefer the Robb Report or Inside the NFL over this website.
“How do you become an “alpha”, or lead, gearhead?” Yes, that is a worthy question, but one we will save for another day. In the meantime, twist that key and set those gears and horses loose. Gearheads find both joy and peace when unleashing their own beast.