What gearhead road trip would be complete without emergency repairs?
David Frane (right) and his buddy Fast Eddie replace the king pin and spindle on Frane's '69 Chevy van in a parking lot outside of Boston. As bad as this looks it's better than the time the drive shaft fell off at 3 A.M. in a blizzard. The van is long gone but Frane still owns that tool box.
According to Webster's Dictionary, a gearhead is a person who is "very interested in mechanical or technical things". The term is most frequently associated with cars but it also applies to tools, machines, and computers. Webster's goes on to say that the term "gearhead" did not come into use until 1974.
Well, the term may not have existed before then, but I guarantee you that gearheads did. Gearheads were around before cars, before machines, and even before gears. I feel certain that while his artistic friends were inside the cave painting mastodons on the wall, the original gearhead was outside chipping sharp edges onto a rock and lashing it onto a stick.
Friends: "What are you doing out there? Come on in and check out our cool painting!"
Gearhead: "Thanks dudes, but I'm working on a little something for that saber tooth tiger who's been trying to get in at night."
What got me thinking about gearheads was a conversation I had with Tools of the Trade's newest blogger, Brian Way. He described rebuilding an old Cub Cadet tractor and doing full brake jobs on his parents' car by the time he was 13. I told him about the neighbor who knew I was a gearhead before I did. When the motor on his ancient Toro lawnmower seized up, the neighbor didn't throw it away; he asked if I wanted it. I was tempted to say "hell yeah!" but I was a polite 12 year old so I said, "Yes, thanks Mr. Henke." I was up that entire night tearing the thing apart in the basement. My parents weren't gearheads, so I can only imagine what they thought when they heard me hammering the lower housing off the shaft at 3 a.m. (I had yet to learn about gear pullers). It was awesome.
So what about you? When and how did you find out you were a gearhead? You can answer in the comments section below.