Monday, October 13, 2014

A Tribute To Dad - A Naval Officer and An Inspiration


With today marking the 239th year of the United States Navy, I thought it only proper to celebrate two dads who proudly served. My husband Guy's dad was a career Naval officer and my own dad, though not career, was a Seabee (a member of the Navy Construction Battalion) in the Philippines. Guy and I both pause to celebrate our country's brave men and women who selflessly serve - with our thanks and sincere gratitude.

Guy Algar learned a lot from his father. When he was only five years old, his dad recognized Guy’s keen interest in mechanical things, took him under his wing and let Guy “help” in work on his classic car. At the start, Guy had to learn the tools - the names of each one, the function and purpose of each, as well as watching how to properly use them. As any good mentor will do, he was gradually given tasks of increasing difficulty and complexity. These are fond memories of a young boy’s childhood, but truly they are so much more than that.

When asked, “What is the one thing that you are most grateful your father taught you?”, Guy responded, “Discipline”.  While many young men do not learn discipline until they serve in the armed forces, or sadly, do not learn at all, Guy’s father ruled with an iron fist yet with a loving heart.  The result was forming what most would call “character”.

Guy's dad served on the submarine USS Whale 638 (SSN-638),
a Surgeon-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine of the US Navy
Guy’s father was career military. As a naval officer, he was at sea at least half of the time serving on nuclear submarines in the early years, and as they were dry-docked into retirement, went on to serve on aircraft carriers before his retirement just after Guy graduated high school. When he was away, he expected (and demanded) proper behavior from Guy. When he was home, he taught Guy the value of quality work (“if you can’t do the job right, don’t do it at all”), a thirst for knowledge (  ), and perseverance (“if you don’t know how to do something, find a way to learn the right way”), problem-solving ( ) and completion (“always put away your tools so you know where to find them next time”).  

Guy was often given projects to accomplish while his dad was out to sea. Knowing that he was expected to have it completed when his dad returned, it was up to Guy to figure out how. He read every hot rod magazine he could get his hands on (his dad’s subscriptions and those copies he bought with hard-earned money earned from chores), along with using his mechanical aptitude to put the lawnmower back together, tune-up the family car, repair the water pump, and all the increasingly difficult projects that were left for him.

All this may have seemed like work to some, but for Guy it was great. His dad always showed appreciation for the job well done, and encouragement for learning even more. It was a challenge that led Guy to develop a thirst for knowledge. It led him to have a very clear goal of becoming a Mechanical Engineer before he had even left high school. He found through his love of working on old cars that he had a gift of being able to easily conceptualize the mechanical working of things, and an acute appreciate for the intricacies of the working gears and pieces.

Guy with his '55 Belair in 1976
Even before he got his driver's license at 16, Guy saved up and bought his own car - a 1955 Chevy Belair - one similar to one that his dad had owned when he was small. A former drag race car, complete with fiberglass nose and roll cage with no rear seat, Guy spent after-school and weekends looking for parts to return her to stock and working on the engine. 39 years later, he still has the same car. 

Guy did not know it at the time, but the skills he acquired went far beyond the know-how of performing the task at hand. What it instilled in Guy was integrity, honesty, fairness, and a love for what you do. The “discipline” was never thought of as cruel or unfair. It was something that became self-administered. A matter of pride at doing the best you can, doing the job well and doing it correctly the first time. This is the motto that Guy lives by, and it is the basis for all the work he does at Motorheads Performance, the shop he founded with me in 2004 in South Central Texas.

We reflect back on the influences our dads had in our lives and know that the lessons they learned while serving our country in the United States Navy played a big part in the men and fathers they became. They have our thanks and appreciation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guy Algar holds 5 ASE Certifications

Most people in shops that work on old cars and trucks are not certified. In fact there are no specific certifications for people working on classic cars, muscle cars, street rods, or antique cars! Guy Algar holds 5 ASE Certifications, which demonstrates that he has a high level of knowledge on how engines and cars work. But what is ASE certification?

Today's ASE certification tests are not specific to old cars and trucks or the technologies commonly used on vehicles back then. ASE certification tests are the Gold Standard for automotive service technicians.  Automotive and Light Truck, is the closest category to the old cars and trucks we're talking about. According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, these tests are designed "to identify and recognize those Automobile and Light Truck (up to 10,000 GVW) Technicians who can demonstrate knowledge of the skills necessary to diagnose, service, and repair cars, SUVs, and light duty trucks".  The ASE tests for Automotive and Light Truck include:
  • A1 – Engine Repair
  • A2 – Automatic Transmission/Transaxle
  • A3 – Manual Drive Train & Axles
  • A4 – Suspension & Steering
  • A5 – Brakes
  • A6 – Electrical/Electronic Systems
  • A7 – Heating & Air Conditioning
  • A8 – Engine Performance
  • A9 – Light Vehicle Diesel Engines
Automobile systems and the technology has changed drastically over the last 40 years. According to the ASE literature, "Questions are written to correspond to the job tasks. The diagnostic and repair scenarios must reflect current technology," and more importantly, "When a question becomes technically outdated, it is removed from the pool of test questions." This is extremely important for a classic car mechanic or technician, because much of the technology which was commonplace in cars and trucks from the 1950's, 60's and 70's for example, has been replaced with newer technology and is not part of the ASE testing.

New technicians graduating from technical institutes are not thoroughly trained in "old" systems such as carburetors, manual brakes, drop front axles etc., and have very little, if any, hands-on experience. Many don't know how the systems worked back then, and would have difficulty diagnosing a non-computerized vehicle. They're trained for new cars equipped with the latest in computerized systems and advanced navigation and gadgetry. In current ASE testing you answer questions about current systems and technologies including power rack and pinion steering, six speed overdrive transmissions, multi-port fuel injected engines (and we're not talking about the constant flow mechanical fuel injectors... the tall ram stacks! More about Hilborn Fuel Injectors in an upcoming article).

To become ASE-certified, you must have proof of at least two years of relevant full-time, hands-on work experience in the motor vehicle service industry AND pass at least one ASE tests in an approved ASE testing center. Master Technician status is achieved after completing all A1-A8 tests, recognizing that many automobile technicians do not ever service diesel vehicles (there are only 10,019 ASE certified in this A9 category). And, you must re-certify every five years. Guy Algar was first certified in 1988.

The tests are difficult, even for experienced mechanics. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 1 out of 3 fail the ASE tests, and many must re-take the test (you must wait until the next test session) multiple times before passing. As of this writing, there are only 266,860 ASE Certified Technicians nationwide, and of these, only 93,341 are Master Automobile Technicians!  No single A1-A8 category contain more than 208,480 Certified Technicians, with the fewest in A3 Manual Drive Train & Axles at 129,223 technicians.  According to figures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 723,400 auto techs in the United States. This means that only 25-30% of technicians have any type of ASE certification, and of these, only 8-12% are Master Techs. (These percentages are estimated and given in a range because the total number of auto techs has increased by as much as 20% from figures available from the BLS while the ASE figures are current to 2012.) Many very competent technicians are not ASE certified, although it is still a desirable designation.

There are other automobile industry related certifications. I-CAR is a certification for collision repair. Since he does not perform this type of work, it is not a certification that Guy Algar would ever get. Nor would he for auto body repairs, paint shop, machine shop, etc., as Motorheads Performance and Guy Algar does not perform this type of work. 

Guy Algar has been Shop Manager for over 8 years, and has been working on classic cars and trucks, race cars, muscle cars, street rods and antiques for over 37 years! He received his first ASE certification in 1988, and has performed work within the automotive industry, including specialized installations for LoJack. Guy's career training was in Mechanical Engineering, a field he worked in for over 25 years before founding Motorheads Performance in 2004. As a mechanical design engineer, Guy has had specialized training within that field as well. If you have questions about his credentials or experience, please ask!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stone & Webster Provided Solid Start

by Guy Algar
Motorheads Performance

I was recalling my start as a Mechanical Engineer the other day in conversation with an old friend. It was amazing to think back to my early days working full time at Stone & Webster Engineering in Boston, Massachusetts. To this day, Stone & Webster remains a prominent corporation in the engineering field. In the heyday of the late 1970's and 1980's, it was one of the very top in the field of nuclear design engineering, and I am honored to have got my start there.

Back in the days of pencil and paper!  Yes, when I was first recruited, I began as a drafter. I sat at a drafting table with large sheets of paper, pencil and all the tools of my trade. When computers first emerged, Stone & Webster quickly converted to computerization, and we learned AutoCAD. Looking back now, I am grateful to have worked in such a progressive, top-notch company, and to have had the numerous opportunities to grow and expand my experience and expertise within the field of mechanical engineering. To have learned the very specialized field of nuclear design was an incredible experience.

So much has changed since the early days of AutoCAD. The program has evolved into a complex and exact tool that engineers worldwide use as the Gold Standard in designs of all types. The mentors I had at Stone & Webster taught me a lot, and now that I have moved on to consulting work and my own performance shop for classic cars, I see that what I learned in the early years served as a very solid knowledge base I draw on every day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Guy Algar Founded Motorheads Performance

Why Did Guy Algar Start Motorheads Performance?

Motorheads Performance was the dream of Guy Algar, who had worked in the mechanical engineering field for over 25 years before opening shop in 2004. Guy has owned his own 1955 Belair since he was 16, and has been working on classic cars and trucks for over 35 years. Guy became a Mechanical Engineer because of his love of old cars, and his strong curiosity about how they work. It was clear to him well before he had left high school, and was fostered by his father, who took him under his wing at the young age of 5. Together they worked on cars.

The idea of Motorheads began over 30 years ago! Guy's own classic cars have been through several restorations and upgrades. He is an avid enthusiast who over the years has designed, built, and drag raced his own cars. Before founding Motorheads Performance in 2004, he spent years helping friends and family with their classic cars, trucks, muscle cars and race cars, and learning everything he could about them.

Why Did Guy Algar Leave Mechanical Engineering? 

He didn't!  With his love for old cars, it was natural for Guy to pursue a career as a Mechanical Engineer, where he worked on designing projects such as vacuum machinery used in gold plating, design and install projects for the U.S. Navy, space simulation chambers in use on NASA projects, and nuclear power projects. His specialized training in Mechanical Engineering helps Guy understand the mechanical workings of engines, and helps him troubleshoot elusive problems. In fact, Guy uses the training and 25+ years of experience in Mechanical Engineering each and every day on the job at Motorheads Performance! Guy started Motorheads Performance because it combines so many things he loves...the project design, the hands-on of repairs and performance upgrades, and helping others obtain the car of their dreams.

Guy is also co-owner of Scorpio Design Services, Inc., a consulting business that provides Mechanical Engineering and AutoCAD consulting services to industry and businesses. Here, specialized projects are contracted for specific design concept, drawing and planning.

What Makes You Different Than Other Classic Car Shops?

Guy has a true passion for old cars and trucks, along with tremendous knowledge of the mechanical and technical specs. He strongly believes in repairing and/or restoring our projects correctly. He is a man of integrity, honesty and dedication. Our customers learn this in dealing with Motorheads Performance, and they are qualities they value and appreciate.

We've made the conscious decision NOT to hire a large staff. We enjoy the personal interaction with our customers, and the fact that we know each and every inch of each job we do. This allows us to be accountable for what we do. Your needs and wishes are heard and acted on by the very people who are doing the planning and the work. We deal directly with every customer, and the work we do ourselves is done by us personally.

Because we've repaired and restored our own classics, we understand your needs. We try to provide the types of services we wished we had when we were putting our hot-rods together. And, we understand the need to keep costs affordable. Our goal is to bring affordable hot-rodding to men and women throughout South Central Texas, and to help them achieve their goals for their own vehicles.

Why Did You Open Shop In Leesville?

Motorheads Performance is in a nice, quiet, very rural ranching community a little over an hour away from both San Antonio, Austin and Victoria. We also have customers from Houston, Dallas, Eagle Pass, and from out-of-state. Our more remote locate affords a certain peace of mind for our customers, as we do not receive walk-ins and passers-by. We feel this provides additional safety as well. We're proud of the fact that we provide a comfortable "home" atmosphere. When customers come to visit, they can be assured of a friendly, relaxed, informative and fun visit.

Our Leesville location also allows Guy to maintain his skills in Mechanical Engineering by performing consulting work on projects for other businesses. He is able to keep up-to-date with advances and techniques in engineering, which is helpful with planning and hands-on work performed at Motorheads Performance.