One week after graduating college, I loaded my tool box, helmet and sleeping bag into what was effectively my entire net worth, a red and yellow 1957 Devin special. During my senior year of college, I was working as a part-time Ferrari mechanic. The man who owned the shop was kind enough to let me keep my Devin project car there and entrusted me enough to work on it over the nights and weekends while surrounded by the pride of Maranello and his sole source of income. Having been a spectator at races as a child and learning about racing history from my affinity for collecting old slot cars, I was absolutely determined to finish my very own sports racer and be the truest period-correct sportsman I could. My helmet was open-faced and my goggles were new old stock WWII Army Polaroids that I bought off of Ebay for $5. I packed them along with my Jimmy Clark gloves and the cream with red striped Dunlop driver’s suit that my grandfather gave me as a graduation present. Those S.U. carburetors and big cam took a little extra time on that crisp morning to warm up before we were off and sailing across country roads to my first road race; The Vintage Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio with the SVRA. I had the time of my life living beyond my own years that weekend and made many new friends. The car ran admirably and we finished well after many epic dices. Four days, later I bungee strapped my sleeping bag to my roll bar and drove home on a gorgeous sunny afternoon feeling as happy as anyone possibly could.
I can still remember the look of people smiling while shaking their heads in a mild state of amused confusion at the sight of a random kid (who was barely old enough to drink) driving a now half-century old, open top sports racer with the exhaust barking and cackling from toe-heel downshifting on the road, before turning into the track, and driving up to the pits. One man’s smile turned into a friendly chuckle when he asked me where I was going to paddock and for that matter, sleep. My reply was an equally big smile and a theatrical shoulder shrug. That was a special moment, because I was so happy to be racing an amazing car at a beautiful track that I didn’t care about such trivial details like sleep and food. Waking up at 3:00 am under a tool bench, being startled by a raccoon was less pleasant at the time, but gives me an equally big smile to think about today. Those memories are now 13-years old and for that entire time I have essentially been what was by a large margin the youngest person in vintage racing who didn’t come along with an older family member. This has been a long enough time that I have seen vintage racing evolve, markets change, and what was once a glorious field of 1950s sports racers dwindle to a sprinkling of expensive antiques stuck in with other run groups, or worse yet, collecting dust and forgotten.
Five years ago, I was working on a personal, prototype car concept and some manufacturing projects while maintaining racecars for clients. I remember vividly being at the shop alone one evening, simply standing in the middle and looking around when an idea came to me so hard that I may as well have been hit by lightning! In one instant, I remembered back to when I was a scraggly kid struggling in college. Not struggling with classes so much, but with life. I just wanted to actually do something. To create something of value, while being challenged and to see how far I could go. I wanted to grow, but it seemed everyone else was content with mindless partying or playing video games until the sun came up. My academic advisors were next to no help and it seemed the school was completely disconnected from the real world. My only saving grace was working as a bicycle mechanic during my freshman year and as a Ferrari mechanic my senior year. While looking back, and if I am to speak frankly, I desperately needed a mentor and some real leadership as a student, but there was none to be found. It was that evening while looking around in my shop that I realized after years of fighting to build something for myself after college that I was surrounded by a facility to create, advanced technologies reflected in cars from a century of racing history, and that I had the proverbial Rolodex full of incredible people with lifetimes of wisdom and experiences that they could share. I decided that from that moment on, I was going to use everything at my disposal to give the brightest young people the chance and opportunity I was never able to find. The opportunity to be part of a team, to have inspiration, as well as responsibility, to have access to incredible mentors, to learn how to think to solve problems and to see patterns and process, to show the world that they are capable of great things, to cultivate genuine leadership while kickstarting their own careers, and maybe, just maybe, a love for racing history. That was when “I” became “We” and the Genius Garage program was born.