By on March 22, 2013

Another day at the office. Like most drones on a Friday afternoon, you’re wasting your time playing on the Internet. Thanks to a mid-level job that requires more presence than productivity.

The smell of slightly burnt coffee and the din of florescent lights is already starting to kill your weekend mojo. This is the time when you usually take a bit of the vodka that’s hidden under the lock and key of a nearby file cabinet, and mix it into whatever drinkable substance strikes your fancy at the soda machine.

You open the drawer and…. huh? Who put some Colt 45 malt liquor in there? Ice cold. Wow.

You pause for a second. Pop it open, and before you know it.

A genie pops out. But this is no ordinary genie….

This is the same exact genie who helped you choose your 20 year sentence.

“Oh God. Don’t tell me you’re going to make me keep another new car for 20 years.” you say in mortal fear of purchasing another Saturn like appliance as a daily commuter.

That genie, who has a remarkable resemblance to a Star Wars actor from the early 1980’s, walks straight up to you and offers two simple words.

“New… Life…”

You immediately think about the good life. Fun. Challenge. Beauty. Achievement. All the things that are missing from your current line of work. But as the world around you changes in the blink of an eye, you find yourself in the middle of this.

Now you start to really panic, “Genie? You want me to take over a depressing amusement park from the 1980’s? Wasn’t driving a Saturn for 20 years bad enough?”

The genie quickly retorts. “Not quite for you young friend! But yes, I am a bit disappointed by your unexciting choice of vehicle and your line of work. I mean, c’mon! You are an office grunt driving a Saturn instead of a man conquering this world. That’s why I have a mission in mind for you.”

The genie takes a quick swig of his own Colt 45 malt liquor and stares at you with a menacing glare. “I’m going to give you a second chance. This time forget about the car. After realizing you bought a Saturn, I thought that your next wish should involve public transit. Which it kinda does because now you’re going to be a 16 year old working class poor kid from PA.”

You look at yourself in a nearby mirror and quickly see a few things. The paunch is gone. T-shirt. Sneakers. Funny baseball cap. Skinny body. That genie has decided to give you one last chance to make good in this world.

The genie points his finger right at you and says, “Don’t worry about trying to bet your way to becoming a billionaire, because I have already removed all those memories from your mind. What you need to do is find a job you love. And it has to be in the auto industry.”

You think for quite a while. It’s going to be one long ride from the junior year of high school to the job of your dreams. And you have to get this right because if you screw it up, the genie will send you back to the modern day with a lifelong sentence of riding mass transit instead of a car.

We’re talking the underfunded version of mass transit where long waits, bad smells, and long journeys are a part of daily life. In otherwords you will be stuck in the hot, humid hellhole known as Atlanta. Or even worse, Miami.

So what would you like to do for a living? Designer? Mechanical engineer? Automotive Analyst? Journalist? You can be a marketer of all things NASCAR, or even a franchised car dealer if you’re willing to start from the bottom.

That’s another thing. This journey is as much about the path as it is the destination. So think hard and choose with care.

Good luck!





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52 Comments on “Question Of The Day: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up… Car Wise?...”

  • avatar

    Jaguar X305 or X308 with epic reliability.

  • avatar

    Great question, especially since i know nothing about the industry. My own talents run more towards advertaising and public relations, but I think if I could do anything I would be a design engineer.

  • avatar

    I’d like Bernie Ecclestone’s job and the chance to make F1 a little more interesting, but I’ll settle for running Smokey Yunick’s garage.

    • 0 avatar

      I think F1 is already pretty interesting, but yeah… job 1 starts with NOT requiring Hermann Tilke to design a pretty but boring circuit with lots of runoff space. Make ’em hit a wall like Monaco!

      I’ll choose team principal for Scuderia Ferrari.

  • avatar

    I suppose being a Journeyman Mechanic who owned his own shop and got to try working in dealers, junkyards , gas stations , used car lots , road repairs and most fun of all , doing Salvage – Reconstruct for resale , isn’t what you wanted to hear huh ? .

    Let me tell you , it was my dream and I’ve loved 99 % of it over the decades .


    • 0 avatar

      Nate – I believe that your satisfaction is poetic, and also your reward for a life well-lived. I salute your accomplishments. Let us hope neither of us, or our chronological compatriots, are anywhere near finished finding new challenges.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    The second coming of Mark Donahue.

    If it’s got wheels, I’ll race it. And win.

  • avatar

    As a mechanical engineer who previously worked in new product development on vehicular products (non-automotive, but enough former auto engineers it was a microcosm of the auto industry), which coincidentally is close enough to my high-school dream job, I would choose to be a fabricator or mechanic for a custom shop that builds hot rods or concept cars.

    The technical design/engineering drudgery of the auto industry is enough to murder the spirit of a true gearhead in cold blood. And we wonder why new cars have no “soul” anymore.

  • avatar

    Still figuring out the car, but I’ve been on that path since I was about 8… currently 27 and working in Research for a major US automaker on diesel engines.

  • avatar

    The car buyer for Leno. I’m pretty sure he has na aide or another that researches, looks for cars and all that for him. WOuld be a pretty good job.

  • avatar

    Working as a mechanical engineer, I guess I’m already living the dream – but in a decidedly non-automotive industry.

    Stunt car driving could be fun.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t change a thing – except I should have chosen a different Rabbi to grease my rails while ascending the corporate ladder. Interacting with all the small family-run and owned dealerships in small town Canada and America gave me a birdseye view of the North American auto industry and the roots from where it came. I also saw the transition to corporate culture a la Penske and the mega-dealers with billions in annual sales and boards of directors instead of the family thrashing out yet another quarterly order sheet. My own Father transformed an old debt into a dual franchise that allowed us all the privilege of working six days a week doing everything from sweeping floors to cashing contracts to cover payroll. As he always said ” Son, you want to know how to make a small fortune in the car business? Start out with a large one.” Followed by huge laughter even though we’d all heard it a thousand times. Whenever I drive through the rural areas, I always recognize the remnants of one of those shops with a planning volume of 30 cars annually that used to thrive in small towns. When I turned 18, I told him I never wanted to wash another car or smell gear grease again. He sold the store. I guess my career in the financial side of the OEM’s was a classic case of blind justice. What would I do if I had it to do all over again? Probably stay home and see to his legacy. To my mind, being your own boss and being an honorable businessman in a small town is its own reward. I’m not sure that the corporate ethos infecting America today is compatible with that goal. It’s telling that I’m of two minds even 40 years later.

  • avatar

    Dream job thoughts:
    1) Valentino Balboni should be retiring soon (if he hasn’t already). Test driving Lamborghini’s can’t be all bad.
    2) Test driver for Ferrari / Red Bull / McLaren formula 1 team (too much pressure and nonsense being one of the top two guys.
    3) Adrian Newey’s assistant – how much could you learn just standing next to that guy everyday?

    Dream garage:
    1) Convertible sports car for weekend jaunts
    2) Audi R8L for nights out on the town
    3) Pickup truck (with sliding rear window so I can throw empties into the bed)

    Yep, that about covers it.

  • avatar

    I want to be a used car salesman in a run down community. I love plaid pants, slicked back hair and the taste of Sen-Sen.

  • avatar

    I want to own a drag strip…On an aircraft carrier.

  • avatar

    Hyundai USA Corporate they’re still on the rise and I want a position where I can make some decisions and see if I can stop them from turning into as being boring as Toyota and still be profitable and world dominating.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny, I was going to say director of strategy… but for Nissan. I would love to see the R&D and analysis that justified the Juke, Cube, Versa, altima coupe and all the other vehicles TTAC hates.

      Joking aside I think they’re in a very interesting position where they are profitable because of the disliked cars (Sentra, Versa) but still very much trying to ply the enthusiast (370z, infiniti g, GT-R). And then there is the whole Leaf issue. Interesting times.

  • avatar

    I’m deceptively fast, high maintenance and always well ahead of where I should be:

    Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

  • avatar

    Staff translator/tech writer for Toyota.

  • avatar

    I want to run my own import/export business to countries with the least amount of red tape (i.e., not America). I want to buy crappy cheap used cars off Craigslist, ship them, and somehow make lots of cash. The Cressidas go to Afganistan, the Lincoln LS’s go to Russia, and the classic Skylines come to me.

  • avatar

    Jeremy Clarkson

  • avatar

    I want to be the Jetson’s flying car! Gets great mileage, too.

    Also, I can fly OVER Cincinnati to work instead of driving 100 miles a day AROUND it!

    That way I can fly over all the corporate rubbish that others call meaningful work and do something meaningful instead of designing stuff that no one is going to be willing to pay for!

  • avatar

    My old landlord from college had and incredible job. He worked for the Borg Warner plant in town starting in the 80’s and he stayed there until the plant closed in 2006. He tested prototype drivetrain components. Anything vehicle that used Borg Warner drivetrain components he drove. From Vipers and Corvettes to lowly GMC Jimmy’s, it was his job to beat the crap out of the car at the local drag strip and then tear down the transmissions and differentials to see where common failures would present themselves. Also with near unlimited access to drivetrain parts he built all sorts of hot rods. I remember one time our water heater went out in our rental house and he showed up in a 57’ or 58’ Corvette. I can’t remember the modifications he did to it but I could hear its aggressive camshaft crackling and popping at idle and the rear tires were wider than my forearm, a seriously badass vehicle. He is retired and on a nice pension now. If he is not working on one of his college rental properties he is usually tinkering on some insane car project. So many late nights of cramming for exams or frantically completing a research paper did I wish for that man’s job. I still do.

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I’d like to be in control of Ford with a way back machine – Ford always seemed to have a good idea but somehow would screw it up. Windsor and Cleveland engines, canted valve heads with laughably over sized intake ports coupled to spectacularly crappy exhaust ports, mismanagement of the Mustang brand in the late 80’s through most of the 90’s and so on.

      In lieu of that, about seven or eight billion dollars and the green light to develop an affordable mid-engine Ford sports car. Nothing fancy, Boss engine coupled to a nice six or seven speed transmission in a chassis that wouldn’t weigh more than three thousand pounds.

  • avatar

    I’d love to be the guy who designed the Nissan RB26DETT…..

  • avatar

    The only thing I would career-wise change is I would have somehow gotten my current job about 5yrs sooner. I stayed in my previous job about that much too long. I’m a consultant/field engineer specializing in enterprise storage and backup systems. Interesting work, fun travel, and the pay can’t be complained about. Of course there is that minor detail about having accounting and law degrees – I have no major regrets about having gone to law school, but I guess if I could start over I would have gone to engineering school instead. Still very happy with my career path, and it seems to be somewhat recession resistant. Data never stops growing, and Sarbanes-Oxley means you have to keep it backed up and you can’t delete any of it.

    I’m pretty close to my dream garage now:
    3-series wagon for nice weather daily driver
    Jeep Grand Cherokee foul weather daily driver/tow beast
    Fiat Abarth track day/autocross toy
    Triumph Spitfire sunny day toy

    Just need to sell a couple superfluous toys, and I wouldn’t mind having a NEW JGC once the BMW and FIAT are paid off.

  • avatar

    My father and I went to the Pontiac dealer back in ’76. His Civic wagon was in for service, they sold Honda’s as a side line at the time. I watched a video in the waiting room that demonstrated how Pontiac tested their cars. I can still remember seeing this guy in a blue Firebird nailing the gas and then without letting off, slamming it back and forth between reverse and drive over and over. Nothing but a screaming engine and tire smoke that engulfed the car. I thought that would be the coolest job in the world. I’d still like to get a job abusing cars.

  • avatar

    I want to change my response to working with Adrian Newey on those robot cars during the onset of the tech wars in Formula One. Nothing was out of the realm of possibility, since they didn’t know what, if any, their limits were. I’m sure an enterprising engineer was postulating that a car could theoretically be driven 10/10th’s while automatically setting chassis trim, gear changes, valve timing, wing angles, etc. Or, alternately, having enough money to buy the Honda team in early 2009(?)and hire Ross Brawn to oversee the new Peterson DGP009 and get Jensen to drive it.

  • avatar

    While it would be fun to work in a restoration or custom shop, I think my automotive dream job would be as a curator for an automotive museum or a nice collection.

  • avatar
    Mr Butterfly

    I’d become an accountant all over again just because it’s so damn delightful to get paid essentially for sitting in a chair. Or occasionally I have a challenge of sitting in multiple chairs in one day – that is if someone has an uncontainable urge to call a meeting or two. Then my chair usage goes through the roof.

    Besides then I’d get another chance to sit in a chair and have more thoughts about what I’d be if I wasn’t an accountant.
    Oh, a man can dream.

  • avatar

    I love my job, my employer I’m not too crazy about. Going back 20 years would allow me to make a very good living at what I do, not just an mediocre one. Going back 30 years would make it even better.

    I’d rather be Richard Hammond, only taller and without the life threatening crash. But yeah, some kind of auto journalist or test driver. My favorite job growing up was being a car prep for Enterprise. Cleaning cars for me is rewarding and I enjoyed driving the different types of cars. It’s a minimum wage job though. They do have a group of older men and women who shuffle cars between the offices,dealers and auctions. Maybe in my retirement…

  • avatar

    I would not change a thing. I worked in the export forwarding business for over 45 years. I handled shipments all over the world and spend much time in Europe and other areas of the world selling my services. Finally ended up owning the business about 25 years ago. I hated to retire but I figured I wanted some down time and passed down the business to my son in Law.
    Business is good and he makes a good living. This after retiring
    from the NYPD as a Capitan after 22 years. With college costs being what they are this my gift to the grand kids. As for Carbspirits reply further back i ship a lot of cars mostly classic but most of the car traffic is from Toyota, Honda & Nissan. They ship out every two weeks juat about an entire boat load of cars to the Middle East & West Africa. These are cars that come off lease and are kind or rough around the edges or models they do not want to flood the markets with. They get good money for these cars. The balance of the used cars are handled by the Russian,Indians and other ethnic groups that have overseas contacts.I worked hard with sometimes long hours but i still love the business.

  • avatar

    If I was really rich, legally:

    I would hire both a cook and a personal trainer to get the weight off and get me into shape.
    I would go to drag racing school and get me my Funny Car license. I drove a 9 second car 30+ years ago, so I think I can do it.
    I would fund one of the out of work drivers out there to drive my main car, while I would drive the second one, learning my way to the point I was a decent driver, and then I would drive the better car.
    And then I wouldn’t be really rich anymore. But I would have had a great time for a few years, at least.

  • avatar

    Turned into a 16 year old back in the ’80s? The solution is obvious: Grease monkey to car repair specialist, learning all there is to know about smog controls. Take cash under the table from used car dealers for fudging smog tests and retire at 50.

  • avatar

    Forget the going back in time. If I can have any job I want in the auto biz today, I want to be GM’s CMO.


    I probably wouldn’t last long working for Dan the Man, but wow would it be interesting. And at least I could promise y’all that the ads would be good.

  • avatar

    Being some integral part of the SRT engineering team.

    Which would be relocated to the small town paradise where I currently live.

  • avatar

    A couple things. . .

    I’d like to have a non-televised Wheeler Dealer scenario. Buy interesting and well-received cars that aren’t quite classics, do important fixes to get them road-worthy, and sell them on.

    As a current IT Analyst, I’d like to work for a car company on better integration of technology into cars. Current interfaces are so unintuitive and unresponsive. I think I could do it better.

  • avatar

    Wait, wasn’t he the Schlitz Bull guy, not Colt 45?

  • avatar

    And why exactly has no one claimed Joe Isuzu yet

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