CUSTOMERS

A light hearted (or maybe not?) look at the bane of my life. Building engines means you have to deal with customers. Despite years of trying I haven't managed to find a way round it. People are hard enough work at the best of times - I much prefer my cats to be honest. Customers are a special kind of people though even when compared to the norm and after 10 years of building engines for them I find they split into three main categories - types 1, 2 and 3.

Type 1's know next to nothing about engines, either by choice, lack of research or the inevitable consequences of youth. They have to place all their trust in the firm they go to and they either get ripped off in spades or get a good job as fate dictates. Type 1's tend to be very swayed by the nonsense power claims in the car comics that mainly feature topless totty these days because they have no way of evaluating whether what they are told could possibly be realistic or not. 300 bhp for your Mini engine sir? - certainly, just step this way and we'll fit our stage III chip which bolts on 200 bhp with 5 minutes work. If they have been recommended to you because you built a fast engine for someone they know then none of that matters. If they are just shopping around and asking everyone who advertises the same questions then you tend not to hear back from them because someone out there will always be claiming more power for less money. They are pretty easy to deal with though. They only tend to ask two questions - how much power and how much money. That makes replying a fairly quick and painless task. You either hear back or you don't. The only bit I dislike about type 1s is that if you build them a really exceptional engine they don't have a clue just how good it is and think they'd probably have got the same if they'd gone somewhere else.

Type 3's know lots about engines. They tend to be older, wiser, considerably more intelligent and have maybe raced cars or even built their own engines at some time. They know what works, what doesn't and what they want. They also tend to have bigger budgets and aren't afraid to spend it with someone they know who will build them something exceptional. Type 3's have usually heard about you because a car with one of your engines went past them on the pit straight like they were stopped at the side of the road having a picnic and they asked around until they found out who built it. The only question they tend to ask is "can I have one like that please?" I like type 3's very much :)

Somewhere between types 1 and 3 lie type 2's. Type 2's are a pain in the bloody arse. Type 2's have read a motley assortment of nonsense about engines, gleaned from crappy sources like car magazines, web sites and their mates down the pub and think they actually understand something about how engines work. Really hardcore type 2's sometimes quote formulae at you. They are torn between desire for more power and fear of getting ripped off. They try to evaluate you and think they are capable of actually doing so. They ask dozens of stupid questions, most of which make no sense. They want to know what all that extra power will do to their fuel consumption / low speed torque / reliability. They ask "but ah, will it still run on unleaded?" They send you links to other company's web sites and ask you why you don't build your own engines like that and if not which is the best way to go. They agonize for ever about whether they should spend their money on intake mods or exhaust mods, cylinder head or camshafts, big valves or small, throttle bodies or carbs. They make an absolutely final decision and then read something new in the latest edition of the Beano Guide to Engine Tuning and change their minds again because it contradicts what they had previously thought. You give them the benefit of your 20 years of engine tuning experience and they give it the same worth as what their mate Spike, who once skimmed 20 thou off the cylinder head of his Yamaha moped and made it go quite well, says. They ask if Spike can ring you and have a chat instead because he knows quite a bit about engines and might help them make their mind up. They bullshit excessively about how much they are thinking of spending in an effort to make you think they are a "serious player" and spend lots of time on them as if you've never fallen for that one before.

You spend two hours on the phone with them, write ten emails answering their daft questions and then never hear from them again because they bought a Vauxhall Vectra with the money instead. Type 2's should be put up against the wall and shot.

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