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Dealing with Advice Seekers

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I read a great column in my current Drag Illustrated magazine by Will Hanna called the “Advice Buffet.” The theme of the article is how some racers and hot rodders seek advice from several sources. In most cases, the many sources will differ cost and effort to the seeker. The seeker will seek until he or she hears what they want, which is usually the cheapest and easiest answer, but most likely not the best. As racers and engine builders we have all been an entrée of – as Will Hanna called it – “the Advice Buffet”

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I have dealt with info seekers for over 50 years. Some were legit possible customers, and some not. Some were just “brain bleeders” with no intention of spending a dime with me. Those seekers are the ones pretending to want work done by me and ask pertinent questions. Some will con me into a detailed estimate. Then the seeker uses my information for themselves.

The con artist is the one I get more of than the “Buffet Advice Seeker.” I sometimes get those seekers and con artists on the phone, some even make a personal appointment to discuss their project.

One thing I want to make clear – I will always give advice to anyone who asks and it may be sound advice the seeker might not want to hear. I may even throw out some pertinent basic info and I will never withhold information that could be a danger to them or their project.

How many times have we heard the seeker tell you what so and so said and how much cheaper they can do it?

Not long ago, I had a prime example. I turned down a job I would have liked. This young man raced at RT 66 in Joliet where I work as an official part time. The young man wanted to step up a class, but his budget was several thousand dollars below reality – by my standards anyway. 

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One of his main issues was the stock 302 Windsor block he wanted to use. The horsepower he wanted was more than that stock 302 two-bolt block would take. I told him he required an aftermarket SVO or Dart four-bolt block. Heads were another issue. He had no parts to volunteer to the effort. Just a stock 302 block. I pushed my pencil hard and sharp, the best I could. Even with some pro bono labor, the price still came out several thousand more than he could spend. 

This went off and on for several days. Then he told me a friend of his could make him even more horsepower than required and do it cheaper. I wished him good luck. I wonder how many other engine builders he contacted. I never saw him at 66 again.

I have had many incidents like this during my five-decade watch. As for my sincere customers, I will do anything, even disco in the street, to insure they run well. I will go beyond the engine info if necessary.

As for the engine or related parts I am involved in with my customers, I provide a detailed build sheet with all settings and specs. My customers get a complete summary of what was done and a list of all parts used. The customer gets a folder copy and I keep one on file. I want my stuff to run well.

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As for racers seeking info, I am usually an open book. Even if they are not my customer, and perhaps are even racing against me.

Exchanging information with a reliable peer can be very valuable. The common racer questions are timing, tire pressure, rpm, clutch/torque convertor, camshaft, fuel, valve springs, etc. I also caution them that what works for me or another, may not work for them. All race cars and drivers differ. Plus, it takes a combination of many factors to make it work.

The funny thing I discovered about giving advice is there are some who partake in the “Advice Buffet,” and if the advice fails, it is a big boo hoo to the giver. If it works, the seeker claims the idea as their own.

Several times in my many years, I have had things told to me by those I taught the info to in the first place! I think some seekers seem to forget the source and actually believe they came up with the info.

To sum it up, I guess it is a judgment call for the buffet provider whether the seeker is for real or just a brain bleeder. As I said earlier, for real customers, I will do all things possible to keep my customers informed. If I don’t have the answer, I will find it for them. My personal customer handling policy is what beats out mail order crate engines. EB

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