About the Builder
The other day I was reading a post on the LocostUSA forum, and the poster dropped in a comment that he planned to keep working on his Locost build, although he was a little frazzled right now because his wife had just passed away. The responses to the post were many and heartfelt, but one particular response got me thinking. The poster said he was very sorry for the man's loss, even though he only he only knew him as a fellow builder, and didn't really know much about him personally at all.
I think if anything happened to me, I'd want my fellow Locost builders to know I wasn't only a Locost builder, that I had a family and a career and other interests outside of cars. So that's what this page is about, and you still have time to click the Back button on your browser before we get into the details.
In my real life, I'm a software engineer with Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, CA. I've been there over 20 years, which is the better part of a computer career that started out in 1976 at a California drug store chain that was bought out by the evil CVS. I've always enjoyed the engineering part of the job, and always avoided attempts by various companies to move me into less-productive areas like management.
I didn't start out in computers. I didn't actually see a future in it. Instead I planned a career in automobile racing. From the time I got my first car, a well-worn MGA roadster, I thought it was just a matter of getting started at some level, probably SCCA, and then moving up higher and higher through the ranks until I made the F1 circuit. To support my early efforts, I worked nights and weekends at my local McDonalds, where I earned enough money by the spring of 1973 to buy an old formula vee race car.
The formula vee was cheap, but needed some work, and while we eventually got it running, we never got it out of second gear. We did take it to an autocross once, but our exhaust system failed tech and we never actually drove it. That was a major setback to my promising but unfulfilled Formula 1 career, and I decided the best way to proceed from there was to get a job that paid better, and buy a better race car. So I took a job in the mailroom at the offices of Longs Drug Stores in Walnut Creek.
This led to a job working in the computer room, and eventually to writing COBOL programs. By 1980 I was able to buy my first brand new car, a 1981 RX-7. I bolted in a roll bar and joined the SCCA, and started racing the car in SCCA's Showroom Stock A class, which was dominated at the time by Datsuns but was still a lot of fun. It took awhile, but I won my first race at Laguna Seca in 1983. I was an SCCA driving instructor for the next two years.
In 1985 my daughter was born and racing was suddenly not the most important thing in the world. F1 was definitely out of the picture, partly because I had other obligations now, and partly because I wasn't exactly tearing up the amateur racing circuit, a situation that was unlikely to improve in faster and more expensive racing series. In 1986 my wife left to pursue other interests, presumably with someone who still had hopes for an F1 career, and I spent the next 20 years raising my daughter.
When my daughter was very young she was fascinated by airplanes, so of course I was, too. I started out building and flying RC planes, and went from there to getting a pilot's license and taking lots of fun trips with my daughter. Then she learned to ride a bike and I had to get a bike to keep up, and that turned into a full-time hobby for the next ten years. Then my daughter got interested in cars. She was 11 years old and thought it would be a good idea to get a Miata.
The Miata woke something up inside of me. Although it had only been ten years since I'd last driven a sports car, it felt like a lifetime. We still rode bikes--my daughter completed her first century when she was 12--but the Miata was the future. It got me into track days, and got me thinking about my next car. In 2005 I saw a posting on miata.net about someone building a car from scratch, using parts from a Miata. The car was called a Locost.
From the first time I saw a picture of a Locost, I thought, how cool would it be to build one of these things with parts from an old M.G.? Smith gauges, Lucas electrics, Mowog castings. All British, and looks just like a Lotus 7. At the time I thought the Locost was an IRS design, but figured I might be able to adapt it to the MGB's live axle. Obviously exciting when I learned the news. Still, practical considerations and a lack of welding skills overruled the idea of actually building a Locost at the time.
Six months later my daughter left for college, and the house was suddenly very empty. I seemed to have all the time in the world. I still couldn't weld, but I could use my years of RC airplane building experience to build a Locost frame out of wood. That kept me busy for awhile, but I still had more free time than I knew what to do with, so I joined the local Miata club. Through the club I met my life partner, Kaitlyn.
It's been Kaitlyn ever since who's encouraged me to pursue this Locost dream. Two years ago, she enrolled me in a welding class at our local JC. A year ago she bought me a MIG welder. She's helped me throughout the build with ideas, advice, and moral support. She's shared in the excitement of every success, and has been there with reassuring words when things weren't going so well. She's the reason I use "we" and "our" in my build log. This Locost is as much hers as it is mine.
We hope to finish this project in the next year or so, and we plan to drive the Locost for many years after that. It won't be a daily driver--the Miata has that job locked up for the foreseeable future--but we're definitely going to have a lot of fun with it. I don't see building cars as a long-term hobby, because it's just too all-consuming and messy, but the project has got me thinking about restoring an old MGB, an idea I originally had back in my 20s that has never wandered too far away. But you never know. Anything can happen. Only time will tell.
Our Build Log