It’s an age-old value judgement: did you build it or buy it? Where do you draw the line?


ONCE upon a time, bumper stickers indicated which parts of the countryside your parents dragged you around during the school holidays. While the kids sweated their arses off in the back seat because none of the moderately chilled air from the knee-knocker air con could make it past the giant bench seat, Mum and Dad worked out which ‘tourist attraction’ to head to next. You’d stay long enough to eat a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, buy the obligatory bumper sticker and/or fridge magnet, and then head off for the next destination.

Times have changed. You hardly ever see a ‘I’ve been to the Back of Bourke’ or ‘Welcome to Ora Banda’ bumper sticker any more, it’s all ‘Love it or leave it’, ‘F— off, we’re full’ or ‘#straya’. But the one I’ve seen a lot amongst the modified car and motorbike scene lately is: ‘Built not bought’.

It’s nothing new; for as long as I can remember there has been a home-built versus gold-chainer divide amongst the street machine and hot rod community. Of course, no one ever admits to being the gold-chainer, it’s just something that someone accuses you of, usually with no knowledge of your situation, skill set or whether you did do any work on the car. Basically, if it’s a highly detailed show car, then you must have paid someone else to do it.

The fact of the matter is, some people are good at making money and others are good at making bits of metal into masterpieces of rolling art. Why is it a bad thing for someone who has the money – but not all of the required skills – to pay a person or workshop to build the machine of their dreams? At the end of the day, everyone goes home happy – well, in a perfect world anyway. The guy with the money takes home his new toy and the guy in the workshop gets to stay in business, feed his family and get on to the next job. And let’s face it, there are some people out there building stuff who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a tool shed!

Making some kind of distinction between a ‘built’ car and a ‘bought’ car is pretty stupid, because at the end of the day it was someone’s bare hands that cut, filed, bolted and welded the thing together, not some soulless robot. When you poke fun at someone for being a gold-chainer or a chequebook builder, you’re really disrespecting the people that use their prodigious talents to create the cars we all love. You have to remember that people like Shane Rowe, Greg Maskell and Ziggy Sadler – not to mention Troy Trepanier, the Ring brothers and Chip Foose – were all car guys that managed to turn their passion into a viable business.

Where the argument really loses any credibility is that it doesn’t really define at which point you stop building and start buying. If you want to get really ridiculous about it, do we need to mine, process, cast and forge all of our own metal? Maybe if Lang Hancock or Twiggy Forrest were car guys, they’d be the ultimate ‘builders’. There aren’t too many people that machine their own engines in the garage, and more often than not people don’t do the paint or the interior trim themselves either.

It’s like the old adage of ‘Good/Fast/Cheap – pick any two’. In this case your options are ‘Time/Money/Energy’, and it’s not really a choice, more an indication of your current situation. When you’re young you’ve got plenty of time and energy, but no money. Get a bit older and you’ve finally got the money and a fair bit of energy, but you’ve got no time – because you’re too busy trying to make money. Get to the point in your life when you’ve finally got the time and the money, and it turns out that you’re too knackered to do anything about it.

Work to your strengths, that’s the secret.