We’ve talked a lot about the start of the 2012 race and show season here at Rod Authority lately, and while that is exciting for most, not having your project car up and running and able to take part in the starting season can put a damper on things.

I may not have a classic American muscle car, pro-touring beast or boisterous track car, but I do have a never-ending project of my own that puts me in the boat with many other automotive enthusiasts this season – stuck on the sidelines.

So what does that mean for months worth of shows, races and track days? Well, broken down and in pieces or not, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the starting season. So for those of you who are facing another season without a useable “fun car,” this one’s for you!

A Bit of a Back Story

At 24 years old, I have had my eyes opened on several occasions to just how expensive and frustrating the car hobby can be. I am the daughter of a mechanic father so being a gearhead is in my blood. But when I bought my ‘95 LT1 Trans Am for my 19th birthday, I honestly didn’t know much of what I was getting myself into.

Thrust into the car scene with a slipping transmission (I had fallen so in love with the car I merely accepted the fact that the trans would go someday), I learned very quickly how tough being a “gearhead” could be. After the first transmission gave-way 20 miles from my house in the middle of the night, I set out to get a transmission that would last.

Not knowing any better, I ordered a “performance built” unit from a company on the east coast after waiting tables for several months to afford the upgrade and had it shipped to my home in Colorado.

After over three months, $2100 and having to get my dad involved to get the guy to actually ship the thing to me, I had it in my hands. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of my problems.

After having to fix the bell housing and installing the new transmission in the car, it only lasted me 9 months.

Turns out the guy I bought it from was scamming a lot of people across the country and selling transmissions that weren’t what they were supposed to be.

Tracking the guy down became impossible with phone numbers disconnected, websites taken down and return addresses void, putting me back at square-one. So over a year later when I finally had the funds again,

I had the transmission rebuilt. This time, it lasted me a little over a year and through my best race season yet. But once again, good things came to an end and the transmission blew at my first race of the 2011 season.

The car has been sitting in my garage for about a year now, only moving when I get the gusto to push it out to work on something else.

That makes five years of owning it, three transmissions blown, more money dumped into transmissions than the car is worth and a car that while it looks nice, remains undriveable.

While I could sell it, I’m too attached for that, so it will remain in storage until I can once again come up with the funds to fix it.

Where That Puts Me Now

Owning a project car that has been stored more than it’s been driven due to broken parts and weather (Colorado doesn’t exactly have the longest season for using performance cars) is frustrating. However, it has allowed me to become rather good at enjoying race/show seasons with nothing to drive. So if you find yourself in a similar boat this season, here are some ideas on how to not waste another automotive event.

Volunteer

Yes, working on a Saturday or Sunday for no money may not seem like the most appealing thing to do, but it can pay off.

With so many shows, races, fundraisers, etc popping up during the summer, there is bound to be plenty in need of some extra hands.

Most of the time, volunteering means free admission to the event for you and potentially your family.

You might also get a free meal, t-shirt or goodie bag for your help. So go enjoy the event, work a little bit, and probably get closer to the nice rides than anyone else.

Volunteering is also a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in the industry. Whether it be company representatives, big-name racers or the next up-and-coming star, you’ll have a better chance of talking to these individuals if you volunteer.

Got a company that would like to sponsor events or racers? Even better! When the head honchos of a company can match a name with a face, and talk to you in person, you have a much better “in.”

So whether you’d just like to experience a big event, get to know event participants better or network, volunteering is a great opportunity. Plus it’s free, so you can save all your pennies for that project sitting in your garage!

Head a Race Team

You don’t have to be the best or fastest racer, or even have a working car to head a club that races at events.

Get a group of your buddies together, bring along your grill and have a great time at the track.

While you won’t have a car to race, you’ll still be able to hang out, experience the event and swap plenty of bench racing stories.

Another perk of not racing is your admission to race-day events is cheaper than the competitors’ price. That means more funds in the way of parts for your project at home.

Go to Events Regardless

Lets be honest, going to a car show or event without your prized ride can be depressing. However, if you don’t have your ride with you, you can enjoy yourself without worrying if someone’s putting fingerprints on your new wax job or if your car is sitting in the sun too long.

Just go out and have fun. Chances are there will be plenty of other guys and gals that don’t have their rides out at the show either, and plenty more that understand what it’s like to go a season or two without a running vehicle. Take this opportunity to talk to fellow enthusiasts, get new ideas for your project car and enjoy the event without stressing about walking away from your own car for awhile.

Ride-Alongs

Driving is fun, but riding along with someone who has a completely different setup or skill-level than yourself can also be a blast.

Not only will you be able to see some incredible drivers and cars, you might also get a chance to ride along through the autocross course.

Whether it be drivers that just want to show off their skills or company owners who want to show off their suspension products, there are bound to be a few drivers willing to take you around the course a time or two if regulations allow.

Going into a race and show season without a vehicle to compete with can be a real bummer, but that’s no reason to sit at home and not enjoy being a gearhead the best way you can for the time being.

We’ve all been there, so just go out and have fun this season. And who knows, you might just get some ideas for your project car or make some beneficial contacts that you never would have of otherwise.