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Engine building as a career?


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#1 klevliend

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 05:22 PM

So maybe a little left of centre but I'm interested engine building as a career. How do you start off in this? Is it an apprenticeship or is it just expected that you already have experience as a machinist or fitter and turner?

 

Are there any engine builders on here who can share some sort of career path? 

 

Or even just general opinions on what it's like as a job? I assume its not all tunnel rams and superchargers!

 

Cheers

 



#2 rodomo

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Posted 11 October 2021 - 08:48 PM

Where in Melb are you?



#3 Heath

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 09:27 AM

Rodomo (above) has a mate who is an excellent engine builder in Melbourne, probably worth a chat to him if he's willing.

Typically I'd recommend knocking on doors to the top shops, put yourself out there and show you're proactive and enthusiastic. Bit hard during COVID of course. I kind of doubt really good places like Dandy Engines would have 200 resumes piled up on their desk.

I assume its not all tunnel rams and superchargers!

Well in the last 20 years or so, I would actually say engine building is probably getting more glamorous rather than less glamorous.
I mean tunnelrams and superchargers aren't specifically what's becoming more popular, but back in the day an engine builder would do a lot of stock rebuilds on stock Ford and Holden 6 and V8 engines (XF Falcons, WB utes, etc.) and that has really changed... but with the way the modern automobile is (for pedestrian use, we're talking) it's more typical for an engine builder to be immersed in interesting stuff such as vintage motors or performance motors exclusively.

Whether the industry has the longevity to stay around for a good working life or not, I'm not sure. Currently, it's off its head.
What the future of regulation on internal combustion engines means in Australia, I cannot predict.

#4 Rockoz

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 11:25 AM

Someone else here may remember it a bit better.

But I did see a piece somewhere on one of the race engine builders in the states offering courses.

Apparently there was a good chance of them employing you as well.

Not sure if it was something you had to pay for, or their way of training builders.

From what I can gather it is a pretty mobile workforce in the states.

Lots of chances for employment in different workshops.

 

Locally though, an apprenticeship at an engine reconditioner may be the first step.

A friend of mine did his mechanical apprenticeship at a reconditioners many moons ago.

Then perhaps look for work in a more performance oriented workshop once you have some runs on the board.

 

Cheers

 

Rob



#5 hanra

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 12:27 PM

What type of mechanics will be getting employed in the future that have the ability to work mechanically on a vehicle, and also have a deep level of electronics knowledge to repair the increasing number of EV's? 



#6 Peter UC

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 01:31 PM

I would have no issues recommending engine building to a young person because, worst case, if you engine builders are not really required in the future you can easily become a fitter and turner. A lot of the skills will transfer.

But as Heath said, be proactive and knock on doors and you will probably have to ask more than once, make sure they know you are really interested.



#7 Heath

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 02:33 PM

Someone else here may remember it a bit better.
But I did see a piece somewhere on one of the race engine builders in the states offering courses.

I have no knowledge of that, but I do know of one course that you can do from your bedroom.

High Performance Academy do an online engine building course which is probably focused on more OHC motors (I don't think that's a bad thing, BTW)
Also, you could just start bolting motors together for people in your free time to get some experience, you won't have control of the machining processes, but you can get an idea of whether you enjoy spending your time doing it or not, pretty easily.

#8 Rockoz

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 04:04 PM

Definitely wasnt HP Academy.

It was one of the mobs in the states that did NASCAR engines among other things.

Its definitely an art.

In the early 80s a Group C 308 was worth around 30k from memory.

At the same time you could buy an engine from the Trading Post with the same basic bits for around 2k.

The cost back then was extra attention to machining, and they were assembled and disassembled at least 3 times during the build process.

 

Hanging around the pits in those days, you could often hear the guys with 2k engines trying to get them moving at the entry.

They werent very nice to drive.

But the race cars behaved quite well idling around the pits to scrutineering and back.

Doing it properly was the key.

 

Cheers

 

Rob



#9 klevliend

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 04:42 PM

Thanks for all the replies guys, its really helpful. I think you're right Heath, its probably a word of mouth thing, just talking to the right people and waiting for something to open up. 

 

Hey Rodomo, I'm in Coburg

 

I'm not too concerned about wether engine building will still be a career in 20+ years etc. For one I've got other qualifications I can fall back on but also, I really can't see Australian's giving up their classic cars anytime soon. 

 

I've done one or two free Horsepower Academy courses online before, maybe I should fork out and pay for some more. Have you done many Heath and how did you find them?

 

Over covid I have built my first engine and really enjoyed it. Just a 186 on a shoestring budget. Have run in the cam (what a relief that was) and drove it a little, just waiting for travel restrictions to ease so I can go further than 15km to run in the engine. I really liked the engineering and science behind how to get the horsepower. Before motortrend got cancelled here in AUS I readily followed engine masters and learnt lots from that. I read ld Johnno's guide to death (that think is an absolute gift, thank you Old Johnno) and also read David Vizard's how to flow and port cylinder heads. Off the back of that I was able to pretty successfully port a 161 high comp for my engine (with help from HSD too) and really enjoyed doing that too.

 

If anyone's up for a chat on what its like being an engine builder I'm keen to hear  :D

 

While doing a bit more reading yesterday I was looking at Speed Works' webpage, a friend had his engine done there. Anyway, in the about section introducing the team theres Tony sitting in a boat with a big supercharged V8. It got me thinking about all the career photos I see of people with strained smiles, looking at a camera, standing up against a white office wall... I know which photo I'd rather be in  :P



#10 Zook

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 06:32 PM

Being an engine builder day to day would suck arse. You should never do what you love as a job. If you do then you have no life. I'm a machinist by trade and I love it but fcuk doing it for a job all week for the rest of my life. You can be an engine builder without it being your job or being 'qualified'. Lord knows there are people here machining that don't know what they're doing. If you want a trade be a plumber or lectrician .

#11 klevliend

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 07:45 PM

Haha thanks Zook. Fair play, I'd thought about that too, whether doing what I love as a job would ruin it for me.



#12 RallyRed

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 07:54 PM

I guess the other thing to consider maybe the realities of the industry.
Customers that you tell, don't rev it over 7000, go on to impress their mates by giving it the 8500 treatment.
Poor oil/ filter change habits etc etc...then you get dramas "'cause the engine you built me blew up mate, no good". etc etc

#13 Zook

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Posted 12 October 2021 - 08:16 PM

Haha thanks Zook. Fair play, I'd thought about that too, whether doing what I love as a job would ruin it for me.

Respect. Somebody has to present the counter argument. Thanks.

#14 Heath

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Posted 13 October 2021 - 10:08 AM

Mate your approach & attitude about it sounds pretty good to me.

Just keep on reading, studying, and practicing on engine work with you and your friend's projects and if your enthusiasm just keeps getting stronger, perfect.

I've done one or two free Horsepower Academy courses online before, maybe I should fork out and pay for some more. Have you done many Heath and how did you find them?

Yeah, I did 'Wiring Fundamentals', and 'Practical Wiring - Club Level'. They were great. I have not done their engine building one.

I guess Engine Masters isn't left in its entirity on YouTube or anything with the current ownership of rights, etc.

#15 LXCHEV

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Posted 13 October 2021 - 10:44 AM

It's an interesting point about not making your passion, your job. Very true words indeed. HOWEVER - in order to become an absolute gun in any particular field - you may actually consider having it as a day job for at least a handful of years first.  Consider it an investment. You need to get the hard runs on the board first, the hours of hands-on experience.... encountering a whole raft of different builds, scenarios, customers, problems, solutions, equipment etc etc... once you have a few years under your belt and it starts feeling monotonous, that's when you back off and move onto something else - but you will never lose that experience.

 

If I was getting an engine built by someone - I would rather take it to someone who has spent years practicing that craft, and can just about do it in their sleep, versus someone who just dabbles in the field and didn't come from a background of being on the tools.

 

If I could live my life over - I reckon I'd do half a dozen apprenticeships (learn the skills and become qualified) as a true jack of all..... i.e sparky, chippie, plumber, engine builder, whatever!! To become the best and to be that "go-to" person though, you need to do the time first.



#16 Redslur

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Posted 13 October 2021 - 11:14 AM

I am a mechanic by trade but have been off the tools for 20 odd years. I have taken up building the old 308/355 engines combos over the last 5 or so years as i love them so much. I have probably built close to a dozen different combos in the last 5 years all performance based aiming in the 300-500+ hp range. Every engine gets better and you sure learn all the little tricks along the way. I only do it for myself or for mates so don't charge a cent as I don't want to have to warrant an engine. If I had my time again, and after serving my apprenticeship, I would have gone looking for a performance shop to work in. It would have been so much fun :-). SO far have had good luck with all my engines, no failures or leaks yet :-)

 

Go for gold mate. You only get one shot at the title so follow your dreams :-)



#17 rodomo

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Posted 13 October 2021 - 08:52 PM

Bring back tech schools.



#18 klevliend

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 11:23 AM

LXChev - exactly. I really like the idea of gaining all that knowledge, experience and skills. I know I will make use of all that even if I were to eventually find the work monotonous and feel the need to move on. I don't think I could look back and consider it a waste ever. 

 

Rodomo, earlier this year I was chatting to a guy involved in the TAFE fitter and turner course. He was saying him and the only other guy who teach it are retiring in the next year and it will end with them. He was saying the TAFE has been looking to get rid of the course for ages because they have so few students but take up so much space with their workshop. A real pity

 

Anyway, thanks for all the advice, I will see whats out there 



#19 Rockoz

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 03:43 PM

Its sad the way trade training has gone.

For many years, Port Kembla Steelworks had 140 apprentice electricians, 140 apprentice fitters, 140 apprentice boilermakers go through their training centre each year.

All of them also attended the local TAFE.

There were also a number of apprentice carpenters, mouldmakers and other smaller trades each and every year.

I believe it was similar at Newcastle Steelworks, and NSW Railways also had a large number of apprentices each and every year.

 

The TAFE system has been gutted with the predominance of other training companies offering the same results.

But the private training companies dont provide the same level of training, or the requirements for a pass that TAFE had.

 

Cant see that changing anytime in the future.

Possibly the only large number of apprentices these days with good training would be the defence forces.

But that life isnt for everyone.

 

Cheers

 

Rob



#20 Ice

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 04:23 PM

Its sad the way trade training has gone.

For many years, Port Kembla Steelworks had 140 apprentice electricians, 140 apprentice fitters, 140 apprentice boilermakers go through their training centre each year.

All of them also attended the local TAFE.

There were also a number of apprentice carpenters, mouldmakers and other smaller trades each and every year.

I believe it was similar at Newcastle Steelworks, and NSW Railways also had a large number of apprentices each and every year.

 

The TAFE system has been gutted with the predominance of other training companies offering the same results.

But the private training companies dont provide the same level of training, or the requirements for a pass that TAFE had.

 

Cant see that changing anytime in the future.

Possibly the only large number of apprentices these days with good training would be the defence forces.

But that life isnt for everyone.

 

Cheers

 

Rob

Tafe ppfftt you don’t need that anymore go to Bunnings spend $1000 on tools and hey presto you’re a tradie 

no qualifications needed half the people in trades today are not qualified  full stop 

wasted 4 years at Tafe that didn’t teach me anything i didn’t  already know for a piece of paper when you learn most of your trade on the job 



#21 claysummers

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 06:27 PM

They all go to uni now and still come out knowing zip. Learn on the job I agree. But it helps to understand the theory. I don’t know where you can get that now.


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#22 rodomo

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 09:16 PM

 Rodomo, earlier this year I was chatting to a guy involved in the TAFE fitter and turner course. He was saying him and the only other guy who teach it are retiring in the next year and it will end with them. He was saying the TAFE has been looking to get rid of the course for ages because they have so few students but take up so much space with their workshop. A real pity

 

I started tech straight out of grade 6. There was the usual maths, english, social studies, science, art, music and PE but there was also woodwork, sheetmetal, fitting and machining, technical drawing  and motor mechanics as an elective. I was 11.

 

I started a motor mechanics apprentiship at 15 in a government department where costs were never in question in regards to learning.


Edited by rodomo, 14 October 2021 - 09:19 PM.





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