Chicagoland MG Club: Tech Tips

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  Chicagoland MG Club:Tech Tips

How To Host A Tech Session

Tech sessions are generally held in the form of a hands-on educational seminar, so people may learn how to maintain or repair their vintage car. It is not usually done for the express purpose of repairing someone's car, but the two functions can coexist nicely. The formula is actually fairly simple:

1.) Pick a topic for discussion, a car, an assembly on or off the car, or even a single part that may need repair or adjustment. Things that are common on the cars but are not commonly seen or touched or well understood are prime candidates for a tech session.
2.) Have available a host location, a place to meet and work with proper facilities and tools to do the work. This is quite often a member's home garage and his own car for the subject. A central location with easy access for a large number of members is desirable early on. When the program expands you can reach out to more remote locations in alternate directions to serve more of the membership (with expected smaller attendance per event).
3.) Have available a master mechanic (instructor) who is someone who actually knows how to do the procedure. He doesn't need to know how to fix the whole car, just the one part that will be subject of the specific tech session. He may or may not get his hands dirty (but usually does).
4.) Invite at least one student who will be there to learn how to do the procedure. Students may or may not get their hands dirty, but it is good if at least one does.
5.) Have available at least one mechanic who is willing to get hands dirty to do the work. He is not required to know how as long as he can follow direction of the master mechanic. This person(s) may be either the master mechanic or one or more of the students. Minimum attendance required for any tech will be one master mechanic and one student. The sole exception would be a master mechanic video taping or photographing the solo procedure for publication. Larger attendance is preferred as a matter of efficiency to educate more people.
6.) Advertise the event well in advance, minimally in at least one copy of the club newsletter delivered at least one week in advance of the event. Preferably publish it in more than one monthly issue of the newsletter (although that seldom happens here). It is also good to post the details and invitation on the club web site (if available) as early as possible, and announce it in at least one club meeting before the event. For club publicity it is desirable for the event be open to anyone interested, not limited to local club members. Feel free to pass the announcement on to other clubs in the area. Most of the attendees will be local club members anyway, but if you get a few visitors you may recruit some new members, or get publicity in another club newsletter. The program may ultimately cross pollinate between neighboring clubs.
7.) Details of the announcement must include minimally the Subject, Date, Time, and Location (MapQuest link). Also good to include a personal contact for inquiries including name, phone number, email address (if available). Additional details may be added, such as names of the host and some of the participants, and scope of the work to be done. Condition of the facilities may be of interest, such as easy driving access, plenty of parking available, heated garage for winter sessions, if refreshments might be provided, and maybe plans for lunch if it is expected to run long.
8.) Actually hold the tech session, even if you think perhaps only one person may show up. Do not cancel it for any reason (unless it is something entirely beyond anyone's control). If even one event is canceled or does not happen when someone shows up, the club can get a certain reputation for unreliability that may adversely affect peoples' decisions to attend future events.
9.) Not mandatory, but it is good to take pictures at the event. Get some close up pictures of the work in progress. Also good for publicity if you have photos of the facility and all (or at least some) of the attendees and cars parked around the place to show good interest and participation. Aside from the technical photos, you might figure out for yourself what makes good human interest pictures. A photo showing nothing but asses and elbows is always good. Big boy's tools are good attention grabbers, large wrench, big hammer, torch, welder, engine hoisting, any power tools or special tune-up tools, etc. Photos and notes about alternate things on the side are good, if for instance another impromptu tech session breaks out in the car park (which is very common any time multiple British cars get together).
10.) Post a follow-up report in the club newsletter, good for all who attended or didn't attend. Photos are good when space allows. Post the report also on club web site if available. If you have enough close up pictures of the work in progress, you can post the photo series on a web site with appropriate notes to make an on-line training session. For club publicity it is good to have the report in a public venue, not requiring club membership or password for access. The web site commonly allows more space than a printed newsletter, can be presented world wide, and can retain the information indefinitely (when properly indexed). We do not get to be world renown hiding behind a membership password.

As a side note, people tend to prefer bench work to under car work. For example, disassembling and reassembling a gearbox is a lot more interesting than taking it out of the car and putting it back in. Reason is, partly because people could figure out how to do the grunt work on their own, or partly because many people may have already done it before, while inside of the gearbox is a total mystery to a lot of people. Tech sessions that will attract larger attendance will be educational in nature. Grunt sessions to exchange an engine or gearbox can attract a few people, usually friends or acquaintances of the car owner, or those who may just show up for any tech event, or a few people who have never done it before.

Tech sessions are commonly specific to certain car models, and as such will attract different people to different tech sessions. Zenith-Stromberg carburetor is common to post 1974 models, front drum brakes are common to pre-1960 models. MGA seats are unique to MGA and will attract primarily MGA owners. Similar for any parts that are single model specific. Problems that are common for lots of cars may have larger attendance, like MGB front suspension rebuild, single to dual carburetor conversion, generator to alternator conversion, positive to negative ground conversion, dogleg repair, rebuild of carburetors, engine or gearbox.

Variety is the spice of life for an extended tech program, covering various subjects in various locations for various models of cars. It is okay to repeat certain more popular subjects at intervals of several years as the club membership changes. When our club tech program is in full swing with at least one event per month all year round, it attracts more total attendance over a year's time than any other activity of the club (other than monthly membership meetings). The reason is quite simple; people can't drive the cars if they don't run, and lots of people need lots of help to restore and maintain vintage cars.

-- Barney Gaylord

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