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Car Connoisseur: Damion Robertson

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“The love of cars came from watching my dad and his cousin working on cars. So when I was about 6 or so, my dad bought this old and rusted 1983 Mitsubishi Galant; we were never rich so of course, it was an absolute piece of sh*t. It didn’t even run. Around that same time, one of his cousins just started school at JAGAS, so on weekends they would work on the car, trying it bring it back from the dead. My dad was an electrician so he did the wiring while his cousin did the mechanical work. After a while they finally got it to start. It ran like sh*t. I remember that car leaving us stranded many times. My mom hated it and always wanted him to get rid of it; the thing was a money pit. But reluctantly, he kept working on it. Over time, they rebuilt the engine, installed webber carbs (race carburettors), installed an exhaust system, sound system, rims, bucket seats and of course the most memorable thing about that car: “The Midnight Purple Paint Job”.

I had known Damion Robertson as an accomplished app developer and  Information Communication Technology Specialist, but I’d never heard him wax poetic about cars before. He continued:

“In its final iteration, that car went from being an eye sore to the envy of my dad’s friends. It went from a rust bucket to what we in the car world call “MACHINE!!!!” (a.k.a fast car). Just the raw, visceral experience of sitting in the passenger’s seat as my dad passed car after car put a big grin on my face. The smell of gasoline and oil, the loud pops and bangs from the exhaust and the rattling of the souped up engine was frightening, yet calming.”

“Watching them turn a rat’s nest into a fire-breathing street car was such a cool experience, and it left a mark on me. The satisfaction you get when you have completed a project is that compared to painting fine art. The artist toils in front of a blank canvas, each stroke being an extension of himself. What emerges from the brush and greets the canvas is the embodiment of his personality. Fast forward a few years, and now I have a racing addiction, 3 project cars and a corner full of car parts, and I’m loving every minute of it.”

We spoke about his early experiences in working with vehicles. “I got my licence at 18 and being a car enthusiast with your license and no car is like having a condom and no girlfriend – it just don’t add up. I daydreamed everyday about how my first car was gonna look, it had to be blue, two doors and fast. A few years pass, I’m now 23 working my first real job, and of course it was the very first thing I bought with my first years’ worth of salary. Blue, 2 door, 1996 Honda Civic Hatch Back fitted with an H23A engine from an Accord SiR. It was perfect. That car is still to this day the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels. It had offset rims, bucket seats, an engine that was way too big for the chassis to handle and of course an obnoxiously loud, flame shooting exhaust. When I go the car it was already modified, so I just added my own personal touch. It was my pride and joy. I was always cleaning it and tinkering with it. Of course it was and old car so it had its fair share of breakdowns but she was my baby, my Elizabeth. The most fun days were Saturdays. I would meet up with friends and we would work on our cars; and in the night it was off to the races on the streets of Mexico. On Sundays I would go through the Sunday afternoon car wash ritual and end the day with a nice cruise to get some ice cream. Things were good, until one day we had heavy rain. Now my car was lowered, and I mean really lowered. It was so low that I would often get stuck on speed bumps. So basically I drove in some deep water and shorted my cooling fan, which caused my engine to overheat and blow a head gasket. If you blow a tire it’s an inconvenience, when you blow an engine…that sh*t feels like you lost a family member. So there I was trapped on the side of the road with smoke billowing from my bonnet. I was crushed to say the least, coupled with the fact that I now had to make that embarrassing call to my dad to come get me, I was mortified.”

“After getting the car home and sulking for a few days, I decided I was going to fix it. I went online, joined a few forums, watched some YouTube videos and got to work. Over the next 4 months, my neighbours thought I was going crazy because I had dismantled the entire front end of the car, engine and all. I slowly went through fixing and or replacing each damaged component, repairing broken connections, cleaning and painting parts and reassembling the car bit by bit. A few weeks later I had gotten everything back together and was ready to start the car for the first time. I turned the key, and nothing happened. I felt so defeated, all that work and for nothing. Eventually I realized I didn’t hook a battery terminal to the chassis and after I fixed that blunder, she started right up. That very same week I drove her to the dyno, got her tuned and beat a 2014 Mark X in a street race. Sadly her heart was healthy but her body was decaying; literally, the car was a rusted mess and eventually started losing structural integrity. I had to part her out for scraps, selling all her parts and discarding the shell. However there is a silver lining, as her heart beats in a newer, stronger, rust free shell. So she’s gone but not really forgotten.”

 

 

When asked about his choice of models or brands, Damion had this to say: “I prefer Honda, they are way easier to work on and have a lot of aftermarket support – and you can make them really fast for cheap.”

 

I, a car novice, wondered aloud about Jamaica, and if we could ever go into developing our own line of automobiles. “We lack the infrastructure, we’re more like a car lot than a car factory. All our cars are imported from either the U.S.A. or Japan, mostly.”

 

I asked if he participated in any events happening on the local scene. “There are many local sanctioned events that take place across the island, under the Jamaica Race Drivers’ Club. These events range from rally to off-road, and even to circuit and drag racing. I’ve never participated in a sanctioned race, however I do have a couple of wins under my belt in the street racing scene. On most Saturdays and Sundays, car enthusiasts from all over meet up at Mexico, to see who has the better cars and drivers. It’s dangerous (obviously) but you get a kill in the streets and that’s instant bragging rights and street cred.

 

 

Damion’s Advice:

  • If you can afford it, get something fresh off the lot.
  • If you’re going to get a used car, ensure that the owner has a maintenance history on the car to ensure that it has been regularly serviced during its lifetime. Also ensure that the mileage is reasonably low.
  • Learn to change a tyre and always travel with a spare and a jack
  • It’s good practice to buy a tool kit and learn how to use it. It’s cheaper to fix things yourself as opposed to going to a mechanic, and you never know when you might have to do a roadside repair. Every car has a repair manual, so get one that matches your vehicle brand, year and model.
  • If your car’s a piece of junk, always drive with rope in your trunk. Trust me.

 

Blessings in abundance!

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