A Long and Winding Road (the best kind)

It’s a beautiful day here in Austin. For the last few weeks I have been reflecting on my past… and looking towards my future… which is typical for me in the beginning of the year. It occurred to me that it has been exactly ten years since I penciled my first car design in English class as a high school junior.

In 2001 I was certain I  would be going into the US Air Force to be an F-22 Raptor pilot… although I would have happily settled for an F-16 seat, or even the B1-Lancer. I was in Air Force Junior ROTC at James Bowie High, and I loved every minute of it. I knew I wanted to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado, and graduate with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. In fact… I was already getting a head start by building a gas turbine engine out of a car turbocharger for science fair. Then one September morning, an event happened that would make me reconsider military service. Shortly before the eleventh… I had written an essay regarding wars of choice and wars of necessity. I felt that a military career was a great choice… but the idea of actually fighting a war only seemed right when the situation was most dire. In short… a war like WWII was necessary… but a war with Vietnam was a choice, and completely unacceptable. A sexual harassment scandal at the Academy  wound up being the straw that broke the camels back… and I decided to scrap my goal of going into the Air Force. The war that we were soon to begin in Iraq was not one I was keen to fight.

And so I find myself back in that English class… with a blank piece of notebook paper in front of me. I had a copy of car and driver that I was reading through at the time, and I decided to draw my first sketch…

NOT BAD FOR AN AMATEUR

My dad used to take me to stock car races as a kid at a quarter mile track in east Austin called ‘Longhorn Speedway’.  It was here that my interest in cars was sparked… and I can still remember going to the bathroom and hearing the stalls rattle as the cars drove by. I loved the smell of burnt rubber and gasoline. I loved the feeling I got when the sound of a V8 liquified my guts.

Every year, at Palmer Auditorium… the Custom Car and Hot Rod show would set up shop. Old school Duesenbergs, more ’57 Chevy’s than you could shake a con-rod at, and down in the basement… top fuel dragsters and funny cars. The candy paint, the leather trim, the lack of anything but an engine in the engine bay. Every year we would go, and every year I wanted more and more to build a hot rod. I guess you could say I loved cars… a lot.

… lets go back to that English class. I spent 45 minutes drawing the sketch you see above… erasing and re-profiling lines to get the perfect curves. I had no clue how to properly proportion things like wheels and doors… or to even think if a person or an engine would fit…  but I knew I loved to draw, and I knew I loved cars.

Of course I kept sketching, as it was a great way to pass the downtime in class. Homework could be saved for home… I was most creative in school. I was churning out a car every day it seemed. Most of them got wadded up and thrown away… but I kept a few.

2002

2002

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

2003

By the time I graduated in 2003, I knew I wanted to stay here in Austin. I decided to take a year off before staring college and began to think seriously about building a car. It was also at this time that I realized I wanted to start my own car company. I even drew a logo:

DALE DAUGHERTY MOTORSPORTS LOGO

DALE DAUGHERTY MOTORSPORTS LOGO

In the beginning of 2004 I started work on a Lotus Super Seven clone in my garage. I built the entire chassis from cut and welded tube. It was the first time I ever tried a project so involved… and I was doing pretty well. I realized that I had quite a knack for technical design, and enrolled at Austin Community College… declaring my major to be Architectural and Mechanical Computer Aided Design and Engineering. It felt like I was born to create and my major agreed with me quite well… and then some issues that arose in the family prevented me from finishing my degree until 2010, and put the Lotus clone on hold.

Of course all the while I kept sketching cars and honing my skills. I began to think of the purpose of the car I was sketching… what engine would it have, how many people would it hold, where would the engine be located… and my designs became more realistic.

2007

2007

In 2010, I finally graduated with my Associates. I was very comfortable using AutoCAD and Inventor… and I was well versed in SolidWorks, ProEngineer Wildfire, and MasterCAM. I found an excellent job as a Financial Services Representative at a credit union… and began to work on my designs in AutoCAD in my spare time.

And so I find myself here… at the beginning of 2012… with a positive outcome of all of my hard work. Ten years after I sketched my first car, I have over 100 pages chronicling the progression of my skills.  The long and winding road has brought me to a crossroads… which is surprisingly very close to where the original Longhorn Speedway once sat.

Just down the road from the intersection of US183 and FM812… where stock cars on the Longhorn Speedway thundered into the night… a purpose built race circuit is beginning to take shape. It is called the Circuit of the Americas. It will be home to the Formula One United States Grand Prix. With it will come a huge potential for motorsport in Austin, Texas… and an opportunity for me to pursue my ultimate goal of creating an Austin based automotive design and development company in my home town.

This blog will serve as an online portfolio, and a place to document my pursuit of happiness. I will be posting my design work, and anything related to motorsports and car culture in Austin. Thank you for showing an interest in my work, and if you have any questions you may ask here: dale.daugherty@g.austincc.edu

Cheers,

Dale Daugherty

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~ by ddmotorsports on January 19, 2012.

6 Responses to “A Long and Winding Road (the best kind)”

  1. Thank you Dale for sharing your story and passion. It’s a joy to here how some one has found something that brings them true happiness. Being an electronics engineer myself I can truly relate to how rewarding it can be.

  2. Dale,
    I too remember the sites sounds and smell of Longhorn Speedway. Don’t just follow the dream, effort equals results no matter how small. See you at the races!

  3. Totaly brilliant, Dale… Thank you for sharing this..It’s a wonderful story, one has to start with dream to then turn it into reality…
    Best regards
    Jeremy

    • It’s the turning it into reality part that is most challenging… but words of encouragement from fellow enthusiasts go a long way towards helping that goal. Thanks Jeremy!

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