A Car is a Canvas

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Function, like beauty, is received and perceived behind the bright eyes of the beholder. To some, a car is a meter that gauges one’s wealth to the surrounding world. To others the vehicle is a ravenous, reformed workhorse that gallops from point A to point B with little thought given to the judging eyes of onlookers. To sophomore aviation major Danny O’Connor, a car is a canvas, a mechanical and limitless life that beckons a world of possibilities.

Since Dec. 31, 2011, O’Connor has been working on maintaining, tuning, and improving his 2008 Honda Civic SI. To date, he has transformed his originally stock model car into a defined, attention grabbing addition to the confines of campus. Clean-cut, eye catching, and keenly kept, O’Connor designed the additions to his car to suit his personality.

“It’s the process of working on something and then it working better in the end. That’s where I get my enjoyment out of it,” said O’Connor.

It is O’Connor’s passion for the process that has led to the curious scenes that have occurred in the cool, shady underbelly of the South Campus parking garage. It is a less than common sight to see students, tools in hand, exploring and manipulating the inner workings of their cars on less than equipped college grounds. Despite the challenges presented by his location of choice, O’Connor has persevered.

“Most of the work has taken place in the bottom of the parking garage over by Oak but I’ve also gone over to friend’s houses and back home,” said O’Connor.

In the past year, with the steady hands and ready mind of a future pilot, O’Connor has completed a long list of alterations to the once-basic Honda Civic. The upgrades include an outside full lip kit, fog lights, after market lights around the car, a carbon fiber roof spoiler, lowered coilovers, a camber kit, new wheels and tires, redone intake system, a new throttle body, a bigger fuel injectors, upgraded fuel rail, race header, race exhaust, motor mounts and tuning software to get better gas mileage. The list will continue to grow.

“Right now I’m actually in the process of doing a new paint job. I did a lot of the body work myself but I’m going to leave this one to the professionals and let them paint it,” O’Connor said. “Other than that my car has never seen a shop. I do all of the maintenance on it, all the oil changes, all the liquid changes, tire rotations, everything like that.”

By performing all of the trappings himself, O’Connor estimated that he has saved over a couple thousand dollars in labor costs. Taking an apprentice-style approach, O’Connor took opportunities to help friends and others back at his home in Pensacola, Florida, and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in the field of mechanics.

“I picked it all up from just hanging out with people who were doing things,” said O’Connor. “I would ask questions. That’s kind of what is happening right now with my car at this body shop: I go there and I help sand down the car and I ended up doing some of the body work. I’d never done it before but I’d sit there and ask questions and they were kind of willing to help me out.”

At the present, work on his car is an intermittent, ongoing process. He continuously plays with ideas for his car and other future projects. Though O’Connor hopes to one day build both a plane and car from scratch, his passion for cars is long standing.

“I’ve always been interested in cars, ever since I was little. My dad used to work on cars a little bit and, unfortunately, he passed away when I was younger,” said O’Connor. “So that’s kind of like my memory towards him.”

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