EARNEST WORKSHOP PROFILE - NIGEL PETRIE
A man that has built many a machine from the ground up - and we're not talking strip down restorations here, but literately mind blowing machines built from the steel on his workshop floor. Sit down and relax as we get to know Nigel Petrie of Engineered To Slide.
1. What would we find you doing locked away in the shed on any given weeknight?
"Usually I race home at the end of my 9-5 with a head crammed full of ideas, if the weather is nice I'll back the old Econoline up the drive, select any two motorcycles that are currently running, ring Dean and tell him to swing past on his way home, then get lost in the bush somewhere. If it's not that then I'm in the workshop, working on whatever I have going on at the time. While I was building the Hilux I would do a solid 4 hours nearly every single night, cutting, welding, shaping and creating a drift car from scratch. Looking back on that now it was a pretty wild time, I wouldn't call it fun. I had tunnel vision and was so damned determined to finish that thing to the best of my ability."
2. How did you find yourself here doing the things you do?
"When I was a kid I was always searching to be involved heavily in something, first it was BMX, then it was skating, then it was back to BMX, then Motorcross and then cars. Through cars I saw drifting from a VHS tape shot in Japan in the early 2000s. My mind was blown, everything changed from that point on. I wanted to do it so badly, I lived in the country and had an Escort coupe (wish I still had it). I punted that thing round the dirt roads and learnt a lot about driving. I didn't have the power or the diff to do it on the road but I dreamt of the day I could.
This VHS video was shot at Sekia Hills, there were S13s and I was in love. They were fetching like $16k in Australia in 2003, so I got a quote from the local automotive performance shop to drop a 180SX front cut in my Escort, the quote was $18k so I just bit the bullet and got a personal loan for my first import; a black 180SX. That was it, I learnt and developed the chassis from my own ideas, translating Japanese blogs and then creating my own.
The first event in Victoria was in 2004 and I entered and won the privateer class, I was so in love with the sport. At one point I would set my clock for 3am, push my car out past the block of flats I lived in, drift some secluded corners in the industrial estate for two hours, drive home, change the wheels, have breakfast and go to work.
From that point on I haven't stopped, I do everything on the tightest budget. I do everything myself to save $$ on labour, I have slowly worked out a few key aspects to this life; you have to believe in yourself enough to make your ideas a reality, you can plan and research all you want, you can draw things up in CAD, talk to professionals all you like, but at the end of the day its doing things for yourself which teaches you the most, not only about yourself but what your capable of.
I still love drifting as much as I did back then, but I have no interest in making huge power, grip, running expensive tyres and needing a full crew to compete in the sport, I love it the way it used to be."
3. What makes you tick & keeps you doing what you do?
"I think I just have a creative mind that pushes my body to do new and interesting things. I have plenty of ups and downs, whenever I feel like I can't do anything right, I just clean the garage and shut the doors. It doesn't take me long to stew on whatever I was having troubles with and sort out a solution to keep going.
I have always relied on myself and no one else, when it all got too much I would grab my BMX and head to the skatepark or the dirt jumps or jump on my motorcycle and clear my head. I think it's really important to have a release that's cheap and easy to do. By relying on myself and involving no one else in what I am doing I feel like I have the freedom to just flow whenever I need to."
4. Recently, who's work gets you pumped to get back in the shed and grind away?
"Recently it would be the drag racers of the 1960s and 70s. I have just finished a trip to the Salt Flats where I rebuilt my dirt bike into a Land Speed Racer. I was searching for styling ideas and started researching that era of "fueler" drag bikes.
Imagine it's the 1960's, you are brazing up a hardtail drag frame in your garage, you are mixing a concoction of Nitro and Methanol, drilling out the jets in the carb to be three times as big as they were, welding higher lobes on the stock cam and grinding it up by eye, machining larger and longer bores, drilling everything you can see to save weight, removing every gear in the gearbox and machining a bigger/ wider 1:1 ratio, then taking it to the track and running a 9 second pass with a half track burnout.
Those guys were the absolute kings, they did it all with so little, they didn't have the machines we have today and they still managed to do it in style.
These days I look up to the crews of race teams rather than the actual rider or driver. I feel like the $$ in motorsports has made the guys who talk the talk rise to the top. It's not always the case but it's the little guys in the home garage just making do that inspire me."
5. What other areas do you take inspiration from for your work?
"There are a heap of things at the moment. I try and keep positive all the time, watch inspiring videos and talk to positive friends. I get feedback from people who are into what I am doing, keep busy and just getting stuff done.I get a lot out of what I have done in the past, sometimes I'll look back through old photos and remember the mindset that I had at that time and see how far I have come. It's a personal journey, for sure, and something that I am keen to continue on."
6. What would we find blaring in the background of your shed on any given night?
"I don't have time to download songs or bother making up a playlist, I just listen to Triple J. It's a bit shit because, after work, they do this talk-back crap for an hour, then some nights are dedicated to hardcore heavy metal which makes me work so fast that I forget what I was doing. Friday nights are good because they usually mix together these pretty good sets, oh, and I have a television in the garage too; that's for MotoGP races and F1, with the occasional V8 supercar race....yeah, I spend a lot of time in the garage (laughs)."
7. What are you working towards in the future?
"I am at that stage where I think my home workshop is a little restrictive. I want to get out into the community, host events, build a space that can house creative friends, build a small workshop, studio and office.Engineered To Slide never had a set direction and it still doesn't. I don't know what it is or what it's going to be. I liken it to the Hilux build; initially that build was to be a 6-month project of a body on an S15 chassis, there were no drawings or set plans I just made it up as I went along. I think the business is like that as-well, there's no specific goal that I am shooting for, but I know the direction that I want it to go in."