Although I spent the better portion of my twenties running around the world with a fresh fade and my boots bloused, the line of work I was in both before and after serving in the Marine Corps was in the racing industry. Most folks might be surprised to know that there are some real parallels between racing and military service – the aloof and pretentious drivers (officers), the salty old enlisted guys with decades of experience (master mechanics), and the ever-present tension between the folks that bust their asses in the air-conditioned offices, versus the folks that busted their asses on the tarmac.

Yeah, I said some folks busted their asses in the air-conditioned offices. Having worked on both sides of that divide, I can honestly report that changing tires on a scorching hot day in black Dickey’s is rough, but so is trying to survive budget cut meetings in a pair of Khakis. The misery comes in different forms, but is ever present.

Working in the racing world gives you a different perspective of the vehicles we drive around in every day. The exotic cars that most of the world sees as precious and fragile tend to get the farm equipment treatment in the warehouses I worked in, for instance. Dodge Vipers, Porsche 911s, BMW M3s – all really cool cars, but working on, in, and around them all day tends to knock them off of the kid’s poster-pedestal and squarely into the “stuff I bitch about at work” category.

Viper’s side pipes run god damn hot, so prolonged highway driving is sort of like going places inside an Easy Bake Oven. My size 13 shoes make it so I can either press all the pedals in a Porsche, or none of them at all – so I usually had to drive them barefoot with my toes. These aren’t things that make me not like these cars, they’re just the stuff that widdles away at their legendary status until you start to see them for what they are: pieces of equipment with a specialized purpose – just like a rifle, a plunger, a forklift, or an Apache gunship.

A room full of tools for different tasks.

This distinction is an important one to make for a number of reasons. In the realm of survival preparation, where my professional experiences turning wrenches meets my professional experience slinging lead, knowing that those awesome pieces of equipment you pine for are going to break down, need repairs, and in tough circumstances, require a whole lot of love informs the type of vehicle you want to bring with you into a fight for your life.

As awesome as this scene in “I am Legend” is… a Mustang isn’t actually very practical for getting around after the apocalypse.

My brother, whose racing pedigree runs far deeper than my own, buys cars the way I buy guns: sometimes because it’s one he’s always wanted, sometimes because it serves a specific purpose, and sometimes, because he found a great deal. While I drive around in a beat up old SUV, his mountain garage houses an SRT-10 Viper, a Dodge Charger Hellcat, a supercharged 350Z, a turbo-diesel Ram 2500, Audi S4 and so forth… It’s like pulling up to a car show whenever I stop by at his house, and if I’m honest, I wouldn’t actually want most of his incredible rides to be my primary mode of transport in a disaster.