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Man, where was this awesome chick back when I was 17?

Carburetors may represent old-school tech in the automotive world, but don’t tell Riley Schlick, a high school senior in Florida who rebuilds them for a tidy profit. Send your tired, dirty, mucked-up carburetor to Schlick and she’ll return it to you clean, shiny, and ready for duty once again. She has operated her Bradenton-based business, Riley’s Rebuilds, for three years now, and a steady stream of carburetors has crossed her path.

At first, Riley’s Rebuilds was a way for 17-year-old Schlick to buy her first car, which had to meet her parents’ specifications: It needed to have a manual transmission and a roll bar. Within a few months, she made enough money to buy a Jeep. Then, she brought on four friends to work with her. That hiring spree solved two problems, in Schlick’s mind. Her friends make more money rebuilding carburetors than they would working a minimum wage job, and they get to spend time together.

She learned how to do the work from her dad. “I said to her, ‘You can get a job at Publix or I can show you how to do some restoration stuff in the garage,” says Schlick’s father, Dane Trask, who rebuilds classic cars as a hobby. He showed her how to do it, and also made use of some YouTube tutorials. “She picked it up quick,” he says.

That alone is impressive. Myself, I had the hoary old gag line drilled into my head from early on: “Carburetor” is French for “leave it the fuck alone.” This next bit is pretty impressive as well.

Once the origin of the carb is determined, Schlick and the team document the model number and CFM rating (cubic feet per minute) and get the device ready to break down. Each carburetor has eight screws on top, Schlick explains, and they remove the hat and the floats (those work similarly to a float in a toilet tank, regulating the fuel level). Out comes the choke, which controls the air intake, and all the springs, screws, and bolts inside.

The team takes the screws and bolts and tosses them into a tumbler for about 20 minutes. Next, they soda blast the body, which harnesses tiny baking soda fibers to remove the dirt and grime. Then they transfer the parts to an ultrasonic tank, and blow out the ports with an air compressor to clear any remaining soda bits.

We use soda blasting instead of sand or glass because it’s not super aggressive,” Schlick said. “The soda doesn’t get stuck in the carburetor like other materials would.”

We had a glass-beader in the HD shop I worked in, and the quickest way I can think of to convert any carburetor into an overpriced doorstop would be to put it in the beading cabinet and blast away at it. Hell, if my boss had ever seen me walking too close to the beading cabinet with a carb in my hand—even a lowly old S&S Super B, a long-outdated piece o’crap Harley carb consisting of nothing but a venturi’d throat, an idle screw, and an air screw, with a flange bolted onto the side to attach the throttle cable and fuel line to and a float bowl on the bottom—he’d have skinned me alive with a rusty old Buck pocketknife.

Nope, suffice it to say that in our shop, carbs and blasting cabinets did NOT mix. Using baking soda as a blasting/scouring medium is a genius idea, if you ask me. Via Bayou Pete, who follows up thusly:

God bless them all:

  • The parents who encourage their kids to succeed;
  • The girls who aren’t afraid of hard work;
  • The ability of all concerned to recognize a gap in the market, and fill it;
  • The girls’ drive to succeed, and build a business that’s as much fun as it is work.
That’s just great!

Those girls won’t have to waste tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a worthless degree, and won’t have to beg for extra money from their parents. They’re earning their own way in life from a very early age, and setting an example for every one of their peers. They’ll hopefully be able to afford to choose their further education based on what they can pay for out of their own pockets, and what interests them rather than what’s politically correct.

Congratulations to all concerned, and thank you. We need more like you!

Do we ever. This calls for a song I actually wrote for my own darling daughter, who shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in turning wrenches and busting knuckles, the lone exception to that total dearth of interest being the day I snapped this pic at the shop:

Jr wrench

The young ‘un took a notion all on her own hook, went to Daddy’s rollaway box, snatched up a wrench, and monkeyed around with the shift lever on that unfinished custom-build for a while before scampering off someplace else, lured away from a prospective mechanicing career by God only knows what. Probably a good thing, as anyone who’s ever wrenched for a living could tell you. Now for that tune I mentioned…

That song came to be when I was out working on something or other underneath the ol’ 56 Club Sedan one fine day, with baby Madeleine strapped into her little rocking-chair thingy on the driveway nearby. I cracked my skull but good on the front crossmember as I tried to slide under the blasted thing, whereupon the young ‘un just about choked herself laughing at poor old Daddy’s plight.


11 thoughts on “Gearheads

  1. “Carburetor” is French for “leave it the fuck alone.” 

    OMG yes. If there’s any development in automotive engineering that I celebrate unstintingly, it’s the nearly complete demise of the carburetor. I developed my permanent squint / scowl largely from working on carburetors. Yet despite my hatred of the little terrors, everyone and his halfwit uncle Herman would bring theirs to me for TLC. As Our Lord said, “Greater love hath no man than he that rebuildeth a carburetor for his friend.” (It’s also one of the main reasons I have no friends these days.)

    1. (It’s also one of the main reasons I have no friends these days.)

      That’s similar to the reason that I choose to have no friends. I’m competent in working on cars and computers and handling plumbing emergencies and hanging new cabinets in the kitchen and catching the feral cat living in the garage and so on ad infinitum. And I’m strong and drive a van and have moving equipment. The result was seemingly-constant requests for assistance in one thing or another. … And on the rare occasion that I’d ask for help there was only a so-so chance that I’d get any. Nope, from a cost-benefit perspective, friends are not worth it.

  2. It’s a great story and one you’ll rarely find outside the USA. Those girls should have some very proud parents.

    Bead blasters have long used substances other than glass for different results. I have one in my garage, with glass. All kinds of stuff is used including, walnut shells…

    Electronic fuel injection is one of the greatest ever improvements in the ICE to come along. It’s been around for a long time, but mechanical versions were the early ones. The melding of computer power and sensing (Air/fuel ratio) along with the precise regulation of the fuel injector beats a carburetor by a zillion percent.

    But I still love the carb. They are really simple in operation, easy to work on unless you have one that is corroded and clogged, and no electrons or processing power is required. I have one carbed car, my old beetle convertible should the need arise. And for years I kept a manifold and 4 barrel for a small block Chevy to convert one of my cars should EMP take out the ability to process electrons. That seems to have disappeared with my move a few years back, or hiding, but hey the boat has it so I’m still OK. Well, except GM replaced the small block with the latest generation and that manifold would not fit the cars I have now. The beetle will have to suffice 🙂 Of course there are a million junkyard vehicles just waiting to get brought back to life…

  3. I think it’s absolutely awesome that they have picked up the ball and ran with it.
    Professional carb rebuilding outfits seem to have gone they way of the buggy whip.
    They are impossible to find anymore.
    Thanks for the shout out Mike. I read this while at work on Friday but didn’t have time to leave a comment and the minute I stepped in the house I got shanghied into grocery shopping,
    As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t too many things sweeter than hearing a four barrel howling wide open on top of a Chevy small block wound clear out.
    Just the sound of all four barrels opening up is heavenly.
    You know….

    Loved that since I was a kid.

    Sorry I had to giggle at you cracking your noggin, I been there and done that many times.
    My personal favorite was when I skinnied under the front of a hot Datsun 510 that was dripping coolant to see where it was coming from.
    I barley got past the front cross member, was looking up and a boiling hot drop of coolant dripped down and hit me right in the face.
    My first instinct being to raise up and get away, I banged my head so hard on the crank pulley I knocked myself silly and then the back of my head bounced off the pavement.
    Then the next drop hit….

    I liked that tune, made me wonder if you guys had any CD’s for sale?
    Some damn fine guitar work there, I wouldn’t mind having that available in my old Pickup truck…

    1. “…I banged my head so hard on the crank pulley I knocked myself silly…

      I felt pain reading that, been there way too many times 🙂

      It ain’t yours ’till you bleed on it.

    2. Phil, you might try Jungle Records in Finland for a CD, they may or may not still have ’em available. That’s the outfit that originally released and distributed the Complicated Life rekkid, which is where the song comes from; if you do, tell Hakki that Mike says howdy. If a download will work for ya, you can always hit places like YahooMusic or the iTunes store for it.

      1. Ayup, Jungle’s got it. 15 Euros, which ain’t exactly cheap but is still way better than I’ve seen it on eBay. Our stuff regularly goes for a hundred bucks a pop on there.

  4. Man, where was this awesome chick back when I was 17?

    And to answer the question, I don’t think they existed. I don’t recall ever meeting a girl that had any idea how a car worked.

    1. Oh, my dear departed Christiana did. Bless that lovely girl, she helped me yank the transmission out of my old hot-rod Sportster more than once. I wouldn’t say she was an expert mechanic, mind, and neither would she have. But being up to her elbows in grease, grime, and Quaker State never scared her any.

  5. In the V twin world I knew numerous females that could do bike stuff. Because they were shown, generally because getting ready to go required fast and on time. And they sure as shit wanted to go.

    That’s the problem with a lot of knowledge today, nobody takes the time to show kids and the second is to throw their mind numbing phones away.

    USA all the way but Mikuni made Bendix cry. A real mc has 3 things, carb, points, and a kick starter

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