Joe Gearin Joe Gearin

I came into this world, the love child of two carnival workers. My mother’s father owned a part of Paragon Park, located on Massachusetts’ South shore near Hingham. My father was an MG A-driving carnie “barker,” while my mom worked as a waitress in one of the park’s restaurants.

If you’ve ever driven an MG A, you know that the doors don’t lock and are operated by pulling a cord. While lightweight and cool, this isn’t much of a theft deterrent, and soon, my father’s MG was stolen—to be replaced with a ratty Jaguar XK150. While my dad has always been an automotive enthusiast, he’s not much of a wrench. The combination of my father’s lack of mechanical skills and the old Jag’s finicky nature led to the Jag sitting under a tarp for most of my early youth. My older brother and I used to pull up the forbidden tarp in my grandmother’s garage and peer at the beautiful straight-six. I was less than seven years old but could already understand the beauty and power of that car. Maybe that’s where the car bug bit me.

Fast-forward to my teenage years, spent mostly in the suburbs of Chicago. While most of my early vehicular exploits are not fit for public consumption (when does the statute of limitations wear out?), let’s just say I was extremely lucky to have survived my early driving years. These formative years were full of bad judgment and bad decisions—mostly at high speed. I pity my mother’s poor 1983 Buick Century, as that was the first car I drove regularly. With 50,000 or so miles, the car had developed rod knock. Upon inspecting the brakes, the mechanic asked my mother: “You don’t have teenage boys do you?” That was the first of many machines to be sacrificed.

Shortly after I turned 16, our family relocated to Crystal Lake Illinois, which—in 1986—seemed to be way out in the country. The country roads were empty, the gravel pits abundant, and construction sites seemed to be everywhere. It was the perfect place for an enthusiast kid with a lack of judgment. These loose surfaces were where I learned car control. My buddy Luke and I spent hours and hours, day after day hooning around like lunatics on the dirt and gravel roads. I went through a string of sub-$500 cars, including a ’66 Chevelle and two fastback ’70s Impalas. Finally, my father helped out and agreed to help me buy an incredibly clean 1980 Toyota Corolla. The combination of RWD, light weight and an unbreakable drivetrain would open up a whole new world for me. It was a fantastic little car—right up to the point where I rolled it!

After the incident in the Toyota, my college years were spent delivering pizza in my ’73 Super Beetle, which made it to Florida and back during Spring Break. We did get stranded in Atlanta during the “storm of the century” in ’93. Twenty-two inches of snow in Chattanooga will do that! The Beetle eventually made way for a 1981 VW Scirocco, which I loved dearly. It was in that VW that I first learned of autocross. Luke and I joined the Chicago-land Region SCCA and were soon making it to as many events as possible—he in his ’91 Sentra SE-R and me in my VW. Yes, he was faster!

My automotive fetish continued as I moved out to Colorado following college. I ran through a slew of cars, including a ’71 Caddy Eldorado, an ’84 Bronco and my grandmother’s ’87 Toyota Cressida, all the while keeping my precious Scirocco. That VW eventually was bought by a <i>GRM<i/> Challenge competitor and still survives (sort of).

It was in Colorado that I found <i>GRM<i/> in the back of a newsstand at a King Soopers grocery store. I decided they needed me, and when I moved to Florida in 2002, they agreed!

Since that time, I’ve been lucky enough to travel all around the United States attending automotive events. I’ve met and gotten to know many of my automotive heroes growing up, and for me, that has been the most rewarding part of this life. Currently I sell advertising, occasionally write, and man the booth at various events throughout the country. My fleet varies depending if I’m in a growth or purge cycle, but fixtures include a ’97 M3 that my father bought nearly new and our old ’94 Flyin’ Miata Turbo, which was a past and present <i>GRM<i/> project. Others may come and go, but these two are keepers!

So that’s the truncated version of my story. See me at an event, and fill me in on yours. There’s always time for bench racing!

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