Built, Not Bought

One of the funniest things I see from time to time are 4WD videos and the like where the owners proudly show off how they have ‘built, not bought’ their particular 4WD. This is often a statement meant to disparage those who go to a 4WD accessories retailer such as ARB, TJM or similar and have them supply and fit accessories such as suspensions, bull bars, winches, battery kits etc; basically everything that you need to kit your 4WD for the great outdoors. Sadly, doing so is viewed by some as being inferior, if not a disgrace, to those who fit stuff themselves. Personally I see nothing wrong with taking your vehicle to such a place, especially if you’re not mechanically inclined or simply don’t want to go through the hassle and time of installing things yourself. Sometimes it’s also a matter of warranty, where if something fails or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, you’ll be in a better position to make a claim. It’s not much different to taking your vehicle to a dealership or mechanic for regular servicing, for some that’s far better value than doing things yourself at home, especially if you don’t have the equipment and location to do so.

So what’s funny about this ‘built, not bought’ meme? When you look at what these people have actually done it’s no more than buying the particular accessories and installing the parts themselves and then proudly announcing that their 4WD is now built, not bought. It’s not as if they have sourced the raw materials and then gone about manufacturing, getting certification etc for all the parts that they have installed. Everything to the last nut and bolt has been ‘built’ by someone else and supplied for a particular purpose. That’s not to say that some people don’t build things from raw sheet metal, tubing, angle iron etc, I’ve seen some extremely creative products made from such raw materials by very talented people. These include things such as bull bars, rear bars and even camper trailers where the builder has cut, formed and welded every part of the camper trailer body. A good friend of mine once built a very large trailer from scratch (less the wheels, tyres, brake and tow components) and it was better than what you could buy from a trailer manufacturer.

There are also incredibly skilled craftsmen that can take a lump of wood and produce amazing furniture etc, often with no power tools whatsoever. These are the things that that I would call built, not bought. A huge amount of skill and talent is required to produce these sorts of things and they are often built to last. Much the same would apply to any similar craft where raw materials are converted into things that are functional and useful or simply objects of beauty. Even some of my DIY attempts at creativity are much closer to built, not bought classifications. An example is my ‘Olympus Electric Macroscope’, which I cobbled together from many disparate components and raw materials into something that, individually, were completely unrelated products. The Olympus Electric Macroscope isn’t just an object, it’s actually a fully functioning, motorised, microscope. This, truly was built, not bought.

Now the ‘built, not bought’ theme does have a fairly long history and it really comes from the automotive world where it originally applied to the restoration of old cars where parts were no longer available and enthusiast had to manufacture their own parts. This didn’t just include panels and the like, but often included engine and other components that required significant knowledge and skills with lathes, milling machines and other fabrication tools. Some of these fabricators had to go so far as to first make the tools that could produce the parts that they required, as it wasn’t simply a matter of putting a piece of metal in a lathe. And this is where in some automotive circles, those who claim that they have built, not bought their vehicle, receive their own dose of ridicule from those who actually do build their vehicles and not just slap together store bought parts. It’s a vicious world when it comes to car enthusiasts. And it can also be much the the same in the motorcycle world.

I started to do some searching to see what came up in Google on the term ‘built, not bought’ and was surprised (or perhaps not) that there was much similar sentiment reflecting what I’ve written. I decided to not do any searching until I’d put my own thoughts down and then see if I was on my own or whether others felt similarly and how they viewed things. So it appears that this is a very common thread on the internet and affects both car and bike enthusiasts to much the same degree. It’s also interesting how some think about the issue and how it can potentially affect not only this hobby (for want of a better word), but the industry that supports those very same people that enjoy doing as much as possible themselves. I’m a great fan of doing things myself wherever possible and find no reason to disparage anyone that tries their hand at DIY and fails, at least they have tried. And even if they have someone else do all the work for them, it’s still not a case of putting anyone down for doing so, as it’s still indicative of someone who enjoys the cars or bikes.

Built, Not Bought - (source: Lateral-G)

Built, Not Bought – (source: Lateral-G)

I do a lot of things myself not because it’s always satisfying, but because I’m saving money. If money was no object, I’d most certainly have others do the work on my behalf. Anyway, this week I replaced the front wheel hubs of my Patrol with new ones that I bought off eBay, which took all of about 20 mins or so to replace and, in addition to all the other odds and ends that I’ve done to my Patrol, I can now claim that my Patrol is ‘built, not bought’. And if nothing else, I can certainly say that when it comes to my veranda, it was most certainly ‘built, not bought’. But I have to say that it’s great living in today’s era where you can easily buy stuff that 30 or 40 years ago was either not available or cost a small fortune and claim to be a ‘built, not bought’ kind of guy.