[media-credit id=1428 align="alignleft" width="281"][/media-credit]Brian Gay has been at Shawnee Mission East for six years and has had the unique job of teaching the school’s automotive tech class.
Gay was born in 1973 in Santa Monica, California, as the son of two teachers. Growing up, his love of cars was sparked by the ones from his favorite movies or TV shows. His favorites included The Dukes of Hazzard’s “General Lee”, a 1969 Dodge Charger, Back to the Future’s DeLorean DMC-12 Time Machine, and all of James Bond’s Aston Martins.
Like most ‘car guys’, Gay was very excited when he could finally drive. He bought his first car, a maroon 1979 Chevrolet Camaro with white racing stripes, from his neighbor for $500.
“It was crappy, but come on, it was still a Camaro!” said Gay.
Gay started racing cars in college, where he majored in business at Pitt State (KS). He realized that he couldn’t afford his own mechanic and learned how to fix the cars himself.
After graduating college, he worked as a businessman for two years, but quickly realized he wanted to do something else. Armed with his mechanical knowledge from his college days, he decided to pursue it as a job, and began apprenticing at a few of the local racing shops.
Unlike many mechanics, Gay acquired all the knowledge he needed from the race shops to become certified as an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master Technician, and didn’t have to go to any special schools to learn his trade. He has also earned the title of BMW-tech and is a Porsche Club driving instructor. With his knowledge, he started working at the Baron BMW shop.
Gay worked at Baron from 7:30 to 5:30 every day, and eventually became burned out. The fun part of his job, he says, was the problem-solving and diagnosing of the cars, and the immediate feeling of accomplishment for fixing something that had been broken. However, after seven years, tired of the repetitive nature of his job and the limited time he had to spend with his wife Annette and his daughter Maddie, he knew he needed a change. Gay contributes his search for a more fulfilling job to his parents, who supported his goals and never pushed a specific career on him:
“When someone’s not telling you what to do, you ask the question: ‘Am I happy doing this?’”
When Gay decided he wasn’t happy, he thought of his parents and decided that he could use his mechanical knowledge in a different way: teaching auto tech. This has proved a great fit for Gay, who not only enjoys being around students, but also has much more free time; a valuable thing for someone who does as much as Gay does. He has many hobbies, including backpacking, fishing, hunting, kayaking, scuba diving, ice and rock climbing, dirt biking and cycling, much of which he does at his family’s cabin in the Ozarks. Gay has also coached the SME Robotics Team for the past five years. Of course, his biggest hobby is his love for cars.
Gay loves racing, and has driven his modified ‘83 Porsche 944 Turbo all around the midwest, from Iowa to Texas to California. He even got the opportunity to drive the famous Nürburgring racetrack in Nürburg, Germany 2 summers ago, where his wife paid for his laps as a present. The track, known for its brutality and difficulty, is frequently used by exotic car manufacturers to test their latest supercars. Gay knew this was no track for rookies, and he even says he practiced the track on Gran Turismo on Playstation before going, just to be ready.
As a person who has spent much of his life around cars, both under the hood and in the driver’s seat, Gay is glad he gets to enjoy his passion every day as a teacher. He has done a lot since his racing days in college, and still has yet to be in a car accident.