Racing, building engines more than amusement

4 Sep 2014 | Nathan L. Hanks Jr. The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Building engines and racing cars is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life for Rex Madding.

Madding has been the service manager at the Auto Skills Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, for more than a year and a half. He admitted he is not the “cookie cutter” type mechanic.

“I like things that are high performance and go fast,” Madding said. “I will soup up your lawnmower. Making something have more power than it ever did before is something I like to do.”

Madding, who has lived in Baconton, Georgia, since 1981, said he has not raced in a few years due to a friend being injured in a racing accident. However, he still enjoys going to the race track and helping his friends with their cars.

“I can go out there and relax and not be in such a hurry as I did when I was racing,” Madding said. “The drivers can tell me what the car is doing and with a few questions, I can usually help them.

“I am a power tuner,” the 53-year-old mechanic said. “I get the most horsepower out of a vehicle as possible by pulling spark plugs and looking for the conditioning of the timing and fuel curve and then I adjust the carburetors and the timing. If they use a turbocharger or nitrous, I can adjust accordingly to get the most out of it without destroying the engine.

“These engines are like children,” he said. “When the driver tells me what they are doing and adjustments are made, it’s like being a proud papa because when an engine performs well, it makes me feel good.

“It is the feeling of accomplishment and self satisfaction knowing your hard work has paid off,” he said.

Madding, who worked on his first car at age 12, said he started racing because of his hero, Burt Reynolds, who was the star of the 1977 movie, “Smokey and the Bandit.”

He recalled one of his fondest memories of racing at the Albany Motor Speedway.

“In 2003, I built a 1971 Chevy Nova, Outlaw 10.5 drag racing car, with a 565 Big Block Chevy engine,” he said. “It has a 1,090 horsepower motor and with the three stages of nitrous oxide turned on, it makes 2,000 horsepower and it’s fast. It takes a parachute to stop it.”

Madding said his best time at the Albany Motor Speedway is 4.79 seconds at 151mph on an eighth-mile track.

After leaving MCLB Albany each day, Madding can be often found working on one of his many projects in his one-bay shop built by his grandfather in 1981.

“I guess you can say building engines and racing runs in my blood,” he said.