Bryan McTaggart: Veteran and Automotive Bad Ass

Recently we caught up with Bryan McTaggart, a huge Gearhead and a Veteran as well. You've seen his work from the likes of BangShift, Holley, and a plethora of other automotive outlets. Through and through Bryan was a Gearhead from about the time he could walk. 

With Memorial Day just passing, we reflected on those Hero's that are no longer with us. That also reminded us of Hero's that are still here, like Bryan. 

1. What branch of the military, and what did you do/what was your job?

I was an Armament, Avionics and Electrical Technician for OH-58D Kiowa Warriors in the Army from 2001-2010. Basically, anything that didn’t involve changing out the oil, cleaning the windscreens or involved the rotors, at some point would require my attention. That job also involved working on the FARP (Forward Arming/Re-fueling Point). Visualize a NASCAR pit stop, but with belts of .50cal rounds, rockets, and a running helicopter. The only way to get any closer to the helicopter is to have a pilot’s certificate!

(Bryan, On Right)

2. What motived you to serve?

Growing up, opportunities were scarce and opportunities that had potential as a career were even more scarce. I didn’t want to just work construction and get by like so many people I went to school with. What the Army provided me in training and experience would have cost me big bucks in the outside world, money that I would never have had. It didn’t hurt that my grandfather, who was a retired Air Force colonel who had been in long enough to have an Army Air Corps uniform, was an inspiration, either!

3. What was the most fulfilling part of serving?

The camaraderie. As a service member, it is easy to find things that suck to dwell on day-to-day. But you will always remember the stupid jokes, the pranks, those times where everybody is busting their backs to get the job done. Working together with a wide range of people from a large spectrum of life…it might not hit you until years later, but you’ll forever be changed by them, and usually for the better. Take the photos, save them for later. You’ll be glad you did.

4. When did the automotive bug bite you?

Early on. I still have the 1984 Corvette Hot Wheels car that my dad got me when I was just a tyke. By kindergarten, I was frighteningly good at identifying cars just on site by year, make and model and had already had some experience behind the wheel. I got my first car (1976 Chevy Camaro) when I was 12, and it has only gotten more expensive from there!

5. Tell us about your passion for cars?

Part of it is the performance. I was raised around gearheads who had way too much fun with their own cars and let me see that side of things. I grew up around tire smoke, screaming engines and wild times, and I still enjoy that side of the show. The other side of the equation is the strange bond you can form with a car. Some vehicles you enjoy for their dependable nature, others because they are a workhorse, others still because they perform. But you can find this relatable experience and every time you get the chance to experience it, nothing is better. For some cars, it’s putting down thousands of miles on a road trip. Others, it was five minutes of track time at maximum effort.

6. What's one of your favorite builds?

Easy…Mike Musto’s “Mr. Angry” 1968 Dodge Charger. Sure, it is a classic Charger, but look beyond that: you have an older car that has plenty of power, proven handling characteristics, and the reliability of an anvil. You could get in that car, key the engine over, and drive it anywhere. It’s not a frame-off restoration kind of build either…only recently did he have the car re-wired and the weatherstripping replaced!

7. Any words of encouragement for up and coming Gearheads?

Two things:

1. Learn everything you can and never think you are done learning. I did my first full engine rebuild at 37 years old. I keep learning about vehicles I’ve never known about. There is a ton of information out there, and it is yours for the taking if you will actually reach for it. Sooner or later, someone is going to have to grab the wrench and get to work. It might as well be you.

2. Try something new. I get it, there’s tons of great options as a gearhead. But don’t ever be afraid to try something off of the beaten path! Yes, a ’69 Camaro is great, but how many of them will you find at a show, or a cruise, or a race? I’ve seen a K-swapped Honda Insight running 9’s in the quarter while getting fuel economy that would make a Prius owner jealous and I’ve seen a 1986 Pontiac 2+2 land-speed racer that howled on road rallies. Be creative and leave your options open.