It is a cold Winter’s day as we stop in at a garage in Rzeszow, Poland. We begin to chat with Michal Hajduk at PPKS MAN, an authorised dealer of MAN trucks. Michal is a 34-year-old Technical Advisor with 8 years of experience in the industry and in his spare time he likes to restore older vehicles.
Why did you start to restore old vehicles?
There are many reasons, but I think old cars have a soul. Each of them has its own history, with both good and bad times in its past. The opportunity to bring them back to life is fascinating and rewarding. When the project is finished, and I go on the first test drive, anything could happen! This is the challenge of old cars and I find it very exciting.
When restoring a car, do you rest and find a chance to recharge in your busy life?
I think you must have the right mood and mindset for such work. For much of the project I am relaxed and enjoy working with real vehicles, not like today’s plastic cars. Sometimes though, it can turn into a real nightmare when you have failures again and again. I usually take a break from the job and come back to it when my inspiration returns.
Do you plan to change your career? And why?
I began my education in marketing, working as a technical customer advisor for MAN. In my spare time, I am a mechanic and lacquer painter. At the moment, I have such a wide range of experiences day-to-day that I see no need to change, I am always working on something new.
Can you remember what first got you interested in cars?
I loved cars from an early age. At the age of 6, I fell ill with an incurable disease called “Citrofilia”. It was my father’s fault. He bought a “cosmic” car, a Citroën BX with a futuristic dashboard and with hydropneumatic suspension. For years, the disease deepened as I fell more in love with the brand. After the BX appeared the XM, which was the first car I began to learn mechanics on.
What motivated you to become a technical advisor for trucks and mechanic for old passenger cars?
My professional life and my hobby have always been linked with the automotive industry. Thanks to working as a customer adviser for MAN service, I have a really fulfilling professional career. I like working with people, the multitude of issues and problems to be resolved between the workshop and end-user worlds.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt in your career so far?
Whether I’m working with clients or working with cars, there is a new lesson every day. The variety of topics that I encounter every day continually surprises me. Surprise teaches us that you should never forget humility.
Is there one piece of advice you could give to other professionals or car enthusiasts?
Never do anything without heart and strength.
What are the most technically challenging tasks that you encounter regularly in the workshop?
For me, the most demanding task when rebuilding cars is to maintain originality and get the necessary parts - often theoretically unattainable.
What is your approach to dealing with these difficult tasks or problems?
I am a man for whom nothing is impossible! So, for me, the most important thing is to remain calm and maintain self-control. If you can do this, then eventually the problem will solve itself.
What do you see as the technical challenges you will encounter in the next 10 years?
My biggest challenges for the next 10 years? Finish all the projects that I started!
How important is technical education for the next generation of technicians and young people in general?
Education of the future generation of mechanics is crucial. The required skills of automotive mechanics are changing very quickly as the industry shifts. In my opinion, the pace of change is accelerating, which means that well-educated and up-to-date mechanics will be even more important.
What is your most memorable moment in the garage and why?
The most memorable moment for me is related to a restoration of a quite young but very special car. It was Citroën Xantia V6, the ACTIVA version. To this day, since 1999, it is the fastest car in the elk/moose test in history. After completing the project, and the day before it was due to be sold to the customer, I lost control and crashed car. I had triple rollover, and I broke only two nails. This was a great lesson in humility and certainly memorable... Now I am more careful.
Finally, what is your dream car and why?
My dream car? Every day is different! I love them so much and they fascinate me so greatly that every day I discover something interesting about another car. If I could I would have them all, at least for a little while.