It’s One Thing to Build Cool Cars, but It’s Even Cooler To Give Them Away
If you’ve ever customized a car of your own, or even just dreamt about making some aftermarket mods, you’ll know how enjoyable (and sometimes challenging) the process can be. And if you’re looking for a community to share (and maybe sympathize) in those experiences with you, look no further than the one built by none other than Mr. Built Official himself, Kaleb Zeringue.
Like many, Kaleb’s love for cars began as a kid, but it was solidified as one of his life’s passions when he got his first car at 15. “My dad showed me some things we could do and introduced me to kit cars,” Zeringue recalls. “He’d tinkered with cars before but never did anything crazy, so we spent every single weekend of those next 6 months building this car in our garage. We had to learn from the ground up, but we built a really strong relationship that has carried on today.”
Not to mention, they built the car itself. But when the car was done, Kaleb learned he actually enjoyed the process of building it more than driving the finished result down the road. So he sold the car and moved onto his next project.
“After work I would go home and build cars and I kind of got tired of doing it by myself,” he says. “I would just be in my garage alone forever and I wanted to share that with others so I started posting it online and people responded, people that really wanted to work on their cars but felt really intimidated or felt like it was too expensive and the channel just kept growing.” The Built Official channel became a place for Kaleb to express himself through his vehicles, but he had more to give than just DIY advice.
“I gave away my first car at 17,” says Zeringue. “Growing up my parents were always giving. It has always been a part of my life. Every time we gave away something that seemed too big, we were always okay.” So when the opportunity presented itself for Kaleb to find his own unique way of giving back to the community, he saw his moment to shine. He’d been working on a BMW and was ready to sell it and start on his next build. He listed the car in the paper, got a call, and drove it out for a test drive.
“The girl comes out and she loves it,” he recalls. They took it around, but when they got back, he remembers both of their moms looking devastated. Turns out, they’d called the wrong number, just one digit off from another listing, thinking the BMW was for sale at $1,000 vs. the $5,000 price tag Kaleb had listed. After learning that the girl needed the car to go to college (she was the first in her family to go and was on scholarship), Kaleb made her a generous offer.
“I just felt like I needed to give this girl the car,” he says. “She needed a break. She needed reliable transportation, so I just gave her the car. I think that was what set me into motion of giving cars away, because I realized how big of a deal this car was and how much of a change it was going to be for her life going forward.”
Over a decade and 8 car donations later, Kaleb’s calling, car collection and channel have only grown. He continues to give away reliable cars to people in his community who really need them, while also adding his own flair to his own vehicles with the “help” of his two sons who make frequent appearances on the channel. “The best thing I ever built was the car I built for my oldest son,” he laughs. “It’s a ride-on toy that we wide-bodied and customized and he made a lot of decisions on it. It was cool to see him making decisions like I do.”
And while cars have come in and out of his possession, there’s a few things that’ve remained the same. “Persistence is everything,” he says. “If you just keep going, eventually stuff stops breaking. I’m buying cars on an absolute budget, and I see them in their worst shape ever, and that shape is a result of a lack of maintenance. If you incorporate good practices with preventative maintenance, you’ll have way less failures with your car.” It’s one of the main reasons he runs Techron through the tank of each car coming into his shop.
“I actually put a bottle of Techron Complete Fuel System Cleaner in my very first car I bought for a dollar,” he says. “There was a fuel issue, so my dad and I went to the store and bought some Techron, put it in there and drove the car for several hours to clean out the fuel system. I’ve been using it ever since.”
“It’s inevitable that there’s going to be some gunk left, carbon deposits, all kinds of stuff in your engine that you don’t want in there,” says Zeringue, especially when dealing with older cars that have sat for long periods of time or weren’t properly taken care of like the ones that have come into his possession. Knowing that he’s got Techron in his shop, and that when the car goes to the next owner that it’s going to work, that’s all the peace of mind he needs.