Kettering graduate creating 'library for every car'

Jun 13, 2014

The goal of the project is to make more automotive information accessible to people.

Steve Balistreri '06 is creating a "library" for gearheads. 

Steve Balistreri '06 bought a 1980s BMW with over 300,000 miles for $500 for the sole purpose of driving it in the brutal and challenging Michigan winters. It was a “beater” as automobile enthusiasts prefer to call it - a car he could run into the ground without being concerned with damaging it.

Now that the weather is over, Balistreri has changed his mind and is spending his evening and weekends giving the beater a “heart transplant” by swapping a Ford Mustang 5-liter V8 engine into the nearly 30-year-old vehicle. 

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“Working on cars is a like a giant puzzle,” Balistreri said. “A lot of the joy is just the process. It’s a lot of problem solving and figuring stuff out. It can be frustrating at times but in the end you can start it up and drive it around, it’s your handiwork in action.”

Balistreri is a self-proclaimed car fanatic or a “gearhead” and is inspired by the problem solving aspect of deconstructing and constructing a vehicle. Ever since his first car, a 1998 Volkswagon Golf, Balistreri has maintained and upgraded all his vehicles and every time he ran into the same problem – the internet had many places where he could learn from other enthusiasts and share his personal journey with the vehicle, but it was always difficult to find specific procedures and information when he needed them.

Now, Balistreri is striving to tackle that problem by building a gearhead libraryand community but needs a little bit of help along the way.

Living His Childhood Dream

Balistreri graduated from Kettering with a degree in Mechanical Engineering but has wanted to work in the automobile industry long before that. 

“I built car models when I was younger,” Balistreri said. “When I got a car in high school, I started working on it. I always knew that I wanted to go into the car industry.”

Balistreri almost went into industrial design with the aim of working on vehicle models before he became intrigued with the opportunity to work on cars immediately in Kettering’s co-op program. He completed his co-op at Visteon in Detroit and also spent time at their German headquarters working, on building test stands for air conditioning condenser lines which also became the subject of this thesis.

He now works in the automobile industry in metro Detroit and is pursuing a project in the evenings and weekends to share his passion for cars with others.

What is DIYautoFTW.com? 

“It’s a library for every car,” Balistreri said.

Balistreri launched DIYautoFTW.com with the ambitious goal of creating a database for every vehicle available for purchase in the United States. The goal of the project is to make more automotive information accessible to people. This free exchange of information will allow individuals to share their personal “Do It Yourself (DIY)” projects and builds complete with videos, diaries and “how to” manuals. Think of it as Wikipedia for every vehicle make and model ever sold in the United States.

“There are thousands of websites and communities where people discuss working on cars but they aren’t good for storing information,” Balistreri said. “Searching through them is a real pain and content disappears over time. I want to take all this information and put it in one place. Basically, make an encyclopedia for gearheads."

The site is unique because every page is specific to a single vehicle which makes it easier to find information. For example, if a user owns a 1987 Ford Mustang or a 2012 Porsche 911, they would be able to visit that vehicle’s specific page on the website and learn everything from how to change the headlight to fabricating the suspension. Ideally, a network of owners will share their projects with the greater community to assist others with their vehicles.

“There are lots of competing websites but there’s nothing that takes the DIYs and builds and organizes and preserves them in one spot,” Balistreri said. "The primary reason is because it’s a lot of work. Not many have been crazy enough to put in the hours to do it.”

The current version of the site is a beta model but Balistreri has launched a Kickstarter project with the hope of raising $40,000 to transform the website, database and project. The raised money will go towards a complete website redesign to make it a more searchable and collaborative environment. The redesigned site will run off a database and allow users to submit information, DIY projects and images. .

“It will make it a more interactive community,” Balistreri said. “It will make the site more flexible, more inclusive for people and a lot easier to work with.”

Balistreri is soliciting information about builds and projects from the DIY community who have embraced the concept of the website and have voluntarily contributed thousands of articles about their respective vehicles. Balistreri will continue to rely on users to submit information about projects and builds with the hope of becoming a critical and user-driven site for all vehicle maintenance and upgrades.

“Most people who work on cars say they have always wanted something like this to exist,” Balistreri said. “It’s something that will be a really good resource for people.”

To email a build or DIY project to Steve Balistreri, contact diyautoftw@gmail.com.


Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Patrick Hayes - phayes@kettering.edu - (810) 762-9639