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Roadshow Asks: How'd you get to be king of Mazda's secret garage?

Mazda can be hush-hush about what happens on the lower-level garage, but we got the skinny from the guy who runs it all.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Welcome to our new interview feature, Roadshow Asks, where we find out how people in the automotive industry snagged their dream careers. We'll interview everyone from designers to race car drivers to get an idea of what their job entails, their education background and the role technology will play in their future.

Randy Miller is our first victim. His official title is "Engineer, Mazda Motorsports" and he has a very special responsibility at the company. Miller maintains the historic cars in the little-known, always revered Mazda garage, located in the basement of Mazda headquarters in Irvine, CA. Stuffed with everything from first-generation Miatas to winning Le Mans cars, the basement is Miller's domain. There's even a left-hand-drive, rotary-powered Luce Coupe.

Miller has been an engineer with Mazda Motorsports for twelve years. He has an AA in Automotive Technology from Saddleback College in Orange County, California and a BA in Business Administration and Leadership from Concordia University. He's also a certified ASE Master Tech.

I interviewed Miller about what it's like to do his job over email.

Emme Hall: What was your first car?

Randy Miller: A 1990 Toyota Pick-Up 4WD with the 22R-E 4-cylinder engine.

EH: What was your first automotive job and how did you get it?

RM: My first automotive job was Shop Technician in the service shop at Mazda North American Operations. I maintained and repaired the fleet of employee lease vehicles based out of Irvine.

EH: Take us through an average day at work.

RM: The best thing about my current job is that there are no two days that are the same, so an average day does not really apply to me, but I will give it a try. My day usually starts with plowing through my unread emails in the morning (coffee in hand of course), handling as much paperwork as I can before I lose motivation, then heading down to the basement. I will usually have multiple cars in any number of pieces and various stages of repair, so depending on what parts I have received, that will determine which car I will work on. It can be anything from tearing down all the suspension to crack-check every piece, to rebuilding a four-rotor race engine, to fabricating a suspension mount/piece to attach to the car, or repairing/creating carbon fiber parts. Or my day could be spent at some race track around the world prepping these amazingly historic race cars to go out on track and make some wonderful noise and give all the Mazda fanatics an amazing show. It all depends on the day and time of year.

EH: What is the most tedious thing about your current job?

RM: The most tedious thing about my current job is the "office stuff." I have to do all the budgeting paperwork, purchase orders, invoices, asset tracking, transportation organization, etc. etc. etc. It is amazing how much time these tasks can take out of my day!

EH: How does tech affect the future of your job?

RM: Tech actually has some effect on the future of my job. Most of our historic race cars are running the original electronic management systems which, inevitably, will eventually fail. So I am slowly converting the cars over to more modern management systems to keep them running. This gives me more diagnostic tools, a better view of the engine health, and an ability to replace failed pieces. It also plays a part in the current race series and cars that we support, allowing more monitoring of teams to stick to the rules, obtaining more data from the cars for development and allowing us to create superior parts and pieces to make the cars more competitive and fun to drive.

EH: What automotive trend makes your blood boil?

RM: I would have to say the trend that most boils my blood is autonomous cars. Why take all the fun out of driving? Just take public transportation if you want a dull experience... just my two cents.

EH: What is the one project you've always wanted to tackle professionally but have never been able to do?

RM: I don't know if I would call it a "project" necessarily, but I have always wanted to get paid to drive a race car. Apparently, it takes a certain amount of skill of which I guess I do not have.

EH: If you weren't working in the automotive industry, what would you be doing?

RM: This is a tough question, and my answer may surprise you. I have an immense love for the ocean and everything associated with it, any chance I get to get in the water I take. I surf, dive, skimboard, paddle, swim, boat, anything that gets me in the salty water. I have always wanted to be a marine biologist because there is a whole other world below the surface of the ocean and it intrigues me to no end. It has always drawn me to it and kept my interest.