Right now on Reddit, there’s a thread on /r/cars going pretty nuts, about one man’s displeasure with famous maker of absurdly fast cars John Hennessey’s Tuner School. Are his complaints warranted? We asked John Hennessey himself, so you can decide.
In short this student took to Reddit to say how unhappy he was with Hennessey’s school, but Hennessey himself rebutted the claims. He also spoke to the student in question and offered to let him continue or quit with a refund.
Here’s how it started: the original poster, who goes by the name fuck_your_tater_tots (must be a family name) had just gotten out of the military and looking for a new career to get into. For reasons obvious to pretty much anyone reading this site, the Hennessey Tuner School seemed like a pretty appealing option, especially since it works with the GI Bill.
However, some weeks into the program, he felt compelled to post this on Reddit:
Now, first off, I’m not the only one in my class that feels this way, about 90% of the class does. I am attending Hennessey’s Tuner School in sealy right now and I’m over half way through it. I recently got out of the military and was looking for an industry to get into, after some searching I found Tuner School and childhood memories of DuPont Registry ads and Hennessey Vipers started filling my head. I mean holy shit Hennessey is offering a school and they take the GI Bill! Well my love for fast cars took over me and I went into the situation blind (like an idiot).
This school cost round abouts of $15,000 or 8 months of your GI Bill even though it is a four month school. The school is small, it is probably 1/8th of the entire shop, yes it is connected to the shop. It has three lifts for the school, but due to this semester’s class capacity we are using another lift in the shop. The cars we are working on are pieces of shit. They have been taken apart and put back together so much that they constantly break, and when a part breaks the school doesn’t have replacements, they have to order the part and that usually takes about 3-5 days here, so the days we don’t have the needed part we sit around with our thumbs in our ass. Right now there is one instructor for 22 guys, that doesn’t add up when we go into the shop and start working on cars, especially when we have to have the instructors say so before we do anything, or if we need a certain tool or part. The track days are a joke, the only one we have had all but one car shit the bed. We won’t be learning tuning, even though there is two weeks for that in the curriculum, BUT they will be holding a TUNING CLASS after the semester for a couple grand per person. What they teach is basically general stuff any gearhead knows excluding a couple things like camshaft design/valve events and turbo mapping. The instructor at the school is an awesome cool guy, he really is, but he is overloaded.
I know bullshit when I see it and after I noticed it I kept trying to tell myself the school would get better but it isn’t and won’t. The school is worth maybe $4,000 and that might be stretching it. I got ripped off and wasted some of my GI Bill, I don’t want it to happen to anyone else especially if they are spending their cash. This school made me lose interest in the tuning industry. Any questions please ask because I’m upset about it and I don’t want anyone else feeling like I do.
Emphasis mine. Those are some pretty serious accusations, and, to be fair, $15,000 is a good deal more than most community college automotive mechanic’s classes, so expectations are likely to be much higher.
I contacted John Hennessey himself to see what his response would be to these complaints, and to his credit, he got back to me just about immediately. Judging from his tone and his willingness to talk, I do get the impression that he takes these complaints seriously.
The first issue Hennessey said he had with the complaints was that the student chose to post them in on Reddit before talking to his instructor, which is a valid point. While we were talking, I was told that the student had approached his instructor about these issues today.
Hennessey addressed several of the concerns. He took issue with the assessment that the cars were “pieces of shit,” saying that they have a fleet of at least six cars to use, and they’re all just a year or two old: two Mustangs, two Mustang GTs, and two Camaro SSes. He acknowledged that the cars do get worked on a lot, by people who are learning, so mistakes do happen. That’s sort of the point.
Hennessey did say that it was a bit larger of a class than normal, and they have about seven to eight students per vehicle. Regarding the track days being “a joke,” Hennessey responded that there are no guarantees of any specific amount of track time, and most similar classes don’t even offer any track time at all.
Hennessey also said that at the end of the day, if a student is unhappy, they will give a pro-rated refund. He said that there are some students who find the school not a good match for a variety of reasons — they have too much experience, for a beginning class like this, for example —and they’ve given refunds before.
The class is for beginners, covering the basics of car theory and repair/modifications. Hennessey made it clear that they had to work with a range of people, from those who have restored their own cars to those who’ve “never twisted a wrench.” A more advanced tuning class is available as well (at added cost).
When I asked what the difference was between their class at the Tuning School and a much cheaper community college automotive class, Hennessey said it had to do with the focus: where a community college class would be more about repairing cars for eventual jobs at tire places or places like Jiffy Lube, the Tuner School is more about modifying cars for performance.
Whether or not that is actually worth the added cost is up to each person to decide, of course.
I reached out to the original poster, but as of publication we haven’t received a reply.
John Hennessey also invited Jalopnik to come and visit the school at some point soon to get a direct look at what goes on, and what it’s like; we’ll look into doing this soon, if possible.
As with all things branded by a famous name, it does leave it up to the consumer to decide whether or not you’re just paying for a name. And, if you are, will that name help you get jobs down the road? Are there special insights and skills only available at certain organizations?
At least one guy doesn’t think so, but, with the school turning out 150 ‘graduates’ since 2009, this clearly isn’t the case for everyone, though there are a number of similar complaints about the class online.
So what happened with the student? Hennessey told me he, the instructor, and the original poster all talked, and the student then told them he was “drunk, and having a bad day” when he wrote his post.
Hennessey offered him a chance to either explain/recant on Reddit, or leave the program with a refund. I don’t know yet what the student will choose to do, but all of this is a sobering lesson in how much power one person can have by just writing a post, accurate or not.
I haven’t spoken to the original poster—or any other student in the class—at this point, but based on Hennessey’s actions, I feel safe in thinking that, for whatever flaws there may be, the class is taken seriously by the people who run it. That says something there, and if the original poster was in fact drunkenly venting, then that should be considered as well.
And, as a counterpoint, $15K is an awful lot of money, seven to eight people per car does seem excessive, and the track time is strongly used as a marketing tool for the class. The complaints, if proven true, are certainly valid complaints about any class like this.
As always, I’m quite curious to hear what all of you think.
UPDATE: I did get a response from the OP late last night, stating:
Ya know, I can’t really talk about it anymore guys. But I can 110% assure you I WAS NOT drunk when I made the post and I wasn’t having a bad day. I don’t know how that statement came about, I never mentioned that to anybody, but it is completely false. Please change that.
Plus, he added the following statement to his original post:
Edit 2: I was absolutely not drunk or having a bad day while writing this. Although I could have been more tactful.
This is a direct contradiction to what I was told on the phone by Hennessey when finishing this yesterday, and it means somebody was lying.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.