Update: Riley Schlick, now in college, hasn’t kicked her carburetor habit
When we last left Riley Schlick—back in August of 2022, to be precise—the 17-year-old was basking in the florescent-lit garage of her family’s home in a Tampa suburb, rebuilding carburetors. Lots of carburetors. So many that she enlisted her four best friends to work on them for her booming business, Riley’s Rebuilds.
Plenty has happened since then, including her graduation from high school and college enrollment in Connecticut. Those life changes have effectively put an end to her daily habit of surfing before classes, along with another notable lifestyle change: “I have never driven in snow before.” She had to leave her beloved Jurassic Park-themed Jeep YJ at home for now, so she’s making do with her grandmother’s minivan.
Pretty soon, Riley will have something more interesting to drive: A 1966 Ford Fairlane, in which she and her dad are preparing to install a 500-horspower, 390-cubic-inch V-8 with, of course, an Edelbrock carburetor. By now, Riley says she knows that carb “like the back of my hand.” While home for Thanksgiving, she spent as much time as she could wrenching on the engine. Hopefully it will be ready for a dyno run during Christmas break.
Riley’s carburetor-rebuilding business is still flourishing, for the moment handled mostly by her brother and a friend of his, though Riley still rebuilds the occasional carb in her dorm room. Her quartet of carb-building buddies back home—Dagny, Katie, Amelia, and Elaine—also left for college, necessitating the changes, but Riley says she hopes to have access to a shop in Connecticut soon.
She’s already paid visits to nearby Moroso, the performance parts business based in Connecticut, and to TV personality (Chasing Classic Cars) and Hagerty columnist Wayne Carini, whose F40 Motorsports shop is close to campus.
Right now, Riley’s concentration is on coursework—“Finals are coming up soon”—and soccer. She’s a goalkeeper for Connecticut College.
Even amid her recent break from daily carburetor business, Riley’s profile in the automotive aftermarket has grown considerably in the 15 months since Hagerty profiled her. Perhaps the most notable achievement her scholarship award, presented by the Jessi Combs Foundation; Combs was the 39-year-old racer, mechanic, and TV personality (Overhaulin’) who died in 2019 when the jet car she was driving at over 500 mph crashed in Oregon. “Riley Schlick has been a force to be reckoned with juggling college, her small business, and teaching others that you can do it, too,” said the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network, which presented the award.
Combs “has been an idol of mine for so long,” Riley says. “I was so honored to win.”
She’s been all around the country, this week showing up in Indianapolis for the three-day Performance Racing Industry show, and before that, she was in Las Vegas for the Specialty Equipment Market Association gathering, better known as the SEMA Show, where she was asked to put on a seminar on rebuilding carburetors. SEMA also hosted her first autograph signing.
She’s also appeared on the TV shows All Girls Garage and Gearz, went drifting with Tanner Foust, and was heard on Sirius/XM’s Road Dog Trucking channel. She’s been profiled in Popular Science and Scholastic Science World magazines, and she’ll be appearing on an upcoming episode of the Caffeine and Octane TV series.
Riley says she’ll never abandon carburetors, but she does want to take full advantage of the experience of being a college freshman. The vast majority of her fellow students have no idea what she does in her spare time: “I’ve been living a very Hannah Montana life,” she says, referring to the Disney sitcom that had Miley Cyrus playing a pop star by night, average teen by day.
“But I’m loving it.”
You can keep up with Riley on her Facebook page.