As someone who has always purchased used, low mileage cars in an attempt to offset the expense of driving a new car off the dealer lot, I’ve had my share of repair issues over the years. Luckily, I’ve also had the same reliable mechanic for the better part of two decades. No matter what car I owned or in some cases wished I didn’t own, he has been able to find the source of the problem, fix it, and get me on my way. As the owner of the shop, he is the one who deals with the customers, prepares estimates and makes the phone calls to let people know when their vehicles are ready. What I recently found out, though, surprised me a bit. The man I thought had been fixing my cars hasn’t turned a wrench in years.
The last time I was in for a repair, we got to talking about the late model auto I brought in. I bought it with less than 20,000 miles on the odometer and didn’t really expect to have to have any work done other than routine maintenance. When I asked a detailed question about the reliability of the car, in his opinion, he called out one of his employees and told me that he no longer works in the garage. This young man provided me with the answer I was looking for, and explained why the problem I had wasn’t likely to happen again through my ownership of the vehicle. While that was relieving, I was still in a bit of shock. I always pictured the same person working on my cars, or at the very least supervising. We joked about it and then the owner told me why he only concerns himself with the administrative aspects of the business.
According to him, he would rather be under the lift doing what he enjoys, but the complexity of today’s automobiles precludes him from doing so. It seems modern cars and trucks demand higher standards of technical ability, service procedures and diagnostic equipment than he was able to provide or understand. As technical advancements continued to show up in cars that entered the shop, he began to see a trend. The graduates from automotive technical schools that he hired were able to comprehend the complicated systems of late model cars and perform diagnostic and repair services better and faster than he could. Of course, they had gone through extensive training for just that purpose, where he had learned auto repair from his father and through years of trial and error.
I asked him if it upset him that he had to rely more on others than in previous years. He told me that it doesn’t bother him so much, then pointed out the window at a beautiful 1969 Corvette that pulled in to get gas. “When a car like that comes in for repairs, I’m the one that gets to work on it.”
“One classic deserves another” I said, then smiled and went on my way.