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Sad state of repair shops these days

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  • Sad state of repair shops these days

    A couple weeks ago we were out in the Avanti II & when putting it back in the garage I could hear an exhaust leak. Next day I confirmed that the "donut" at the manifold on the drivers side had blown out. Since the pipes on that side are a pain I decided that I had reached that point in my life that I could pay someone else to do this job. Took it to a local exhaust / lawnmower shop. After putting it on the lift, the guy comes back & says the tech told him the manifold was also leaking at the head and that they would have to pull it off & have it machined flat again. I told him never mind & I left with the car.

    I've worked on chevy engines for 45 years & have never run into a warped stock manifold. These guys must have thought I was born yesterday. I bought the parts & am fixing it myself. Unfortunately I found that the pipe is also bad, so am waiting on some new ones from Silvertone Exhaust.

    Seems I just can't get away from that old saying.....if you want it done right, do it yourself.....
    Mike Sal

  • #2
    Don't know about Chevy but a lot of the 60s & 70s Fords would come from the factory no gaskets. If those started to leak, the hot gas would damage the manifold and maybe the head too and you'd have to put in gaskets, even after planing. I don't know what the newer stuff is doing.

    Jeff in ND

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mike Sal View Post
      A couple weeks ago we were out in the Avanti II & when putting it back in the garage I could hear an exhaust leak. Next day I confirmed that the "donut" at the manifold on the drivers side had blown out. Since the pipes on that side are a pain I decided that I had reached that point in my life that I could pay someone else to do this job. Took it to a local exhaust / lawnmower shop. After putting it on the lift, the guy comes back & says the tech told him the manifold was also leaking at the head and that they would have to pull it off & have it machined flat again. I told him never mind & I left with the car.

      I've worked on chevy engines for 45 years & have never run into a warped stock manifold. These guys must have thought I was born yesterday. I bought the parts & am fixing it myself. Unfortunately I found that the pipe is also bad, so am waiting on some new ones from Silvertone Exhaust.

      Seems I just can't get away from that old saying.....if you want it done right, do it yourself.....
      Mike Sal
      The day of "Old school" mechanics isn't quite gone yet. We have in town an ancient repair shop. The present owner, son of the founder, no longer works on cars, but the shop, complete with an engine and transmission machine shop, is still working. There's just one old codger in the machine shop, but he can rebuild your flathead Ford V8, or early Hydramatic, no sweat. His shop manager and line mechanics are all under 50, many under 30, but they can and will diagnose and repair anything. A few years ago my wife's inline 6 Volvo dropped a crank sprocket, breaking the heads off all the exhaust vales. No problem. They pulled it down, sent the head to an equally ancient head shop, and it was put back together, no sweat. At the Volvo dealer, the repair would have cost more than the car was worth.

      My somewhat ancient Caddy (SBC) was making a noise I didn't recognize, so I had the shop manager listen to it. "Leaky EGR hose", he said, and repaired it, no sweat. Shortly thereafter, the in-tank fuel pump quit. "No sweat" was the diagnosis. "But it's got 20 gallons of gas in it. How will you deal with that?" "No sweat. "Three of us can drop the tank in ten minutes."


      These guys can diagnose and repair the newest Asian imports or a Model T. They're all just cars to them.

      Type this into Google Earth and take a look:

      1449 Union Street, Spartanburg, SC

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      • #4
        We have one, good, honest shop left here as well. The owner is approaching 60, and his helper is 72. Both do good work, and still take on older vehicles.

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        • #5
          My 2 cents. Being an auto mechanic is a job that requires lots of experience and skill. Really good, & versatile mechanics that can diagnose & fix anything and everything for a reasonable price, are very hard to find. Most cars now only get routine service--brakes, tires, shocks, lube. Dealers handle the work on late-models with quirky problems that are covered under warranty.
          The problem you had is one that is more time-consuming than that. That particular mechanic may not be familiar with Studebakers; just replacing tail pipes and mufflers on a 10-year old car. Or something. That's why, if you have a vintage vehicle, and you don't perform your own repairs, seeking out a shop that specializes might be the way to go, next time. Be prepared to pay & wait. But, I'm glad you handled it yourself, anyway.
          Last edited by Reggie; 06-22-2019, 09:12 AM.

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          • #6
            I guess if you live in an area and hang around with a few car guys, things like this don't seem as much of a problem. Off hand, I can name three shops that would have done the repair to the gasket and gone on with other work. Schafers, Compton's (BC auto) and M&R auto repair. They have either done work for me, my family or friends and I know there are a couple more around. Don't be afraid to ask around for these folks as most of these shops remain busy with the cost of repair at dealerships increasing rapidly. They all have connections with the local utilities and other fleet owners to do their work so you might contact local folks that run fleets of vehicles to see who they use.

            They are out there, it just takes some work to find them.

            Bob

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mike Sal View Post
              ... Seems I just can't get away from that old saying.....if you want it done right, do it yourself.....
              Mike Sal
              Being a "car guy" before I even had a licence (early 60's now) I've never taken a car to a shop for work. At least for me that would negate the reason I'm a "car guy." I realize that perspective is not a requirement for owning a classic car, but it sure helps.

              What I find sad is when a person buys a classic car with new paint, new interior and everything else mechanically is marginal. Then they have endless, persistent problems that they can't fix themselves and pay dearly for it. It is something across all brands that can often leave the hobby in a bad light.

              As to the SBC stock manifolds. I have the 60's era ram horns. When I looked into gaskets (manifold to head) a lot of people said they didn't use them. I don't drive many miles but so far so good (50+ years old and no warping). I just made sure the surfaces were clean and I used anti seize at the mating surface.

              FWIW my son has a 90's Honda that has the exhaust manifold integral to the CAT. Known for cracking he welded it up (it only had about 30k miles on it). He was just going to bolt it on and I told him to check it. He had to fly cut about .070 off the surface to get it flat. This car uses a stainless steel gasket with compressible ridges (reusable). I told him to just get it snug and leave the shield off. At 70k miles later so far so good. So sometimes the surface does need to be cleaned up. And at least in his case it was better (he surfaced it at school on a Bridgeport for free) than paying $450 for a California Certified CAT!
              '64 Lark Type, powered by '85 Corvette L-98 (carburetor), 700R4, - CASO to the Max.

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              • #8
                wittsend, what you say here (below ) is exactly what has happened to several of the guys in our little club. It ranges from 30's era cars all the way up through a couple of 70's ... The cars look fantastic, but apparently were assembled by drunken monkeys at night with no lights and poor tools.( "monkey wrenches ?, ha ! ) It is sad, because some of these gents are older, live in restricted areas, or both, and can do none of the repair or correcting work themselves. We do have a couple of good shops with interested "car guy" workers here, but getting any machine work done is almost out of the question as there are only a couple here and they are WAY behind and just a bit .......uh..... careless, and extremely slow. Thankfully I am still able to thrash on my own, but sure am slowing down due to "old guy" aches and pains, ha ! .

                From wittsend: "What I find sad is when a person buys a classic car with new paint, new interior and everything else mechanically is marginal. Then they have endless, persistent problems that they can't fix themselves and pay dearly for it. It is something across all brands that can often leave the hobby in a bad light."

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                • #9
                  I might have some insight since I’ve been involved in this industry my entire life. 50 years ago this summer I started working with my dad in his gas station at the age of eight. And all that time this has been my passion.

                  Someone said in another thread, they will never understand why someone would buy a new car and bring it to cruise nights or the like. The answer is simple; they want to be part of the scene without all the negatives associated with an older car.... no matter how much they love them.

                  What are the negatives? Durability, reliability, safety, and comfort… But a big part of it has to do with the subject of this thread, finding people to work on them. In our shop we work on whatever is needed, with a specialty in collector vehicles. Older people remember when cars needed to be in the shop every 3000 miles for a tuneup and lube job, and on the more complicated ones like multiple carburetors, the frequent tinkering to keep them running just right. They don’t mind it – if they can find somebody to do the work. In many cases they used to do the upkeep themselves; maybe even enjoy doing it; but they have gotten to the point in their life where they don’t want to or physically can’t take care of the cars. There are a lot of young people that understand this about older cars that can afford to have it done, and they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. Either way, imagine dropping 50 grand on the car of your dreams, then going to a modern shop and being brushed aside or put on the back burner every time. People get turned off by that really fast, and far too often it runs them out of the hobby. Then they just go and buy a new Challenger that anyone will work on and be done with it.

                  I can tell you that in the majority of modern shops, they love to see older cars, but they don’t want to get involved with them. The younger techs don’t know how to set points or adjust carburetors or find all the fittings to do a grease job on an old car, and shops don’t have the time or will to teach them. I know many shops that absolutely refuse to work on any pre-OBDII vehicle. If you’re not involved with collector cars every day, there can be a lot of desk time tracking down parts or information. On top of that, with newer cars they have people bringing an appliance to get done what is needed. With classic cars, you’re talking about somebody’s pride and joy; those people demand – and deserve - a little gentler handling. Most places don’t want to spend the time on that.

                  True story from about 10 years ago: I got to know a guy through a mutual friend that was in his 70s, and I always dreamed of owning a red 64 Corvette, like he owned when he was young. Here was a guy in not great health, wearing oxygen everywhere he went, but with the money to live his dream.

                  So he finds the car of his dreams: red 64 Corvette, 327 4-speed, older restoration but beautiful shape. For a summer, he and his wife enjoyed the car. But gradually it got to where it was blowing more and more blue smoke on startup. Probably valve seals At the end of the season he took it to a local “reputable” shop.

                  So the shop checks it out and tells him it probably should be rebuilt to do it right. Instead of rebuilding the correct matching 327, they talk him into a crate engine. Now spring comes, and I meet him. He’s having all sorts of annoying problems: The shifter isn’t working right, had to go back for a misfire once, and just generally not running right. One time it quit on him and left him stranded. He was so dejected that he sold a car on eBay- and went to his grave thinking that this is no longer a viable hobby. Every time I think of him it breaks my heart all over again. So, what about the shop that did the work? Every time he brought it back for a legitimate complaint, they would huff and roll their eyes and treat him like an old fool. This was an intelligent, accomplished guy. After a while he got tired of being insulted. To top it all off, I asked him what did they do with the engine that came out of it. He said they had to turn it in as a core– which is a shameful bunch of BS. I’m sure they made good money selling that to somebody else.

                  I personally have known other people with similar experiences – a friend with a 66 GTX that he owned for 34 years and sold because he was too old to work on it. They bought a two your old Mustang convertible so they could still at least be a part of their hobby. He told me the same thing – it was never a question of money, but while everybody liked seeing the car, nobody was willing to take it into their shop.

                  Today’s modern automotive shop has a lot of money invested in very expensive diagnostic equipment, and there’s never an end to it. It seems like we no sooner get some five figure piece of equipment that there’s another one we need. And the reality is, they have to keep that equipment working to justify the cost. And that doesn’t leave much room for the care of classic cars, or the effort to teach young guys how to work on them.

                  My dream has always been to accommodate both the latest technology and the oldest of vehicles. We do that now. But old cars are a challenge because of the frequent need to wait for days for parts to come in. Our new shop will be big enough to accommodate it all. The new property is 31 acres. That gives us enough room to expand into all the various specialties as they grow; and gives us the flexibility to be diverse. In my opinion, the future of classic cars is going to be modern upgrades; electronic ignitions, fuel injection, disc brake upgrades, aftermarket air conditioning. And someday in the not too distant future, electric conversions.

                  The whole point is to keep these rolling works of art alive and on the road as long as possible. Most aren’t interested in that. But at 58 years old, I intend to spend the rest of my life figuring out ways to do just that. And from what I see from the average modern shop, there’s probably always going to be opportunity to be had.
                  Proud NON-CASO

                  I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

                  If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

                  GOD BLESS AMERICA

                  Ephesians 6:10-17
                  Romans 15:13
                  Deuteronomy 31:6
                  Proverbs 28:1

                  Illegitimi non carborundum

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bob Andrews View Post
                    I personally have known other people with similar experiences – a friend with a 66 GTX that he owned for 34 years and sold because he was too old to work on it.
                    There's no such thing as a '66' GTX. 1967 was the first year for the HIGH TRIM level, (not entry level) Plymouth GTX.

                    Craig
                    Last edited by 8E45E; 06-28-2019, 04:40 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Finding someone to repair our old cars is problematic but there are experienced techs and shops who like the challenge. For me it starts with a brief interview with the management and the tech to see if they want to take the job.
                      Lark VIII girls car had the crankshaft break and a tech at Summit City Chevrolet where we work was glad to perform the job and did great work. In the past another tech did a challenging exhaust manifold replacement on her previous Golden Hawk and wiring repairs. I had a head gasket replacement on my 1929 Hudson done at a local Chevrolet dealer by a tech who always wanted to work on a 20s car and never had.
                      When my AMC Pacer needed air conditioning work I was lucky to have the very same tech who serviced the new cars I sold 35 years ago do repairs. He was excited, " I never thought I'd work on a AMC car again". He still had a AMC repair manual in his tool box!

                      Husband of Lark VIII girl
                      Last edited by Lark8girl; 06-29-2019, 05:32 PM. Reason: spelling

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                      • #12
                        You're lucky to have found a good shop that is willing and able, to do the work on your older cars. We have one small shop here that still does a great job for an honest price. He did the custom exhaust on my Hawk, and also the alignment. He has a brake lathe, so he is able to turn drums, and resurface flywheels if needed.

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