Author Topic: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)  (Read 1992 times)

A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« on: April 22, 2018, 11:47:01 AM »
Bob has "gone West" as pilots say.  He has taken off to join the ages.  I met Bob shortly after he returned from the first (1950) Winter Olympics held in (North) Korea.  He was a partner in (what used to be called) a shop specializing in repair and "get ready" for the (literally) dozens of "previously owned" Luxury car lots on Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles.  Bob had been a Factory trained mechanic had done his apprenticeship working for dealerships in his native Eastern PA.  When I met him I was just a 14 year old mechanical wana-bee.  Watching him diagnose and repair Cadillacs was, at the time for me better than anything I could think of.  He would take the time to explain what he was doing, where he had learned to do what he was doing and how all the pieces of this diagnostic puzzle fit together.  This was a different era.  Mechanics were not "parts changers" but knew all the components and systems they were working on and by experience the most effective way to correct any "issues" that developed in their functioning.
After he shut his shop down in the early 60's he went to work for Cadillac dealership(s) and even though I lost track of him for a while his words methodological diagnosis and repair echoed in my mind every time I had something to do on a car. 
I ran back into him about 25 years ago and that friendship continued as if it had never stopped.  He was still working at Cadillac and his wealth of experience had expanded beyond imagination.  When I started in on this forum and there was a technical question that seemed to confound us, the readers I would call Bob and relay the information to him.  Almost without fail he had some suggestions which, when the problem finally got solved were dead on correct.  He had done "that" before.
Bob is gone now and the world of friends and Cadillac mechanics is a lot emptier. In today's world of financially challenged "parts changers" there does not seem to be a replacement for the mechanics of his era.
Happy flying Bob
Greg Surfas
Cadillac Kid-Greg Surfas
Director Modified Chapter CLC
CLC #15364
66 Coupe deVille (now gone to the UK)
72 Eldo Cpe  (now cruising the sands in Quatar)
73 Coupe deVille
75 Coupe deElegance
76 Coupe deVille
79 Coupe de ville with "Paris" (pick up) option and 472 motor
514 inch motor now in '73-

Offline davedeltadog

  • Posts: 57
  • Name: Dave Plumley
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2018, 12:23:29 PM »
Great story that reflects the state of auto repair shops today and yesterday. The mechanics are pretty much gone, replaced by technicians.   

Offline Barry M Wheeler #2189

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3492
  • CLC Number: 2189
  • Name: Barry Wheeler
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2018, 12:51:57 PM »
Every time I "suggest" that I have the shop manual when I take my car into the shop, it is politely refused "as we have all that information on the computer." Well, no they don't, because what they see is generalized. I usually leave it on the back seat anyway so they can sneak a peek if they need it.
Barry M. Wheeler #2189

1981 Cadillac Seville
1991 Cadillac Seville

Offline Jeff Rose CLC #28373

  • Posts: 2324
  • CLC Number: 28373
  • Name: Jeff Rose
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2018, 01:14:59 PM »
Had a Firestone coupon a few years ago for a free tire balance and rotation. Figured why not. I pulled the skirts off myself and took it in. The kid stood there for about 45 seconds trying to figure out why I had 2 keys. He drove it in and did the work. Went to move it and the car would not move. I knew what had happened- I had older wheels on the back that did not clear the calipers. He wouldn't listen to me and called other people over. Finally an older mechanic came over and agreed with me.
The younger guys just want to change parts out.
Great story. Sorry about your friend and mentor.
All the best.
Jeff Rosansky
CLC #28373
1970 Coupe DeVille (Big Red)
1955 Series 62 (Baby Blue)
Dad's new 1979 Coupe DeVille

Offline Scot Minesinger

  • Posts: 6004
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2018, 01:35:18 PM »

Sorry about your friend and enjoyed the story.  I have friends who are mechanics at car dealerships, and it is all about replacing parts with 200%+ mark-up on the parts plus high labor costs. 

It is part consumer driven too, as many people will be furious to pay 3 hours labor to diagnose and change a $25 hose/minor component, and they fell less ripped off if they paid 3 hours labor plus a $400 part.  Many people feel all mechanics are created equal.  Just like we me all feel women's dress makers are all about the same.

The future is clear, there are less and less capable people to work on these older cars and read the shop manual.  Even though I'm not an authority, I always get the repairs done with the help of the shop manual and this forum.  I creep more towards a true mechanic and less of a parts changer as every repair is completed.  Due to cutting corners with metallurgy and other areas, manufacturers are producing less durable replacement parts, and often good used is better than new.

I should make it to the finish line with old Cadillacs in great mechanical repair.

Again, I so get what you wrote about and sorry again for the loss of your friend.

Fairfax Station, VA  22039 (Washington DC Sub)
1970 Cadillac DeVille Convertible
1970 Cadillac Sedan DeVille
1970 four door Convertible w/Cadillac Warranty

Offline Tpicks55

  • Posts: 168
  • 1975 Eldorado Convert 1994 Deville Concours
  • CLC Number: 28988
  • Name: Tony Giannantonio
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2018, 02:30:38 PM »
Great story Greg and sorry for your loss.  I know exactly what you mean as I was a mechanic ( on helicopters) and my training was in depth to the point I knew the systems and could trouble shoot some problems with little problems.  I still kept the manuals at hand just in case of a brain fart.  Recently, I took my truck in to the chevy dealer for some work.  The brakes needed attention.  I mentioned to the rp that one brake pad has fallen off ( found it in the drive way).  I get a call its ready so I mentioned  which wheel had the problem.  He stated there were no problems found.  My bill stated brakes checked and in fair condition.  I held up the pad and where did this come from then?  You can guess the look I got.  It is a sad state today you cant count on anyone but close friends and yourself. 
75 Eldorado Convertible
94 Deville Concurs
2019 Lincoln Continental
2016 Cadillac XTS

Offline Dave Shepherd

  • Posts: 2424
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2018, 03:09:31 PM »
Agreed on all points, thatt is why my friend who I help out, is jammed with work, back to the 30's.

Offline Dr. John T. Welch

  • Posts: 119
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2018, 03:58:47 PM »

The fundamental problem on the part of the minimally mechanically engaged collector /enthusiast is the failure to recognize that today’s standard for a successful repair outcome for any vehicle is, above and beyond all else, emissions compliance.  The whole concept behind the OBDI and OBDII diagnostic paradiagms is guidance to the  root cause of a component or system malfunction that already (OBDI) or will (OBDII) impair a vehicle’s emission compliance. This is now enshrined in federal law.  We now have a whole generation of technicians and at least two generations of vehicles for which this repair and maintenance construct applies.  This is the mindset that greets the old car enthusiast on the service driveway and at the service writer’s desk of  a contemporary repair facility.  This mindset has no grounding whatsoever  in a fundamental diagnostic tree that is not  assisted in some way by an onboard vehicle ECM. This is all these people have ever known and history begins there. The fundamental engineering genius behind all of this is that, if the vehicle is operating within the specified limits of its exhaust composition as detected by the onboard ECM, the vehicle will perform satisfactorily to the customer’s perception (idle smoothness, acceleration, fuel economy, cold and hot start performance, etc.). Absent an onobard ECM, most of today’s techs don’t have a clue where to start or what to do. That’s what they’re taught and rightfully so.

 Today, in north America and for most of the world, there is no emissions compliant OEM engine family or contemporary engine derivitive thereof that has ever operated without electronic engine management of some sort.       

Basically, pre-OBDI and you are on your own.  Good luck.  You might as well be bringing a rotary dial phone in for repair to the local ATT office even though it can be made to function perfectly well!!
John T. Welch
 CLC   24277

Offline Jim Miller

  • Posts: 285
  • Name: Jmiller
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2018, 09:18:52 PM »
At the time I purchased my '41 a year ago, the service manager at the Cadillac garage mentioned they hired a young man who knew old cars. Found out he grew up working on cars with his dad and uncle. He's 29 and drives a modified 1950 Hudson. I consider myself lucky to have run into him. He's helped send the shocks for rebuilding, checked out brakes, done alignment, pinion and transmission seals. Just rebuilt the carburetor. The day before a project I drop off the service manual and any '41.service bulletins and reading from the forum or advice from Bob Schuman. He reads it all and keeps a file. Since I've got 35 years on him, I should be all set till the time the kids take the keys away.
Jim Miller
Jim Miller

1941 6219
1949 6237X
2021 XT6
1991 SDV
1999 DeElegence
2006 DTS
2013 XTS
2016 SRX

Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2018, 09:44:59 PM »
CLC Members,

I belong to the CLC, CCCA, AACA, and a small club in Castle Rock Colorado (Vintage Car Club). I belong to this club for one reason and that is that they support a scholarship for high school folks who want to go to a technical school (college) to learn to be mechanics.

Don't get me wrong these other clubs are also supporting this effort at a national level.

AT some point I would like to see the club support those who wan't to go to the two technical colleges that specialize in training young folks how to restore old cars.

Our yearly VCC show, on June 16th, in Castle Rock supports this effort.

Last year we had over 300 cars show up for this informal car show and event a the town which generously supported this effort.

My suggestion would be that more of the local clubs consider this option. Not just a Cadillac show but a all inclusive show (with other clubs) for the benefit of funding scholarships for those young folks who want to do hands on work on restorations.

Now that is the end of my rant.

No disrespect for the passing of a great mechanic.  But I bet he would agree with me!

The Johnny

John Washburn
CLC #1067
1937 LaSalle Coupe
1938 6519F Series Imperial Sedan
1949 62 Series 4 Door
1949 60 Special Fleetwood
1953 Coupe DeVille
1956 Coupe DeVille
1992 Eldorado Touring Coupe America Cup Series

Offline Cape Cod Fleetwood

  • Posts: 2523
  • CLC #31411
  • Name: Laurie Kraynick
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2018, 02:31:05 AM »
A wonderful eulogy Greg, so sorry about your friend..  :'(
There are 2 kinds of cars in the world, Cadillac and everything else....

The Present -1970 Fleetwood Brougham

The Past -
1996 Deville Concours
1987 Sedan De Ville "Commonwealth Edition"
1981 Coupe De Ville (8-6-4)
1976 Sedan De Ville
1975 Sedan De Ville

The Daily Driver and work slave -
2008 GMC Acadia SLT *options/all


  • Guest
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2018, 08:19:53 AM »
Greg, what a eulogy, all we can hope for is that a friend can say the same when any of us are gone. Very well said and condolences for your lose.

Offline 76eldo

  • Posts: 6651
  • CLC Number: 22443
  • Name: Brian Rachlin
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2018, 08:23:19 AM »

Part of his knowledge is still living through you.  Sorry for your loss.

Brian Rachlin
Huntingdon Valley, Pa
CLC # 22443
I prefer email's not PM's

1960 62 Series Conv with Factory Tri Power
1970 DeVille Conv
1970 Eldo
1970 Caribu (?) "The Cadmino"
1973 Eldorado Conv Pace Car
1976 Eldorado Conv
1980 Eldorado H & E Conv
1993 Allante with Hardtop (X2)
2008 DTS
2012 CTS Coupe
2017 XT
1956 Thunderbird
1966 Olds Toronado

Offline Jay Friedman

  • Posts: 2536
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2018, 09:50:23 AM »
I'm afraid "parts-changing" by mechanics is nothing new.  It just depended on the type of establishment the mechanics worked for.  As a college student in the late 1950s-early 1960s, I had a summer job in an Oldsmobile dealer in New York.  Did lube jobs, tune-ups, brake jobs and minor repairs.  However, the only component which was actually repaired or rebuilt in the service department were Hydra-matic transmissions, which only one mechanic of the 6 or 7 on the staff knew how to do.  For everything else--carburetors, master and wheel cylinders, etc., the only "repairs" I ever did involved installing a new part.  I don't know this for a fact, but I imagine at a new car dealership it was more profitable and quicker (without tying up a mechanic's bay) to sell a new part at dealership cost (with a large markup), than having a mechanic spend time repairing it. 

Now that I think about it, I did repair one item sort of.  The Olds V8s of that era have kind of a filter for the down draft tube at the back of the block under the valley (lifter chamber) cover.  It is a round cylinder which I think had baffles inside to catch oil and muck.  Eventually it would fill up with gunk and get clogged, causing the motor to smoke.  I'd have to remove the intake manifold and valley cover, unbolt the "cannister" as we called it, soak it in gasoline, take it out in back of the building, lay it on the ground and set it on fire.  After the fire subsided, I'd pick it up and shake out all the gunk inside.  I know this sounds crazy, and I don't know why we just didn't install a new one (at that age I wasn't very curious), but I couldn't make this story up.  Also, no environmental laws in those days.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 11:26:16 AM by Jay Friedman »
1949 Cadillac 6107 Club Coupe
1932 Ford V8 Phaeton (restored, not a rod).  Sold
Decatur, Georgia
CLC # 3210, since 1984
"If it won't work, get a bigger hammer."

Offline boseephuss

  • Posts: 67
  • Name: Justin S
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2018, 04:01:39 PM »
Very sad to hear, but I know many have benefited from your kind sharing and help on this forum, and it serves as a great testament to your friend and mentor.  He would certainly be very proud.  Thank you for sharing.
J. Sims
CLC Member #48960216

Offline metalblessing

  • Posts: 175
  • Name: Blake Sherwin
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2018, 04:43:34 PM »
Yeah I still need to find a mechanic like this. First mistake I made with my car was taking it to the closest shop. Replaced my carb and when I had all my bogging problems I kept taking it in, guy told me my autochoke wasnt working right and that was my problem, and that I need to install a manual choke. I declined. I eventually stopped going back.

Fast forward and it turns out the bogging was a clogged fuel filter, not my carb. I just cant seem to find a good shop that knows old cars around here.
1968 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Hearse/Ambulance Combination

Bill Young

  • Guest
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2018, 06:07:14 PM »
Sorry to hear of the loss of your long time friend. Any loss is bad , but a lifelong friend loss is bitter. On another location thread on this forum a while ago I stated that I have such a friend in Winter haven Florida that is very talented and can repair any problem mechanical or electrical and can fabricate in multi mediums. As I stated if I loose him I probably will sell off my 1972 Cadillac as I cannot afford to suffer paying out hundreds of dollars labor for someone to screw up my car worse than when I brought it in. I have no money to spend buying expensive classic cars but if I did I still would not as in my humble opinion I believe the time is drawing nearer when these cars we treasure and LOVE to drive will be relics for museums or worse. One Mans Opinion.

Offline 64\/54Cadillacking

  • Posts: 798
  • Name: C.Asaro
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2018, 05:49:41 PM »
So sad and sorry for your loss  :(

I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose such a close person to you like that.

Personally, I have a neighbor friend mechanic who is much older than me, and throughout the years of me owning different cars, he’s helped me fix all of them.

Without his help, and guidance I probably wouldn’t have bothered owning the classics I own now for the simply fact that it would put me into debt from having to take the cars to shop all the time.

I’ve also learned a lot from him, he’s taught me skills and tricks on how to repair and fix things on my cars over the years. I didn’t learn what I know now from reading books, I learned everything I know now from him, including forums that have been a major HELP in figuring out how to repair our cars that a typical mechanic would otherwise have no clue where to start.

He’s been my mentor, and I will be a very sad when that time ever comes the day he is no longer here.

The old guys that work on our cars are truly our last hope when it comes to getting our cars fixed. The next 10 years is going to be even more difficult to find a good solid mechanic to do the job as all the old guys retire.

1964 Sedan Deville (Own)
1987 Brougham D’Elegance (Sold)
1954 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special
1994 Fleetwood Bro (Sold)
1972 Sedan Deville (Sold)
1968 Coupe Deville (Sold)
1978 Lincoln Continental (Own)
1979 Lincoln Mark V Cartier (Own)

Offline mario

  • Posts: 283
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2018, 08:30:25 PM »
My condolences on Bob's death. That was a wonderful remembrance of a loved friend.
I had the pleasure of having a 'Bob' (mentor.) Harvey was his name. He was a window to a depression Era life that made do with little, or next to nothing.
No one really dies, they leave footprints in your heart. Hopefully, there are many more 'Bobs' out there that pass along their learned experiences. Thanks for your post, it brings Harvey, to the front of my thoughts, again.
Mario caimotto

Offline autoluke

  • Posts: 191
Re: A rare and disappearing breed (Mechanics)
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2018, 07:33:27 AM »
" The Business of Life Is The Acquisition of Memories...In The End That's All There Is".

RIP Bob..
Phil Lukens


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