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Monday, May 6, 2013

Advice from a Mechanic: Part I

My Uncle Charles "Chic" G*l*n** was a mechanic. More accurately, he was an auto collision repair specialist. He would restore cars that had been darn-near totaled, i.e. the cars that would probably end up in the junkyard today. He worked on cars and trucks all his life, and in his younger days, had forearms like Popeye and reminded me of a smaller version of Ivan Putski. 

Uncle Chic & his son Charles circa 1954
I have no doubt whatsoever that, back in his working years, if someone took any auto or truck apart down to the last bolt, belt and wire...and left everything in a pile in the middle of the garage floor, Chic could put it back together without needing a diagram or instructional manual.
Chic spent most of his adult life living and working in CA. Every so often, he would drive back to PA - even well into his 60's - and spend a few weeks visiting family & friends. I remember one extended visit, in the late 70's or early 80's I think, where he bought a home near Falls, PA and actually opened up a small repair shop to "tinker" with cars to keep busy and make a few bucks.
Sometime between 1983 and 1986 - on his way to visit family in Buffalo NY - Uncle Chic stopped by our home near Rochester to have dinner and stay overnight. He had driven in, by himself, from CA to the Wyoming Valley a few days earlier.
I remember the following as if it were yesterday. After dinner, we were sitting on our front porch when he pointed to his Toyota truck parked in our driveway. "Donnie", he started, "I've been working on cars and trucks all my life, and I've never seen anything built as well as that Toyota." I truly do not recall much beyond that statement, but coming from him - it definitely stuck with me.
 A few years later, when it came time to buy a minivan to accommodate our growing family, we bought our first Toyota; a 1992 Previa.  About fifteen years and ~220,000 miles later, I sold the Previa after we purchased our second Toyota, a 2007 Prius. The van still had plenty of miles left, and it was my "haul-it-all" vehicle for kayak trips and just about everything else, but it was time to let it go. I sold it privately in less than a week, and I later found out the new owner totaled the van in an accident just a few weeks later.

During our last trip to CA in May 2012, I made it a point to stop by and see my Uncle Chic, Aunt Rita, and their four sons. Uncle Chic will be turning 90 soon, and while I was there, he made darn sure I sat in his pride and joy - one amazingly-long Cadillac - that he purchased over thirty years ago.
Uncle Chic  - May 2012
Many years ago, a seasoned auto mechanic shared his wisdom with me.
And I listened and learned.
      More to follow.

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