14 June 2007

Dr. John, the Auto Tripper

These pics get positively HUGE if you click 'em! By all means, do so.

I took my Dakota over to The Auto & Tire Doctor today for an oil change and tire rotation. What's a mechanic doing having someone else work on his rig, you ask? The $29.95 Special of the Month is why. I usually do my own oil changes, but the oil filter is a pain in the ass on that thing. I don't know what it's like up on a hoist, but on the ground the filter lacks about 1/4 inch of enough clearance to drop right out like it ought to, so you have to slide it forward and change hands between the frame and the hot exhaust manifold, arms fore and aft of the tire with your chin resting on it. No fun. Rotating the tires with a floor jack in my sloping driveway is a time-consuming pain as well. It costs me a little under $20 to do an O & F change myself, so another ten bucks or so to do the rotation is well worth it.

John, the owner of this joint, is an old pal. We started our shops one door apart in the same industrial park the exact same day in '84. He started The Auto Doctor with 450 square feet, built it up 'til he had all ten units in the original building, and through the magic of time and hard work, not to leave out a missus with a lotta business savvy, now owns the 12,000 sq.ft. building, on 2 1/2 acres, that you see in the above photo. The four bays are about sixty feet long with roll-up doors on the other end as well.

The windows above the entrance and customer waiting room (other photo) are apartments John built to house some of his employees. Forty Meskins in each one! Just kidding. That's huge. Affordable housing for working folks in our town is getting increasingly hard to come by. While the building was being designed he thought of a damn good use for what would otherwise have been wasted space.

Speaking of the waiting room, there's magazines and TV, and a lot of deco: die-casts, signs, license plates, all kinds of automotive and NASCAR memorabilia. John has an RS/SS El Camino that he built, and El Caminos are the preponderance of the die-casts. It's hard to get very bored in that joint.

I waited for my pickup in the outdoor waiting area, equipped with nice patio furniture and also a cow-condo grill upon which John occasionally cooks lunch for his employees and customers. When he's not cookin' up road kill ("From your grille to ours!"), there's coffee, popcorn, and hot dogs for the customers. For free!

Did I mention that John is a nice guy who likes to treat people right?

Just to give you the small-town flavor, while I was waiting I had a nice chat with a young lady, maybe mid-30s, who was waiting on her Ranger (smart girl, huh, F-Man?). She ended up showing me pictures of her grandkids, which floored me 'cuz she didn't look old enough. The Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt musta fooled me. She also said her Mom liked to play video games, which she thought was weird for an "old" lady of 60. I set her straight on that "old at 60" shit right quick! I also got a short visit with some folks I've known for 25 years but haven't seen in quite a while that were getting their car serviced. I got caught up on their kid: "He's in juvie. Three dirty pee tests. All the kids quit racin' motocross, too. They all got hurt too bad. Catchin' too much air." Some things never change. Heh. Pretty fun way to wait for your rig.

The shop is modern and up-to-the-minute. I don't know how many employees John has but it's a bunch. Mechanics these days need a lot more learnin' than they used to because basically they're electronics diagnosticians, but they still get greasy up past their armpits on occasion. He also has service writers, tire guys, and office folks. When he started out, John did it all by himself. Now he just walks around, schmoozes, does whatever he can to keep things goin' smooth. It's the biggest shop in town and has the best reputation.

He gives back to the community, too. Just about every event you go to around here, The Auto & Tire Doctor is on the list of sponsors, particularly all us gearheads' favorite, the annual Cannibal Cruise. By the way, the guys who put on the cruise say it got its name from 'cannibalizing' parts to build cars, but those of us who live here near Donner Lake and Donner Pass know that it's really named after a peculiar eating habit of some of the old pioneers.

I just wanted to share John's success story with you. It shows what a dumb-ass kid wrench with a dream can do with a lot of hard and honest work.


The title of the post comes from the old days when John and I both, er, worked, yeah, that's the ticket, 'til all hours to try and keep up with things. The statute of limitations has run out on some of our nocturnal goings-on, but I'm still not going there. We're mechanics, not altar boys, after all. These days I call him "the T & A Doc".

No comments: