I’d had the Galaxie about seven months. In that time I’d sunk about as much money into repairs on the car as I had on buying the car in the first place. I didn’t mind though. I knew going in that there’d be all sorts of things to fix up. It’s part of owning a classic car.
Unfortunately, another part of owning a classic car is going to start it one morning and having it not start. This can be a problem when you’re doing things like trying to get to work. While it was still running fairly well, it didn’t seem to want to start as reliably as I’d like. So I thought it was time to take it in for a check up. It’d been over a month since I last had to do any work on it, maybe a fresh set of eyes might help.
I drove up to my mechanic’s garage and found that Larry, the old mechanic wasn’t there anymore. It turns out that he and the new owners didn’t get along. When I asked what shop he was working in, they said they had no idea.
The new guy at the shop had a 1969 El Camino. This gave me hope that maybe he knew what he was doing when it came to classic cars. He opened the hood and remarked about how incredibly dirty the engine was. He wasn’t wrong. I’d never washed it and I have no idea when or if the previous owner did. As he looked around at the engine, he said that most of my gaskets were going. He touched one and part of it literally fell off. He told me to go up the street to the car wash place and clean the engine, then bring it back and he’d take another look at it.
Looking back at this now, I see all sorts of red flags that I was just too inexperienced to notice. The problem with trying to learn how to do something like take care of a car is you need to listen to everyone in order to get good information. Eventually you learn to weed out the bullshit. I hadn’t gotten to that point yet. I’m pointing this out because a lot of what I write next is going to make me sound stupid. It’s not that I was stupid. I just didn’t know any better.
I went to the car wash place, popped the hood and sprayed the engine wash stuff on it followed by some water. It made a significant difference. I got into the car and tried to start it. It didn’t want to go anywhere at all. After trying for about ten minutes, I called the mechanic and said, “Dude, you told me to wash this thing now it won’t start. Get over here and help.” So the mechanic showed up in his El Camino a few minutes later. He fiddled with a few wires near the battery terminal and said, “It looks like it’s still got a spark. Do you have a screwdriver?” I had a whole set of tools in my trunk. I handed him a screwdriver. He hit it on something causing a big spark and burning off the tip of the screw driver. He handed my now mostly useless screwdriver back. He popped the distributor cap, took a can of air to dry it out, and started it right up. I then followed him back to the garage.
The guy told me that changing all the gaskets and doing a general check up would cost about four hundred dollars. I told him that was fine and to call me if anything came up. He told me the car would take about three days to finish.
Four days later I had a coworker drop me off to pick up my car. The mechanic I’d talked to wasn’t there. Some other guy was. He handed me the bill. It was five hundred fifty dollars. I understand that sometimes things get a more expensive, but a hundred and fifty dollars more than the estimate without any notification was insane. I told him I’d pay him four hundred now and the rest later because I simply hadn’t budgeted that extra money.
I popped the hood to see what work they’d done and was shocked. They’d painted the entire engine Ford Motor Company blue. It looked great. I started the car and it roared to life. Before, I’d start it and the engine would have this smooth low hum. Now it sounded like the Millennium Falcon. I smiled a little and drove out of the lot thinking yes, it had cost me more than I expected, but the results were pretty great.
I stopped by the Safeway near the shop to pick up some groceries. As I walked down an aisle I heard someone say my name. It was Larry. I told him that I wished I run into him a few days ago. I told him the whole story and asked where he was working now. He said he’d bought a new garage in the parking lot of the Safeway. Larry had moved exactly one block from these other guys. Larry told me to come by the shop anytime and that he wouldn’t be charging the sort of rates he had to charge when he did the brake job. I got his new card and decided that the next time I needed a mechanic, I’d call Larry.
To Be Concluded…
Next week is the final chapter of Year One of owning my Galaxie. You’ll learn what the new mechanics really did to my car and how a Saturday spent working on your car can turn into a week of working on your car.