I have an acquaintance who insists the best possible response when asked how you are, how business is, or how things are going in general, is, “Incredible!”
Why? Because, it doesn’t really say anything, it doesn’t tell whether things are incredibly good or incredibly bad. Or, whether or not they are just plain incredible: as in, hard to believe.
Let me give you an example: We are working on a 1931 yes, that is 1931, as in older than your grandfather Oldsmobile F31. Incredible!
It belonged to a couple that has “belonged” to us almost since they moved here from Indiana more years ago than I can remember. The vehicle is all original and it was the owner’s dream to fully restore it eventually. Quite frankly, two decades ago when it carried their youngest daughter to the Chapel on her wedding day, it didn’t really need a lot of restoration.
However, almost four years have passed since Chuck died, when Sharon suddenly decided it was time for his dream to become a reality. She called me to come out and take a look at the vehicle and the next thing I knew a flat-bed tow truck was unloading it in the middle of our driveway.
I’m afraid that today, after languishing in the garage for more than 22 years, covered with tarps and shrouded in the shadows, the same cannot be said about what it will take to restore the vehicle today. The gasoline had gone from liquid fuel to paint thinner, and then from paint thinner to varnish. The inside of the carburetor had a quarter of an inch of thick red “goop” in the fuel bowl, and the tank had more than an inch of rust and the same red “goop” coating the sides and the bottom. The combination of fuel and condensate had eaten away at the tank leaving the bottom and the walls paper thin and just as fragile.
The oil was like tar and the battery had more than likely died a slow and painful death more than a decade ago. And, yet it didn’t take all that much to get it running again.
We removed the plugs and soaked the cylinders in penetrating oil, removed the carburetor, soaked it in carburetor cleaner, and much to our surprise, it cleaned it up remarkably well. We removed the tank and once we realized it could not be saved added a fuel tank to the growing list of parts necessary to get the Olds running just long enough to see what else it might need. And, once the list was fairly complete, I called one of my suppliers.
The conversation went something like this… “Hi, this is Mitch at Schneider’s. I’m going to need an oil pan gasket for a 1931 that is: one, nine, three, one Oldsmobile, F31…” And, that’s about as far as I got. The young man at the other end of the phone, a young man I respect and really enjoy doing business with, a young man who really knows his business, couldn’t stop laughing.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” he quipped. And then indicated he wasn’t going to have anything for a vehicle that old.
Now, before you crucify me for expecting anyone to have parts on hand for a 1931 anything, I didn’t. I knew that someone was going to have to do some research, and that it wasn’t likely any of the parts I needed would be on the next truck!
However, instead of laughing and then moving on to the next call, the next supplier I called simply answered my question with a question: “Can I have some time to go through some of my old paper catalogs to see what’s available? And, can you fax or e-mail me a list of everything you are going to need so I can see what else I can help you with?”
But, it gets better…
We were able to source the majority of the parts we needed and we were able to get the Olds running. We created a makeshift fuel reservoir out of a large Gatorade container just so we could start the vehicle and run it long enough to see what else might be needed. And yes, after watching the Olds drive out of the service bay with a Gatorade bottle filled with fuel hanging from the rear bumper (someone did ask if I could get their vehicle to run on Gatorade!), we discovered a significant misfire accompanied by a serious metal-on-metal valve train noise. We traced the problem to a broken valve lifter and in less time than anyone might reasonably expect, we found and ordered a NEW replacement. Incredible!
How are things? INCREDIBLE!
How could they be anything but incredible when you can make someone’s dream come true, someone you care about a lot, simply by doing what you love to do. How could they be anything but incredible when you can raise a vehicle from a 22-year coma and bring it back to life? How could things be anything but incredible when you’re old, and can simply pick up the phone or get to the net and source parts for a vehicle that’s even older than you are!
How’s business? INCREDIBLE!
How am I? INCREDIBLE! More INCREDIBLE than you could ever imagine!
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at email@example.com.