Article > Opinion

How Are Things? Well, Incredible!

By Mitch Schneider

Mitch Schneider
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
  Previous Comments
avatar   Chris   star   2/13/2010   4:38 PM

Unfortunately, Dave, it's not very likely they'll let that happen. The ability to search the net would likely be dreadfully abused by a lot of employees

avatar   dave elliott   star   1/26/2010   9:05 AM

Nate, same boat. lets try to stay afloat the best we can. One day, I see it available to ISS on the system. Our resources are virtually unlimited if we take our notes home with us and get on the net at home. We can get phone numbers to order and find the parts. In the case of the 31 Olds, time was not an issue, more often than not this is not the case. I think I will make a "centsible suggestion" We will see. And really, we're on the same page.

avatar   Nate Lewis   star   1/25/2010   3:38 PM

Dave- I wholeheartedly agree with you on the internet front. Paper manuals are a great resource for older vehicles, but in the time that it would take me to A)Find the correct manual(s) for your '31 Olds, B)Search through the index for the part, and C)Check availablity (inevitably "Not available from any supplier"), with the high-speed internet and search engine mentioned by Gene I could find 10 equally obscure and hard to find parts, usually from a vendor that I am able to order through my computer system. While I can appreciate the reasons behind restricting internet for any store associate, as a commercial manager dealing strictly with repair shops and jobbers, sometimes having a vastly broader source of information (ie. actual internet, not "TeamNet") comes in extremely handy.

avatar   dave elliott   star   1/25/2010   12:19 PM

Well Mitch, the young man you respected that laughed maybe doesn't know his business as well as you think he does. Or on the other hand, if he works for the same Green Mafia I work for, he doesn't have access to the web, unless he keeps his (banned) cell phone on him and has web access on it. Some times, the rules that are made for some, should not apply across the board. I'm just sayin.......

avatar   Nattilee   star   11/12/2009   3:46 PM


avatar   dave elliott   star   10/20/2009   11:10 AM

forget it Scott, she's not interested.

avatar   Scott   star   8/25/2009   12:27 PM

Well hello Lauren! How are you today? Haven't seen you around these parts before. Hope to see you again soon! ;)

avatar   Lauren   star   8/6/2009   2:45 PM

you should do a follow up on this. including how long it took to get everything done and add pictures! how did Sharon react when she saw the progress you made?

avatar   Gene   star   8/6/2009   12:56 PM

I wish I had Mitch as an account, I have developed a disdain for paper catalogs in my 40th year behind the counter. But with high speed internet and a search engine,there is very little I cannot provide a customer. Gene

avatar   Paul   star   7/24/2009   6:19 PM

I think it is obvious that the first counterperson was one of those who think that paper catalogs should be thrown away.

avatar   Bobby Chapman, Store Manager, O'   star   5/7/2009   3:14 PM

Incredible, Incredible, and business at O'Reillys is INCREDIBLE, as well.

avatar   Nam   star   4/12/2009   12:21 PM

That is incredible

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