How long have you been in business here? I started this business in 1977.
Have you had a lifelong affinity for cars? Pretty much. I’m 70 years old now, but when I was in high school it was the heyday of hot rods and drag racing. I started working part time in gas stations throughout high school and college. After that I worked for United Airlines.
Did you always want to be your own boss? Well, I went into the Marine Corps in 1969, got out at the end of 1970, and I’d gone to Vietnam. When I got back I had one semester left at West Chester University to get my history degree, which I did. But after Vietnam, I didn’t really want to go into corporate life or anything like that. I thought “I’d rather be my own boss, shape my own destiny.” I’d gone back to United and they started their first reorganization, with layoffs and relocating people, and it was pretty shabby. So I started working at Penske Racing in 1972, then a Volvo dealership, and eventually opened my own place.
How many employees do you have? We have five mechanics; myself; Ryan, our service manager; and Luis, who comes in from 7:30-1pm and then goes to school for automotive training. We have Maddie, a high school girl who comes in to help with clerical, and Erica, our office manager.
Having been in the business for so long, you can certainly attest to the fact that the technology in cars has really ratcheted up in recent years. Absolutely. We work on all kinds of cars here, but specialize in European models. But all cars are sophisticated now—a Chevy is as sophisticated as a Volvo. We’re in a revolution. It was an evolution from the sixties into the seventies, and then fuel injection came along in the eighties, and more sophisticated solid state electronics for reliability. Then around 1995-2004, there was another leap forward. And now we’re in the midst of enormous and rapid technological change, and complexity— and expense—as a result.
And is that good or bad, in your opinion? Just different. From a safety standpoint, the advancements are amazing. Cars today are superior to what cars were 20 years ago, no question. But back in the day, if someone had trouble with their car starting, I’d walk out there with carburetor practice gear and a screwdriver. Now, we have $35,000 scan equipment that has to be updated annually for the new models—AND they’re model-specific, usually. We have one for Porsche, one for Mercedes, one for Saab, etc. Also, years ago, if you weren’t necessarily the best and the brightest, you went to vo-tech and became a mechanic. Now, mechanics are like rockets scientists. They have to be EXTREMELY knowledgeable about mechanics and computer systems, AND they have to love cars. If you don’t love cars, it won’t work anyway.
Photo: Andrew Hutchins, Interview: Kate Chadwick