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Monday, February 6, 2017

THE VOLK’S SHOP

THE VOLK’S SHOP

a cranky re-run from February 2012 

When I graduated from College I bought a new 1968 Volkswagen bug.  It cost $1800.  I paid extra for undercoating (hey, I was young) and an AM radio.  Actually my Dad paid $1800 which I was to pay back after I got a job.  I paid it off in eight months.  The best thing about the VW bug besides the fuel economy of its 40 HP air cooled engine was its easy maintenance.  One reason for its easy maintenance was “The Volk’s Shop.”

The Volk’s Shop was a one mechanic shop run out of a barn on a farm in the outskirts of North Brunswick, New Jersey. The proprietor, the lone mechanic at The Volk’s Shop was Tom “Something” (never did know his last name.) 

Tom was an excellent mechanic who was scrupulously honest.  I never left his shop feeling ripped off.  He did not ascribe to the almost automatic charge of $400 for anything beyond an oil change like other shops.  In fact I was always pleasantly surprised at how little he charged. 

The one thing I learned quickly about Tom was that he was a man of very few words, and he was very literal.  When he asked what was wrong with the car it was a bad idea to give him your opinion.  I learned this the first time I took my bug in for more than an oil change.

“Hey Tom, the bug is running rough, I think it needs new plugs.”

“OK.”

When I picked the car up I asked him what he did.

“New plugs.”

The car still ran rough.

I brought it back.

“Gee Tom; the car is still running rough.”

“What do you think is the problem?”

“I don’t know…points?”

“OK.”

I picked the car up the next day and asked him what he did.

“Points.”

The car still ran rough.

I brought it back.

“Gee Tom; the car is still running rough.”

“What do you think is the problem?”

“I have no idea.”

“OK, leave it.”

I picked up the car the next day and asked him what he did.

“Tune-up, timing belt, new gas filter, adjusted the fremlinger and tweaked the fornastat.”

The car ran like a top. 

Turns out that when Tom asked what you thought was wrong with your car if you didn’t know for sure, the correct answer was “I don’t know.”

I once took the car in for a fix which required Tom to crawl under the car.  He said it would only take a half hour to fix so I waited.  Tom took out wrenches of several different sizes, a screw driver and several other tools.  He slowly and deliberately laid out each tool in a specific spot by the car. This whole procedure took him fifteen minutes.  I checked my watch as he slid under the car and was thinking maybe I should have just left the car and had my wife pick me up.  This clearly was going to take over 30 minutes.

Once under the car, Tom reached out and without looking grabbed the first tool.  He seemed to be working slowly but in one minute he meticulously replaced that tool and reached for the next, again without looking.  Working painfully slow Tom worked his way down the line of tools, never looking as he grabbed each one like a surgeon in an operating room.  In exactly 15 minutes he pulled himself out from under the car. Not a bead of perspiration was on his face.  He had uttered not a single cuss word and there was no grease or oil on this face or hands.  Tom worked slowly but without any wasted movement.

“That should do it” he proclaimed wiping his hands of non-existent oil out of habit.

It took him exactly 30 minutes.

I took all my cars to Tom for 35 years until he finally closed up shop.

A mechanic or a dentist, if you find a good one, never change. 

22 comments:

  1. We had a great mechanic when we lived in one part of Southern California. I heard his shop advertised on Christian radio and so when we needed something done we looked him up. Honest and reliable to a fault. I often joked with him that he prayed for a steady customer since son's Cadillac was more often than not in the shop for necessary needed repairs. I trusted what he said and the work he did and he always backed up what he said, gave fair estimates, did the work timely and when something was messed up (some part to the Cadillac was defective that he replaced but when he realized it and saw it was still under warranty, took care of it without a moment's hesitation). Yep, definitely their weight in gold.

    betty

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  2. Fremlingers and fornastats were the bread and butter for VW mechanics

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  3. Your dad got a better deal than I did....... I paid for a Volkswagen for my daughter when she was 16 and I never got paid back. But I got a better deal in price..... $500. My daughter still talks about that car with loving words, the best car she ever had. Always started and ran like perfection. We lived in the gigantic snow storms of MN and that little bug would pass all the stalled cars and just on the regular tires yet.

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  4. "A mechanic or a dentist, if you find a good one, never change"
    Words to live by. I have an excellent dentist right now and don't plan on changing ever, unless she retires. It takes me two bus trips to get to her, so an appointment usually means a whole day away from home, bur she's worth it.
    I like VW's, we once owned a VW Kombi van, It had bucket seats in front and two bench seats in the back so we could separate the kids and give them each a window seat. Like every other car we ever owned, hubby managed to kill the gearbox withing a year.

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  5. These miracle workers are getting harder and harder to find.

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  6. I hope the new mechanic I have chosen is as good as Tom. We had a Beetle many, many years ago. Loved it.

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  7. SD has a great VW mechanic called Derek - runs the business from a workshop and yard at the back of his house - sounds a lot like Tom.

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  8. Took me a few decades, but I've finally found a mechanic shop I like. And they hand out a pack of chocolate chip cookies when you leave.

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  9. There's a gentleman who lives around here who runs to all of the garage sales every weekend in his pristine white VW Bug. If he ever decided to sell, there's a line of people who want a crack at it.

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  10. Unfortunately, these days a mechanic needs $100K worth of computer equipment and half a dozen "certifications" before he can even adjust your carburetor. Oh wait, now we have fuel injectors, and "chips" that run everything. I'm thinking Tom would be glad he isn't a mechanic in 2017.

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  11. Amen to this. I've had the same dentist since the early 80s. Same place but the original dentist is retired. The office is still the very same as the first day I showed up. I'll never leave.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  12. "A mechanic or a dentist, if you find a good one, never change."

    Truth.

    I've had a mechanic that I trust for more than 20 years. Then one day, he gave my wife a quote for some work that was higher than she liked, so she told me she was taking her car elsewhere (brother-in-law of a close friend). That lasted for a couple years, until she had two consecutive instances of taking her car in to get fixed, and then, the day she picked it up, something else broke, and we got rung up for another $X-hundred. Which, to me, is the cardinal sin of mechanics. Maybe it's a coincidence, but when it happens twice in a row, trust starts becoming an issue. So she's back with my good-ol' trusty guy. . .

    I've learned to describe symptoms, but not make diagnoses. My mechanic knows that I'm an engineer for a car company, which gives me a certain amount of BS-immunity (altho truth to tell, my specific knowledge of most of what I take my cars to him for, is much less than his. . .)

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  13. He gave you great service and a terrific memory.

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  14. I LOVE Volkswagen bugs but never got my first one till I was 65 and retired. It was a red 78 and I had a grand time having her restored. She became a marvelous geezer magnet. Almost any guy with a few years on him had, rode in or wanted one in their life time and had to tell you about it.
    As for a great mechanic, I always said that if he was single, I'd propose or fix him up with a sister---if he was younger, I'd try to adopt him. Regardless, making him a family member is a good move.

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  15. I found one good mechanic. He worked for another guy in his garage. One day, the guy died, the kids sold the business, and I never found my mechanic again, he was in the wind.

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  16. When you're from Jersey you say "I got a guy". We all "guys" when I lived there. Tom sounded pretty awesome.

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  17. I'm still looking for a mechanic like that!

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  18. Having two college boys, and five (running) vehicles...we have a mechanic AND a body man. Both within three miles of our house.

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  19. I'll never forget when my Dad brought home a new black VW bug. He loved that car but it made us a bit of an oddity. With six kiddos crammed into it, it was always fun to see us pile out. My baby brother was put into the back compartment thing...not sure what it was called but he fit OK. OH, I must add a bit about the surgeon part of your post. The only reason they have precision is because of people like me who hand those tools to them..always giving them what they need, not what they ask for. Your mechanic had more finesse!

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  20. Funny. As a kid, we owned 2 VW's and even drove cross country in 1963. We got a lot of looks - California plates and this itty bitty car. I owed a 71 VW camper van. Put 2 engines in it and then it finally blew up in the early 90's.

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  21. Wow ,i am glad that you wrote this post.
    i truly love reading about HONEST people ,i think this world is still running smoothly because there still exist such Focused,Calm and simply Honest people .

    you will never forget him i can feel this Joe!

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  22. I agree; a good mechanic, like a good dentist, is a treasure. Fortunately, our boy is a master mechanic so he takes care of our cars, or tells me what to do.

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