God, I miss real speed shops. Now, don't get your panties in a bunch. I don't mean drug dealers or those meth labs out in Riverside County. I'm talking about good old-fashion, old man behind the counter, machine shop out back, brake dust on the floor, speed shops. You know, the kind of places where you used to be able to go on a Saturday, when you needed a high-performance part or to fix something that was broken on your truck, but didn't know what the right part was to do the job. Old-school speed shops were great, because they were usually staffed by retired mechanics who knew what they were talking about. They were the kind of men that talked down to you because they knew that you knew less than they did about engines and trucks, and they knew that you were OK with that, because every time they did impart some tidbit of knowledge, you knew you were in the presence of greatness. These guys were old, cagey, and had permanent grease under their fingernails from actually working on hot rods, musclecars, and yes, even sport trucks.
I spent many a Saturday morning sitting around my local speed shop just soaking up the atmosphere and desperately listening for that precious nugget of wisdom that would occasionally slip from any one of the employees. Every quick, easy, or good tech tip I ever learned came from these guys. The only problem with my local merchant of speed was that it wasn't open very late or even on Sunday for that matter, which at times meant that I had to visit a chain store. God, I hated those rare occasions when I was forced to deal with non-truck people behind the counter. I feel bad for our younger Sport Truck readers who have never had the pleasure of standing in line at a speed shop while bench-racing with other guys who were buying hi-po ignition systems, lowering springs, and Flowmaster exhaust systems for their own projects.
Nearly every speed shop in my county has disappeared, and all I'm left with for company is a bunch of chain-store discount parts suppliers, which are great if all I wanted was a set of brake pads with a lifetime warranty and not a Roots blower, block-hugger headers, or a flat-tappet camshaft. Have you checked out who works at these places lately? It's mostly kids with no clue. My least annoying store is still staffed with snot-nosed punks and a couple of women that have no business selling auto parts. Not only do these people not know anything about a hot rod or sport truck, but their store doesn't stock anything to make my truck hot or sporty. What's more, these people pretend that the computer behind the counter is giving them all the knowledge they need to recommend parts to the average Joe. Don't believe me? Here are just a few examples of the jackass answers I've received to simple requests I've made of these parts peddlers:
Me: "Do you have bowl gaskets for a 4150-style Holley carburetor?"
Salesperson: "What kind of car do you have?"
Me: "A Chevy. It doesn't matter what kind of car I have. Those carbs are all the same!"
Salesperson: "I can't help you unless I know what kind of car to type into my computer."
Really? Jeezus. What has the world come to? The old guys would rattle off a part number without any stupid computer to tell them. Sometimes, I think they should just tattoo the ol' year/make/model question on their foreheads. Here's another aggravating one:
Me: "I need to have this used motor oil recycled. I can leave it here at the counter with you, right?"
Salesperson: "Not unless it's in an approved container."
Me: "Right. I put it into these oil containers that you sold me the new oil in. See?"
Salesperson: "That is not an approved container, sir."
Me: "So, what you are saying to me is that it was OK for you to sell me motor oil in these containers, but it's not OK for me to return used oil in the exact same containers? Aren't you just going to dump the oil from the containers into that drum there anyway?"
Salesperson: "Yes, but you cannot bring old oil into the store in those containers. You'll have to purchase an oil storage container, take the old oil outside the store, put it into the new container, and then bring it back to me."
This was probably the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard from a salesperson until I got the bright idea to have a little fun with these experts. I figured that if these guys were going to hit me with dumbass answers to easy questions, then maybe I'd have some fun with them as well. Here are some answers I got as I tossed these gems their way:
Me: "Do you have muffler bearings for a '62 Ford F-100 in stock?"
Salesperson: "Sure. Just let me check the computer to see if that's a special order item or not."
Mufflers bearings? The guy also checked his computer for turn-signal fluid a moment later.
Me: "A wheel stud on my truck broke off.I found the broken piece on the freeway after I pulled over. Do you think JB Weld will hold it together?"
Salesperson: "What's JB Weld?"
How can someone not know what JB Weld is? It's right next to the register at every auto parts store in America. Every sport trucker worth his salt has made a temporary repair with this stuff. But, what's worse is that the lady had to ask a coworker if it would hold a wheel stud together, after I pointed out that the display was right next to her.
Me: "Do you have a carburetor for an '05 Ford F-150?"
Salesperson: "Sure do. Do you want one or two?"
I understand that the days of strolling into a real speed shop are dwindling. But, can we at least trade the shelves of neon exhaust tips, fake carbon-fiber shift knobs, and sheepskin seat covers for some real help behind the counter? I mean, come on; even my mother knows that no production Ford truck built today has a carburetor on top of the engine, let alone two of them. I've pretty much had it with the knuckleheads at auto parts stores and the guys getting paid $5 an hour at those quickie oil change stations. They're no better either. I think I'll start my own speed shop. Yeah, that's it. I'll call it Skid Mark's, and I'll only hire angry, old, retired mechanics to work the counter. A man can dream, can't he?