25 things vanishing in America, part 2: The shade tree mechanic


In the world of auto repair, most of us have been privileged to know someone who was able to fix our cars on their driveway. These shade tree mechanics would take on auto repair jobs as simple as changing motor oil, or as complex as replacing an entire engine. They often charged reasonable and negotiable rates for their work. Sometimes, a couple cans of beer and a little camaraderie was enough to get the job done. Cars were easy to work on a couple decades ago. All you needed were the basic tools and a little bit of greasy palmed bravado.

I myself did some of these amateur mechanic jobs. One time, I even accomplished a complete engine, electrical harness, and interior transplant. Using just basic mechanic's tools and a rented engine hoist, I transplanted all the elemental systems of a 1972 Buick Skylark in to the abandoned hulk of a 1970 Skylark. It took a good deal of time, but it was simple. Everything just bolted right up.