Where Have All the Mechanics Gone? – A BoldRide Rant

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Full disclosure: I’m the one guy on the BoldRide editorial team that couldn’t give a rat’s patoot about the latest iteration of some multimillion–dollar supercar. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the old, the orphaned, the obsolete, the broken down, and the pedestrian. What I’m finding particularly frustrating now is the inability of anybody to work on anything that you can’t plug a scan tool into.

My latest acquisition is a 1979 Chevrolet Blazer with just 56,000 miles. It belonged to Glenn Gould, an auto-writer friend of mine. In fact, about 15 years ago, I visited Glenn’s shop and saw this very truck and fell in love with it on the spot. It’s been a long time coming, and over the last 15 years, it’s accumulated its share of issues, mostly from non-use.

I’ve always had a thing for 1973 to 1987 Chevy Blazers. When I was growing up, my next-door neighbor bought one in 1974 – blue and white, two-wheel drive (!) – and replaced it with a succession of newer Blazers every few years until the late 1980s. I always thought they were the coolest trucks. That 1973 to 1987 Chevy truck bodystyle is the perfect American truck. Not too fancy, but not too agricultural, either. They’re really a pleasure to drive.

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I ended up buying Glenn’s Blazer, and I’ve spent the last few months taking care of some things it needed to be roadworthy. The radiator had a slight leak, the tires were dry-rotted, the starter needed to be replaced. This past week, I spent a few days rebuilding the braking system, with a new master cylinder, new wheel cylinders, new stainless brake lines, drums and shoes. I even took the annoying squeak out of the gigantic tent-spring that holds the clutch pedal up.

One thing that’s been nagging me, though, is the oil leak. Like all older Chevy 350s that have been left to sit for a bit, the valve cover gaskets leak. That’s no big deal, and it gives me an opportunity to repaint what I can with that odd, transitional Corporate Blue that Chevy painted its engines with between 1977 and 1982.

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The issue is the oil pan. It’s not a Jed Clampett gusher by any stretch, so I assume the rear main seal is fine, but the oil pan gasket is leaking enough that I have to put a foil turkey pan under it to avoid a slick on my garage floor.

Now, replacing a pan gasket isn’t necessarily difficult. It’s unfastening a dozen bolts, and you have to undo the engine mounts and raise the engine a bit to get the oil pan to clear the crossmember. I don’t have an engine hoist, and I figured that rather than killing a Saturday, I’d offer the job to one of the small, independent mechanics in my suburban Massachusetts town.

I drove the Blazer to the first shop. “Hi,” I said, as I’m wont to do when meeting another human being. “Uh huh,” was the response. No indication that he was prepared to respond to my question. I pressed on and started to explain the situation, but before I could get the last sentence out, he said “No, thanks. That thing’s older than I am. It’d take me longer to figure out how to do it than it would to do the job, so not interested.”

Ooooookay. I shook my head and made for the truck, thinking that business must be pretty damned good to watch a few hundred bucks walk out the door. But, it was kind of a modern-looking shop with a younger guy running it, so maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

With that in mind, I headed for the oldest, crappiest looking shop in town; the kind of place where half a dozen vehicles were in the lot, scavenged for parts, and the beat-up wrecker still had a Nixon-era, winch-operated boom out back. Again, I walked in to explain my situation.Blazer3

The response this time was “Yeah, we don’t get involved in that.”

You don’t get “involved” in what, exactly? Auto service?

Dude, it’s not like I walked into Fantastic Freakin’ Sam’s looking for a transmission rebuild. It says “Auto Service” right on the sign hanging over the door, for God’s sake.

What is it exactly that you do “get involved” with? Changing windshield washer fluid? Air Freshener overhauls?

I always did my own work out of necessity. I didn’t have the money to be throwing around three or four hundred bucks to have someone install a starter or a water pump, so I did it myself. Now that I do have a few expendable bucks to toss around, “mechanics” have apparently morphed into “parts changers” that aren’t much interested in getting dirty.

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So it looks like I’m going to be taking on this project myself. I’ve got several offers for engine hoists and help – including one from our own George Kennedy – to pull this big tooth out and get the job done.

For now, I’m going to add oil as necessary and continue enjoying it until the snow flies. I’ll keep you posted as I progress.

RELATED: Your Ride, 1974 Chevy K5 Blazer

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