“That is a lot of parts.”
I thought for a moment. Then I squinted at the pile of boxes just inside our front door and felt my head tilt toward a shoulder. It later occurred to me that our dog produces the same gesture when outsmarted by squirrels.
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When I was a teenager, learning to work on cars, the local NAPA was the only place to get parts. It was also a font of wisdom in learning to wrench on cars. The old guys who worked there knew every part they sold, how it worked, what other cars it would interchange with, how to get the old one off, how to get it on, what other things you were going to need to make that happen, etc. I learned more mechanical knowledge from those long-gone old guys than from any other source in my lifetime. Nowadays, I dread going to local parts stores. First, their prices are almost always much higher than online sellers, but the 16-year-olds who work there are complete morons. Unless they can punch the make, model and year of a car into their computer, they are lost. I am in the midst of rebuilding an old Corvette. Since I don't have a garage, my wrenching season is limited to good weather. So, winter becomes parts ordering time. A couple winters ago, I filled my basement with enough parts to start my own auto parts store, then went crazy until Spring anticipating getting them all installed. Naturally, my dreams were bigger than my ability to remove old parts and get the new ones installed, so by the end of that wrenching season, I still had more parts left in the basement that needed installed. Then the winter parts ordering season came again, and my hoard grew yet again. And the vicious cycle continues.... The Corvette is getting better day by day though!
I recall my first parts order in 1963. John Eldridge owned the Shell station down the street and was teaching me how to get the engine running on a derelict BMW 1602. I wrote to Max Hoffman in NY who was importing BMW’s. He sent me a set of points, a condenser, distributor cap and plug wires and I was off and running. I sent him a check for everything after the fact! That was back in the time when people actually trusted one another.
I really enjoy Sam's stories. I can so identify with this, and it's timely, too. I just spent 3 weeks pouring over forums, internet gurus, manuals and whatever opinion sources were available trying to find out what were the right OEM part numbers to use to replace the front suspension of my high mileage, but late model car-hauling truck. After pulling and finding an interpreter for the truck's RPO codes, the OEM sites were less than helpful. It turns out there are lots of parts and part numbers that could fill those spaces under the fenders, but finding the exact replacements was an adventure down the rabbit hole. Does my truck use aluminum A-Arms or cast steel; does it use blue or green striped strut bumpers; are the ball-joints pressed, threaded, staked or an integral part of the A-arm? I finally threw my arms up, covered my eyes and said "I choose you", hit the "Order Now" button, and waited. Within a few days (or weeks in some cases), boxes and boxes arrived from all over the country with just one order. As you said, it's Christmas time in June and you open everything. And the wife has no idea why I'm so excited.
Of course, after the vehicle is all apart, and the new shiny parts are going in, you inevitably discover that you forgot to order something, and you need to make that mad last-minute dash to the parts store before they close (or it is already the weekend and they are closed until next week). Or, even better than getting new parts, you discover that there is a new tool that is needed to disassemble/reassemble the vehicle and you get to order that to add to your already large inventory of single-use tools.
Truck is now together and I took it to be aligned. It is now proudly back on the road and I regale to my wife how talented I was and how I saved us big bucks by doing the work myself, even if it did take the truck out of commission for 5 weeks.
Next week I start on the brakes for my sports car. I've pulled the RPO codes and already started looking on the internet for the correct part numbers. Perhaps I can get the parts ordered later this week and it will be apart for only a couple of weeks. I'm getting better at this!
Used to be ordering parts meant half a Saturday searching for them at 3 parts stores. Now you can do that online while working during the week and have all day Saturday to figure out how to install them. With more time to install, you need more parts, right?
Have to pick a nit with the alternator cutaway: those are slip rings, not split rings. That out of the way, anyone else still have a J.C. Whitney catalog, just for the memories? "Transmission Rebuilding Pellets" is still my favorite.
It is so easy now to source parts. The one frustration that has remained is getting all the parts needed in time to do the job start to finish. In 1963 I bought my first set of tools. A Craftsman "Complete" mechanics tools set for $39.95 from Sears. They have a lifetime warrantee and I still have most of them. Bent an open end wrench and snapped the tips off a couple of screwdrivers which Sears replaced no charge. Had a part time job at the local Gas Station that as most stations back in time did repairs. Art the mechanic let use the lift and jacks to work on our cars after hours. He also taught us a lot. Getting the right part was a chore back then. You either had to rely on the local parts store their knowledge and sources, go to the auto dealer (horrors, always overpriced) or the junk yard. Fast forward 20 years and I owned and ran a suspension, brake and tire shop catering to mainly sports cars. Mostly foreign but also domestic performance cars. I had a catalog rack on the back of my desk over four feet long and a library of auto repair books that covered a wall. We charged by the shop hour for repair or mods but the hours I spent with those catalogs and on the phone with suppliers was untold. Try finding a shift lever bushing kit for a Peugeot 505 Turbo. Answer it had to come from France. Now I just work on my own car presently a 1981 Mercedes 380SL. Open the web browser and I can instantly source parts from all over the world. Compare prices and delivery times and order. Most of the time I have it in two days sometimes less. I even have the some local parts suppliers deliver if it is free because it takes more time for me to drive across town and back. It is so easy! Yes getting those boxes in your hands checking the numbers and comparing it to the old pieces knowing that this will solve the problem with a little time and wrenching. Perfect!