How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

General topics, not covered elsewhere, of all things Packard.
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Don R's Cars
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How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Don R's Cars » Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:58 pm

I have come to the point with my 34 Eight where I may need to find a shop to do selected mechanical repair. Depending on a whole lot of variables this may include a radiator repair / recore, engine cooling system cleanout, valve work, piston and ring replacement, brake power assist repair, and could extend to something as drastic as an engine rebuild, though I hope not. I would like this car to be a dependable driver able to do tours, but I am NOT looking to RESTORE the car. I considered doing some of the work myself but realism is setting in and I don't want to start anything I can't finish. The ideal situation would be a local shop with the experience and expertise to work on this type of vehicle, willing to work within my limitations and specifications, and possibly do the repairs in segments based on cost. Am I dreaming?

I know of a few possible candidates but have not talked to anyone yet. A lot of shops advertise their suitability online but their project photos look more like Hot Rod or Muscle Car shops. I would be interested in your experiences and any advice as to the best method to "audition" a prospective mechanic. Thanks in advance for your help.
Don Rundgren
McKinney, Texas
1934 1100 Eight Sedan

dmdelavan
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by dmdelavan » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:46 pm

I note you are in the Dallas area. While this is far from me, I'll bet there are a number of Packard owners within a 100 mile radius. Get out your Packard club directory, and start calling people, especially those with a model close to yours. I'll be amazed if you can't find help.
Don Gutting

Dave Czirr
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Dave Czirr » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:00 am

Don, Don Gutting gives really good advice. Mechanics who work on muscle cars etc. may be fine mechanics for such work but many of the systems on your 34 car will be quite foreign to them and, even if they do the job well, you'll be paying twice, once for their learning curve and once for the actual work. This applies especially to those things on your car that have no modern counterpart, for example the mechanical brakes and B-K power brake booster system, front end work with king pins and alignment of a beam axle suspension, Bijur system, and on and on. Unless you find a really unique modern mechanic who can quickly and intuitively translate what he knows of modern system to your vehicles you're likely to get unsatisfactory results. Many Packard owners who don't do their own work have found someone who they trust and is competent. Otherwise, consider a restoration shop that specializes in prewar Classics and is willing to do bit-work.

Don R's Cars
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Don R's Cars » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:42 am

Thanks Don and Dave. Don, I intend to do what you suggest if I go forward with this. I know that recommendations are important. The main purpose of this post is how best to sort out the recommended shops once I have a list. Dave, you are exactly right, I do not want to pay someone to "learn" on my car. I know you have a local mechanic that you use for your 34, you have mentioned him a number of times. How did you find him, and what made you decide to trust your car to him multiple times?
Don Rundgren
McKinney, Texas
1934 1100 Eight Sedan

Let the ride decide
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Let the ride decide » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:58 am

Don,

Are you a member of Packards North Texas, the PAC region in the area? I sent you pm of someone to contact that might be able to help you.

Dave Czirr
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Dave Czirr » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:30 am

Don, short of an engine job I still do most of my mechanical work on my 34 and 56 myself, brake service, valve grinds, tune-ups, lubrication, etc. There is a local shop with some very competent mechanics including a "old timer" that I am friendly with and they are kind enough to offer me a lift for a half-day or so on numerous occasions. They don't mind me doing my work in their shop with their tools and depending on the job I sometimes have them do it with some supervision or advice, service letter or shop manual copies, etc. They've done work on quite a few Packards back into the 30s, front suspension rebuilds, valve jobs, brake work, etc. and have a certain familiarity with the mechanical systems and with sufficient information given to them I'd trust them with most jobs. But I consider myself very fortunate to have such a shop around the corner and when I'm too old to do my own work and if they are likewise no longer available, I'd likely use a restoration shop that specializes in mechanical service. Perhaps as you speak to other Packard owners in your area you'll such a shop exists near you.

How did I find that shop? I went to high school with a cousin of the owners and first used them to set up the ring and pinion on my 56. I later had them replace the push button actuator on the 56, change motor mounts, etc. During those jobs I had plenty of time to look around the shop, watch how they work, and speak with them and developed a confidence in their work. I know, I'm fortunate to have them available!

Don R's Cars
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Re: How to Find a Dependable Repair Shop?

Post by Don R's Cars » Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:58 am

Dave, you really do have an ideal situation there. Part of my problem is that like you, I have always done most of my own work. I farmed out some suspension and A/C work on my 63 Starfire and while the results were good the process was frustrating because I am so picky and paranoid about my cars. At least most regular shops can handle a car like that but a prewar car blows their mind! Part of my problem is accepting the idea of surrendering your car to someone else, I have heard so many bad "money pit" stories over the years I am very defensive. I have had direct contact with one shop in Dallas that specializes in Rolls Royces and Exotics and has done many prewar cars. He has been helpful with advice but I have never actually had him do any work for me. I intend to meet with him and discuss the car and see what he says about working on it. We will see...
Don Rundgren
McKinney, Texas
1934 1100 Eight Sedan

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