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[Podcast] Auto Repair in the Decade of the Eighties [THA 194]

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The Panel:

John Bridgwater and his wife own Wright’s Automotive Service in San Leandro, CA. John started to earn his ASE certifications early on and began networking with other technicians and shop owners. John was honored among eleven others as an Auto Care/ASE World Technician in 2015. In order to be considered for this award, you must hold at least 22 ASE certifications. John currently has 49 certifications and he is working on the 50th. John Bridgwater has a very interesting story on his rise to shop ownership. He started in 1987 and became a shop owner in January 2015. John actually was recruited by a shop in the bay area that he and his wife eventually purchased. He waited a long time for the right opportunity. John is also a technical trainer for an aftermarket company. Listen to John’s previous episodes HERE.

Kevin Eckler, a Dad and a mentor along with wife Lisa, own Foreign Car Specialists, in Poughkeepsie, NY. Kevin has been named Albany, NY region's ASE Tech of the Year 2019 and 2020. He was also voted Best mechanic in the Hudson Valley, which encompasses Westchester, Putnum, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster and Greene counties. Kevin is a 40 year veteran of the industry, and still has a love for it and simply cannot understand why anyone would tell a young person to get out while they can, instead of inspiring them to greatness! Kevin’s previous episodes HERE.

Richard Falco Jr. is an instructor for Carquest Technical Institute (CTI). He is an ASE Master Technician L1 with over 25 years in the auto repair industry. His technical experience includes Domestic, Asian, and European vehicles both at the dealership level and as a successful shop owner. He has instructed technicians and college students in all aspects of automotive repair and currently takes care of our customers, for CTI, throughout the southeastern U.S. Listen to Rich’s previous episodes HERE.

Paul Marquardt Started in this business in 1979 as a pump jockey and lube tech. Paul attended various training over the years, some of it daytime training 4 hours of travel time. He bought the business Northwoods Auto Techs, Rhinelander, WI, in 1990 and in 1995 expanded from 2 bays to 5 bays and became a NAPA Autocare center at the same time. He was the NAPA Stevens Point NAPA ASE Tech of the Year from 1999 through 2008 and was the National NAPA ASE Tech of the Year for 2010. Paul Joined the NAPA Autotech training team around 2011 as a contract trainer and have been doing that as well as keeping the business going. Learn of Paul’s Previous episodes HERE.

Key Talking Points

  • Many technicians and shop owners started pumping gas ‘Pump Jockeys’ at full-service stationsPaul and Rich pumped gas when they started. Groomed into the shop
  • 1986 Ford was fuel injected. The learning curve happened after that.You learned about new tech via trial by fire
  • You could diagnose carburetors with your ears and vacuum Gauge
  • Many had great mentors that were very instrumental in teaching them
  • Kevin worked at the dealer because he thought it was the mecca of technician jobsHe graduated top of his class from Rhode Island Technical Institute
  • The dealer was the place you worked because it was considered a careerIt may not apply today
  • Chrysler Caravan debuted in the 80sHad a Mitsubishi motor
  • It set the pace for the future of SUV’s and Crossovers
  • IROC-Z debuted in the 80sRich owned one
  • When the phone rang in the 80s you had a high potential that they would become a customerToday it can lean toward pricing
  • Pricing of parts was from different color sheets
  • They don’t miss paper catalogs or manuals
  • Paychecks went into race cars
  • Boomboxes with 12 D cell batteries were the norm
  • Some starting pay rates today are not as strong as some were in the 80s. Rich Falco’s story.
  • Safety is very important. Gloves, use proper equipment so you protect your body. Hearing protection. Years later these professionals would have done it differently to protect themselves
  • So many warnings about the new tech - It Won’t Last. Who knew!!!
  • Have a different hobby than what you do for a living


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