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1935Packard

Young people can't fix things anymore (and what it means for our hobby)

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^^^This. It pains me to pay anyone to do something that I know I can do myself (especially on the car or house), and when I do, rarely is it done to my standards, but given my work schedule and limited free time, I find myself at least THINKING about it. The reality is that I have som many projects now that I need to pick my battles. Fortunately, I'm at a stage in my life when I do have more cash than free time - and the time remaining clock is counting down all too rapidly! I figure I've got twenty good years left if I'm lucky, so I need to finish at least one car a year (not to mention the lifelong restoration of the 300 year old log house). :eek:
I could have written this myself, except that my house isn't 300 years old, but was "bank owned." The first priority is to keep my wife happy so I've farmed out a few jobs that were too much for me to handle. Fortunately, all work was performed quite satisfactorily by people who were much younger than me. So far, I have no fears about the future of humanity.

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My 1968 Buick Chassis Service Manual is like reading an educational book! Each section has an explanation of the "theory of operation" AND how to repair the particular assembly of interest. The 1974 Chevrolet Chassis Service Manual, by comparison, uses "trouble trees" to diagnose and indicate repairs . . . the "theory of operation" is in another GM repair manual, usually.

^^^THIS is exactly the problem. I've got GM Factory Service Manuals from the 1950s to 1999. There is a very clear transition from well-illustrated, photo-filled books that started by explaining the theory behind each subsystem to fault-tree-driven books that have a handful of cartoons drawn in crayon. My 1999 Chevy truck service manual is SIX volumes, most of which are fault trees, each of which at some point says "replace computer with known good unit and retest". That's great if you're a dealership with access to new parts; not so much if you're doing this yourself. The only saving grace is that the problem is almost NEVER the computer but usually the connections (which is why replacing the computer "fixes" the problem - you disconnect and remate the questionable connector in the process of replacment). Also note that where the theory of operation was the first part of each section in the older manuals, it is now an afterthought at the very back of each section. Also, with the increasingly complex vehicle wiring, schematics are nearly impossible to read. I was trying to trace the brake light circuit on my 99 truck. I had to refer to THREE different schematic drawings in two different volumes to find all the items connected to that one fuse. It took me longer to research the schematic than to actually find the problem on the truck.

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Well, I can see that there is more than one way to look at this.

First, I see that there is the school of thought that if someone put it together once I should be able to take it apart and put it back together.

Second, there is why try to beat a guy at his own trade scenario.

I am mechanical, (certified marine technician) I cannot drive a nail, so why would I take on home repairs? I can do a couple of tune ups for money and pay the guy that knows what he is doing on the roof or whatever.

I hate it when a guy tries to fix his own boat motor and brings it to me in a box.

Just sayin......

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People who are slightly younger than I, mostly have grandparents born in the 1940's and even 1950's, most of those folks didn't have to work on their own stuff and grew up in a consumer society.

Hmm? I resemble that remark. I was born in 1946. I learned from my father how to maintain/repair my "own stuff." I do not know about my youth being a "consumer society," but do know it was not a throwaway society.

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History shows that boomers and up grew up in a time of unparalleled wealth, a consumer society, which focused itself on 'keeping up with the Jones.' This continues today. Whereas those who came of age in the 1940's and 1950's grew up during the Depression with 0. Families would hang onto things for generations, that is no longer the case (for the most part).

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History shows that boomers and up grew up in a time of unparalleled wealth, a consumer society, which focused itself on 'keeping up with the Jones.' This continues today. Whereas those who came of age in the 1940's and 1950's grew up during the Depression with 0. Families would hang onto things for generations, that is no longer the case (for the most part).

Wes, that's not the way it was on the East Coast. I grew up in the late 50's on the family farm. We saved everything. People still think I'm crazy for keeping some old stuff. (It's got to be useful for something in the future, right?) I just gritted my teeth today when I threw out a 3 year old telephone wall mount plate, since we have gone entirely digital here at the house. It looks brand new, but I know I'll never go back to hard wire.

My wife could not believe I threw something away!:)

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This is not new, but interesting nonetheless. Always no shortage of perspective. Not to put words in 1935Packard's mouth, but I think he was not so much disparaging any age group as making a general observation. This kind of goes along with the dissapearance (for the most part, at least here in CT) of the corner garage - a great resource for older cars as well as those who don't happen to own the latest model X and service it at the dealers. Those who remain, interestingly (again the couple I know personally) are not getting rich - which seems to mean their market is dissapearing vs. growing, even with fewer competition. They continue to provide a valuable service but to a shrinking clientele, but will eventually reach an equilibrium. I do think it will be tougher to find shops versed in older cars, but doubt it will be impossible.

On the other hand, I do believe some younger people are very much hands on. We have two very different collector cars or hobby cars right now, a '14 T with a reputation that young guys do not care about those cars and a 1989 Mercedes SL, with a reputation for being "complicated and expensive to service" - partially true.

I will say at 51 I have met at least as many T guys much younger as I have older, most are building speedster type cars but they are still Model Ts and very much hands on. Some have expressed interest in other brass cars - seems a natural enough progression to me. With the MB, I am on another forum dedicated to the R-107 SL, which had a long run from '72 to '89. Age wise, I am dead center of this group, and 75% of these guys do their own work. Anyone familliar with MB manuals of the era knows they are horrible, so it is really online info sharing and Youtube for this car - I have the manuals but rarely use them, as the info available online is usually better for these cars - "here is what I did that worked but they don't tell you to do it this way in the book"... The virtual community for these cars is interesting in that you can literally follow new people joining with questions, and getting courage/knowledge to handle things they would not otherwise. Also makes keeping one in good shape a little cheaper.

I guess my point is that if the interest is there, the skills and info will come - and maybe in better formats than we had. I just hope some of them go into restoration or general repair. I am hands on but send a lot out as well. Not everyone who opts to have work done is "Lazy" - some are busy or not mechanically inclined, or just know what they enjoy vs. what could be a hassle - another discussion but I have car friends on both ends of that spectrum and would not consider one more "hardcore" than another but that is just me. I do know when I pay someone to do a given task, I hope they appreciate the business rather than consider me a lazy mark.

As 1935Packard says, this trend is something to think about.

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)

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As far as hanging onto things I agree, people don't do it. Even antique furniture is hard to get rid of now. Kids want new, clean, low maintenance. Brides don't even buy heirloom china any longer to pass on to future generations.

I am 57 years old and also grew up when cars were simpler to repair. I did everything on my own except transmission work. I would rebuilt carburetors, distributors, brake systems, etc... replace lifters, timing chains, and anything in-between. It has been at least 25-years since I put a wrench to a car because todays crap is all electronic. If a car missed you knew where to start looking Today it could be just about anything and unless you have thousands of dollars of electronic diagnostic equipment, forget fixing it. You have to pull a car half apart to even change plugs now and with longer warranties risk voiding them working on it yourself. Do modern cars even have spark plugs any longer?

I know auto parts stores are a joke now. Gone are 80% of self service items.

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Have to add my two cents here to the thread. A couple of years ago I was flying back from New York with a Tillotson Carburetor that I had acquired from a friend at a Durant meet. Being I didn't want to take the chance packing it in a bag, I planned to hand carry it on the plane. As I got to the airport in the TSA line, I told the person checking my identification that I had a carburetor in the box from a very old car and it took me three years to find. Didn't want to alarm them or get me strip searched. At that point the person running the x-ray machine for packages looked at me and said "what's a carburetor". I had to explain it to them and the x-rayed it, and sent it to a secondary line for cotton swabbing. At least the guy doing the cotton swabbing who had opened the box, said he'd let me pack it up since it was an old piece. After I got on the plane I had to chuckle a bit.

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Wes, that's not the way it was on the East Coast. I grew up in the late 50's on the family farm. We saved everything. People still think I'm crazy for keeping some old stuff. (It's got to be useful for something in the future, right?) I just gritted my teeth today when I threw out a 3 year old telephone wall mount plate, since we have gone entirely digital here at the house. It looks brand new, but I know I'll never go back to hard wire.

My wife could not believe I threw something away!:)

Wayne, that was not the way it was on the west coast either, especially if you had parents who went through the depression. I, as well as my parents grew up in the L.A. area. My parents got married in 1936. My wife and her parents grew up in Michigan. Our family values were pretty much the same, both with the emphasis on saving and self reliance and whatever you bought it needed to be good value for the money. Those values which we were brought up with helped tremendously in our marriage, especially where money is concerned I am glad to say we are on the same page. One thing that I'm different from my father was every ten years he would buy a new car. I will never forget one Saturday morning in late October 1958 ( too cold for my mom and sister) we loaded our 1950 Silver Streak 8 with surfboards to go surfing. About two blocks from the house my dad stopped at a stop sign and said "I'm thinking about a new car". I was devastated...crushed. Both of us had done so much to keep that car looking new ,so much so my neighbor across the street would say I was polishing the paint right off the car or I see you are polishing the polish. He, by the way was the only person I ever saw wash his cars with kerosene. Anyroad, after that private talk my dad had with me that day I vowed to never let that happen to me. Two of the cars in my collection I have owned since H/S, one of those I bought new. The 76 Olds I bought new, and there are two others. To say I have a love of cars, boats, planes and trains is a understatement!

d

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As far as hanging onto things I agree, people don't do it. Even antique furniture is hard to get rid of now. Kids want new, clean, low maintenance. Brides don't even buy heirloom china any longer to pass on to future generations.

I am 57 years old and also grew up when cars were simpler to repair. I did everything on my own except transmission work. I would rebuilt carburetors, distributors, brake systems, etc... replace lifters, timing chains, and anything in-between. It has been at least 25-years since I put a wrench to a car because todays crap is all electronic. If a car missed you knew where to start looking Today it could be just about anything and unless you have thousands of dollars of electronic diagnostic equipment, forget fixing it. You have to pull a car half apart to even change plugs now and with longer warranties risk voiding them working on it yourself. Do modern cars even have spark plugs any longer?

I know auto parts stores are a joke now. Gone are 80% of self service items.

Depends on what antique furniture you mean. Danish modern is very hard to find these days in antique stores, especially the teak and black walnut. As you say they are clean, low maintenance ( oil once a month) Luckily for my wife and I some of that type of furniture came from our parents, other stuff we had to buy. great looking stuff which does not collect a lot of dust. Just High Speed / Low drag as they say.

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Depends on what antique furniture you mean. Danish modern is very hard to find these days in antique stores, especially the teak and black walnut. As you say they are clean, low maintenance ( oil once a month) Luckily for my wife and I some of that type of furniture came from our parents, other stuff we had to buy. great looking stuff which does not collect a lot of dust. Just High Speed / Low drag as they say.

In our house it is high Victorian, Chippendale, Empire, etc... Try to sell it though or go looking at pieces that once were untouchable in price and you will be in for a surprise how cheap they are now. No, these are dust collectors with ornate carvings. It fits better in our house being 202 years old (yes I said 200 and 2).

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I told the person checking my identification that I had a carburetor in the box from a very old car and it took me three years to find. Didn't want to alarm them or get me strip searched. At that point the person running the x-ray machine for packages looked at me and said "what's a carburetor".

I had to look and see when the last American carbureted car was made and see it was a 1990 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. I didn't realize it was so long ago but then 1990 doesn't seem that long ago to me at my age.

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As often happens, I agree with Steve_Mack_CT. No disparaging of any age group intended, including my own; I was just thinking of how the hobby will have to evolve in light of generational change. It's true that there are lots of hands-on younger people, of course, but the overall proportion of them is dropping. Those who are eager to learn will have to be taught, creating an increasing role for clubs in addition to message boards and Youtube. And shops dedicated to general classic car maintenance and repair are likely to have eager customers, as owners can do less on average and the proportion of regular auto shops that can work on old cars continues to drop.

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It's true that there are lots of hands-on younger people, of course, but the overall proportion of them is dropping. Those who are eager to learn will have to be taught...

I can say that children are born smarter these days but because of the computer age have a very short attention span. Are there enough around that can support mechanic schools these days? I mean if kids no longer have the patience to sit and build a 1:25 scale plastic model car but rather buy one already built for them in metal, will they have enough interest to work on the real deal or attention span to figure out problems?

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RW and helfen- I didn't say that rule applied to everyone, but, many, it showed a change in culture, items that were built to last forever disappeared and items that were temporary became the norm. As far as back east, take a look at Levitown (suburb life). Farm life will always be farm life, no matter the generation! (Several family members are farmers and they still live like their parents and their parents before them!).

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I would say Steve_Mack did a fine job of presenting the "lay of the land" in the present day in this regard.

Speaking for myself, let me also say that I did not take offense to 1948 Lincoln reference to my generation. That is why I consciously used the term "resemble" vs. 'resent.' I was just standing up for my fellow pack rats and tinkerers!

Edited by D Yaros
revise (see edit history)

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Funny how my Grandpa used to say the same thing about kids not knowing how to fix things,meaning my generation of Baby Boomers, "they just buy new ones". He passed away in 1974.

I like being able to plug a computer into a car and getting a real time diagnosis. I also like being able to look up on Google about a problem and best way to fix it as well as the global reach and price comparison available. My current winter car is a 10 yr. old Pontiac Grand Prix with over 220,000 klms. The composite plastic headlights were pitted and dulled out to the point not being much good at night. That is a problem here in Canada in the winter, very long dark nights. Even after a light sanding and polishing they were sketchy at best. Wreckers wanted $100 each for used ones not much better. Went to Google, found a pair of new for $150 for both including shipping. Changing them on that all plastic modern,disposable Grand Prix took all of 5 minutes.

Now compare this to me back in 1974 trying to fix the rusted out headlight buckets on my then 7 yr. old rusty Mustang with less than 80,000 MILES that kept blowing out the sealed beams every time I hit a puddle with the lights on. Spending the day trying to patch, pop rivet, & bondo up the fender ends and a pair of used buckets & new headlights............ Sometimes the Good OLD Days weren't that great.

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I am of the "eeludddy" group that I also work on both ends of the automotive spectrum.

I was working on my 1915 Buick truck today and also on my Dad's 2000 Cadillac that had a check engine light on. It was very easy to use a scanner on his car to see that the engine had a misfire code in the system and it was on cylinder #3. Now all I needed to do was check #3 spark plug, wire, and coil as it was intermittent which kind of eliminated a mechanical problem. It eliminated the run around of checking the other 5 cylinders.

Fortunately I have the tools to work on both ends of the automotive spectrum, at least for GM cars.

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I am a retired union electrician, and have had the opportunity to work very closely with about 15 apprentices in the past 35 years. These young men (and one young woman) were and are very talented and could pretty much repair anything mechanical if they had to. I feel most of them have much better mechanical skills then the majority of the guys in my apprentice class ever had. They really don't have to be handy with cars or appliances because nothing really breaks and maintenance is much simpler on today's vehicles an appliances. They live in a dual income/work six days a week economy. Spare time is precious in our hobby, almost as much as spare space and cash. I see with my own three sons that they just don't have the time. They don't change the oil in their cars and trucks and is not because they don't know how, it's just cheaper for them to pay someone else then it is to do it themselves.

I don't see the hobby surviving the way we know it, not because nobody will know how to fix anything, Let's face it these cars are simple! Far from the complex machines that are on the road now. The younger generation just will not have the time, financial, and logistical resources to participate, sad...

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Wayne, that was not the way it was on the west coast either, especially if you had parents who went through the depression. I, as well as my parents grew up in the L.A. area. My parents got married in 1936. My wife and her parents grew up in Michigan. Our family values were pretty much the same, both with the emphasis on saving and self reliance and whatever you bought it needed to be good value for the money. Those values which we were brought up with helped tremendously in our marriage, especially where money is concerned I am glad to say we are on the same page. One thing that I'm different from my father was every ten years he would buy a new car. I will never forget one Saturday morning in late October 1958 ( too cold for my mom and sister) we loaded our 1950 Silver Streak 8 with surfboards to go surfing. About two blocks from the house my dad stopped at a stop sign and said "I'm thinking about a new car". I was devastated...crushed. Both of us had done so much to keep that car looking new ,so much so my neighbor across the street would say I was polishing the paint right off the car or I see you are polishing the polish. He, by the way was the only person I ever saw wash his cars with kerosene. Anyroad, after that private talk my dad had with me that day I vowed to never let that happen to me. Two of the cars in my collection I have owned since H/S, one of those I bought new. The 76 Olds I bought new, and there are two others. To say I have a love of cars, boats, planes and trains is a understatement!

d

Me too! I was with my dad when he bought his brand new '57 Oldsmobile and was devastated when he traded it for a new '65 Chevy Impala. I still have my first new car, my '75 Olds.

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I am just like R W BURGESS. I am 75 yrs. old. 9 yrs ago when i moved from N.J. to SC i filled a 20 yard dumpster before moving of stuff I didnt think I needed. I do miss a couple of things i chucked out.

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There are a lot of talented younger kids building cars who enjoy the tinkering with carburetors and all things mechanical.

They are hot rodders which to some are a scourge as they seem to destroy not cherish the stock automobile and yet they take on projects deemed not worthy of restoration and get the vehicle back on the road.

There are those whose mechanical skills lay in the building of their own computers...soldering motherboards,designing and building cabinets not unlike those who built hi-fi's in the 50's and 60's.

The Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics monthly magazines have been replaced by online forums or e-zines.

Even "back in the day" (choose your generation) there were those who did repairs and built what they wanted and those who didn't.

Be honest and without counting family members or relation how many people did anyone know who built much of the articles in Mech Ill or Pop Mech?

While the skill sets we grew up and and value may seem to be lost on the current youths many have skill sets that fit this era.

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There's still hope!!

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The new TV show, Scorpion, illustrates (I know it's only a TV show) what some young people working as a group can accomplish. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpion_(TV_series

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They just need direction, and someone to guide them in the right direction, something only wisdom can do. (You're not born with wisdom, right?)

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This reminds me of the upcoming AACA Annual Meeting in February, a weekend session of activities that include seminars (guidance classes?), awards ceremonies, and just plain old fun. That is what we are all supposed to do, share our wisdom with the youth, so it is not lost in the dust bin of history. Woah! Where did that come from????:)

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