Thursday, August 16, 2012

Balancing Work & Fun With Our Old Cars

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

It's amazing the fun you can have extending your passion of old cars and trucks into your everyday life! Take Guy Algar and I, for example. We run a shop out in a very rural area of South Central Texas. When we were planning our business, we knew we wanted to do things differently, and we also knew that we wanted to have fun doing it as well, after all this is our passion, and we certainly didn't want to lose that in the course of doing it as a business. We had both seen too many friends start a business only to lose the passion because of the stresses that accompany a start-up. As business owners, it's very important to keep your business life fresh, satisfying and exciting. So what do we do keep it fun?

I personally had been to auto repair shops where I felt I was talked down to and treated like I knew nothing about cars because I'm a woman. This occurs a lot, and not just to women. Even men are intimidated to bring their car to a shop if they don't know very much about them. Guy and I wanted to be able to invite owners of classic cars, (muscle cars, trucks, or whatever your ride) into our shop who didn't know a lot about cars, but would still be treated with respect and perhaps even gain some knowledge of their car along the way. One of the fun things we did was to create a "Coaching Program" where father-son teams could come get instruction and hands-on experience on maintaining and repairing their classic car together. It has been very rewarding for Guy and I to help the dads "pass the torch", complete with the knowledge, the traditions and the joys of wrenching to their children.

We planned our location carefully. We knew we didn't want a flashy, big-city shop and showroom, with people coming and going but never really getting to know the person behind the car. Grandstanding is not our style, and it's a distraction. We wanted our customer's experience to be different so we decided on a relaxed country location where we could take our time, get to know our customers and what they want and need from their car. Visits are casual, non-hurried and help develop a relationship we other words, fun!

One thing we didn't quite plan on was how completely cars would invade our "off" time, but it turns out that this is a choice we willingly make. Operating your business from your home location has advantages of being able to work on a project at midnight without a long commute home. Guy and I have pulled many all-nighters finishing up a project, or just forgetting to stop, and we actually have fun doing it. It also allows us to be very flexible with our schedule, so meeting up with a customer after-hours or on a holiday or day off isn't all that uncommon.

Fun for both Guy and I is also sharing. Guy's great at sharing his incredible knowledge of old cars and trucks. I joke that he's like an encyclopedia, but in truth, he has facts on just about everything stuck in his head. He knows the proper configuration of an engine for a specific make, model and year car, what type of headlights a '68 vs a '70 has, the history of the car and all sorts of other facts. I'm always amazed because I just don't store data that way! I have sure learned a lot from Guy even though I didn't feel I was being "taught" anything at the time. I love to share information, but I've always been better with the written word, which is why I enjoy writing these newsletter articles so much. Together, we make a great team, and we balance each other well. 

Of course, we have fun with our own projects as well. Guy has had his '55 Chevy Belair since he was 16 years old. We've acquired a number of vehicles together, including the '55 and '56  Chevy pickups we're restoring for use as company trucks. We also have a '55 Ford pickup we haven't made plans for yet, and I'm trying to find parts for the '46 GMC pickup truck that I'd love to get on the road one day soon. After working on other people's projects all day long, you'd think we wouldn't have the time or energy for our own projects, and while the time is usually the biggest obstacle, our passion to work on our own stuff has not diminished. I think that's key for any type of business you have. You need to keep it fresh, interesting and fun.

Our customers help us keep it interesting as well. We love the fact that we really get to know our customers. Most all have become good friends in the process, and we enjoy staying in touch. We value their trust in us, and they have come to develop trust in us and what we do for them. We always try to think of something special we can do as an "extra" for each customer. Sometimes, it's buying a small part we knew they wanted, a special tee shirt with their car on it or a nice glossy framed photo of their car, new floor mats, or even tickets to a concert we know they'd enjoy. It's our way of letting them know that they have made a difference to us.

We also try to keep it fun by keeping it relaxed and inviting our customers to see us having fun with our cars and trucks. The Customer Appreciation Celebration we had this past April celebrated our 8th year in business. It allowed past and present customers to meet each other and have fun as well.

What really stands out for many of our customers, vendors and friends are the names of our three "shop" cats, who spend much of their days "helping" out in the shop. They're great at keeping mice and other pests from invading a car interior!  See if you can see why we feel they've earned the names:

REO "helping" in the office

REO's markings are as unique
as a custom paint job!

REO Speedwagon -
Named after the famous REO Speedwagon and called "Rio" for short. He's actually slow-as-molasses when coming in-going out, but otherwise, strong, powerful, master hunter and protector of all (at least in his own mind)! REO is the friendly one. He must check out everyone who comes and goes, and loves to flash his beautiful blue eyes to capture the attention of the wives and girlfriends, and the occasional female owner of course, who visits.

Eleanor GT 500
Total "Diva" & Master Hunter
Eleanor "GT 500"  - 
Named, of course after the great Shelby 500 Mustang! Sleek, mysterious, graceful. Aloof, yet friendly when she picks you. If she comes to you to say hello, you've been visited by a diva who, although a total girlie-girl, "Ellie" avoids the camera like the plague! She's fast and adept at killing off anything "evil" such as snakes, lizards, mice, rats, moles, or anything else that she feels doesn't belong!

Willy's "Grill"
Amazingly, Willy's long hair
stays clean, soft & silky.
Willys Coupe - Named after the legendary 1940's Willys Coupe - You just can't miss the "grill" similarity! (Although our daughter Stephanie thought he looked like The Joker.) Willy came to us badly mauled by what we guess was probably a coyote since we have so many in this area, and his stub tail is proof of what happened to him while he was still less than a year old. It took months to develop trust, and he nearly lost his life from starvation living in the wild, and a bad infection from an animal bite to his leg. Willy now thinks he is the family dog, and faithfully follows Guy (his savior) everywhere.

For Guy and I, all this is our "fun". We have passion for what we do, and we find ways to enjoy even the most difficult days (like when we can't find a needed part quick enough, we discover a hidden problem, or the wrong part gets delivered) thanks to the great people we have as customers. Feeling a bit nostalgic today, and thinking over the past eight years, I can honestly say, yes, this has been "fun". Our thanks to all of you who have made this possible! We value you, your cars, and the fact that you trust us to help you with some of your most favorite of things.

What can you do to keep it fun?

Many enthusiasts like to join a car club or go to events. Many communities have a store, restaurant or parking lot where classic cars, muscle cars, antique cars and trucks gather on a regular weekly basis. These are usually very casual, friendly, and just a great place to hang out and grab a bite. Some people prefer swap meets where they can prowl for parts or cool things. Car museums, associations and clubs are a great source of information on how to find events in your area, and often just asking an owner you see out in his/her ride can give great tips. Whether you like cruising, road trips, car shows, racing, or just an occasional spin around town. We'll continue to write about things that will help you enjoy your ride. We hope you join us again.

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.