My transition, from a “car guy” to a internet tech guy. If you like cars you’ll enjoy taking the ride….
Session No: 32
In the late sixties, early seventies if your career idea was to be a mechanic, plumber or an electrician it wasn’t thought of as a real success path at the time. In fact vocational schools were usually thought of as a place you’d go when you didn’t know what you want to do with your life.
Kids were registering for college, some just to get out of town and have some fun, others were being encouraged by their parents to do something with their lives. I’m one of four brothers, who grew up in the families car business. I have two older brothers and one younger brother. I didn’t go to vocational school, two of my brothers did.
My father changed careers in his mid forties from a a successful tire salesman to a used car dealer. Is it possible to career change in your 50s? I did!!
In 1960, he started out with 3 used cars on a rented lot in the west end of the city of New Bedford
Massachusetts. In a few short years 3 cars grew to 15, then 20, on up. He named the dealership after his own name Ralph, and called it Ralph’s Auto Sales. His reputation grew, Ralph’s quickly became known for quality used cars and great customer service. Pictured here with my father was Eddy Medeiros, my fathers right hand man, driver, registry runner, office worker, phone answerer and anything else that came up. He was a retired barber. My father was leaning up against a 1967 GTO. Photo was taken in the late 60’s.
“If you can sell yourself, you can do anything, in life… Ralph
My after school chores consisted mostly of hand washing the front line of used cars with my grandfather. We would fill up 5 gallon buckets with water, soak the towels, and wipe the pollen off the cars. Then every Saturday morning we’d run the garden hose from the house we lived in, right next to the car lot, and wash and soap all the used cars down, drying them off with towels so that they shined. Usually, on those Saturdays half the front row of used cars would sell, and my father would go out on the road and purchase replacements, either from the auctions or from new car dealers that he knew, mostly in the Providence area.
THE FRONT LINE- Mostly Muscle Cars
- GRAND PRIX
- OLDS CUTLASSES
- PONTIAC BONNEVILLE’S
In the 60’s nearly 6 out of 10 people drove a GM car, they were hot, and not just one model but nearly all of them were hits. And we were selling 3 and 4 year old GM cars “primarily” with low miles. In those earlier days my father employed a mechanic who performed light duty repairs from a 3 stall garage which was located right behind the sales office.
I was right there, in the middle of the muscle car era. 50’s and 60’s music and muscle cars, does it get any better than that?
Some fun facts:
The Pontiac GTO was generally regarded as the car that kicked off the muscle car boom of the 60’s.
Do you know what GTO stands for? Grand Turismo Omologato it was named after the Ferrari 250 GT0.
Before 1970 None of GM’s “A” body cars were equipped with engines larger than 400 cubes. One manufacturer however got around that rule, they contacted Hurst Performance Industries to install 455 cid engines in their “A” bodies in 68 and 69. Do you know who they were?
Sure you do… the Olds 442 in 1968. They created that monster to go up against the GTO’s and the Chevy Chevelle.
GM wasn’t the only Hot Rod Company to own the muscle cars. In 1970 Plymouth came out with the 340 Six-pack AAR ‘Cuda. Which stood for All American Racers.
Then of course there was the 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra. Then in 69 the Boss 429 Mustangs.
In 1969 Pontiac introduced the new GTO called the “Judge”. Inspired by the TV show Laugh in, “here comes the Judge. If you didn’t get it, your not old enough.
It didn’t stop with GM or Ford, Dodge and Chrysler came in strong.
In 1969 the Dodge Charger came out, and Chrysler introduces the 426 Hemi engine.
Which was rated at 425 HP to keep the insurance rates down, however it’s real numbers were closer to 500 HP!!
Then came the Mach 1, Coronet R/T, Road Runner, Nova, always the Corvettes. Not to mention the “big blocks” that followed, 440 Hemi’s, 396’s, 427s and the 454’s.
In the city everybody new your name…
I knew most all of my neighbors when I was growing up. In those days it was common to see your neighbor sitting out on their front porch, watching cars and people walk by. Walter, would call out to me from across the street, “hey you missed a spot” usually when I was on the car wash detail. He lived right across the street from the front car line. He also rented a one stall garage from my father, he used to park his Pontiac Lemans there. I would here the door rattling up when he would pull on the rope, which was attached to the handle… then with a loud bang the door would hit the ground, you could here the mechanical latch snap in place as he turned the handle and then he’d walk back to his house after putting his car inside.
We were a business surrounded by homes, mostly cottages and tenements. One block to the east of the car lot was corner soda shop. Bill Serpa used to run it, Mrs Cunha would go there most every morning bringing her own bag of tea and a cup which Bill would fill with hot water and she’d sit at the counter and drink it. I remember her pointed glasses and hair up, usually with some fine netting.
Diagonally across the street was another corner variety store, there you’d get your milk, bread, meats etc, a God sent during the snow storms. My mother would often send me there for last minute items that she needed to cook with. Usually sliced baloney, she would fry it in a pan and my brothers and I would have sandwiches with fresh wonder bread slices and baloney, now and then she’d add some cheese.
One block to the west was St Luke’s Hospital. The hospital was one of the cities large employers. The fishing industry and the textile industry being the largest. As New Bedford was and still is known for the largest most productive fishing port in the world. I can still remember the radio announcer calling out the fishing catches from the boats that would come back to port, naming the fish and the tonnage caught. Many fisherman purchased cars from Ralph’s- in cash when they got off the boat, literally.
A hand shake met it was a deal…
I can’t tell you the times I would see my father shake someones hand and say OK deal!
You better believe it, it was a deal and not to be broken. The next day they would be back for their car.
There wasn’t any Facebook, Twitter, and no internet, word of mouth was what spread the word of Ralph’s.
Some of the early lessons I learned as a teenager was.
- Treat people right and they’ll tell their friends
- Honor your word, do what you promised, and stand by it.
- Keep the right inventory, stock what sells.
Two years at the Community College and I left to work full time with my father.
For some unknown reason I started out in the service department, at that time we had purchased all the buildings behind the used car lot, in cash, as my father hated banks. He had a local mason Mr Dupre, build a 8 stall cinder block service shop with in ground lifts.
I didn’t attend vocational school, I took business courses in high school and I had zero interest in being a mechanic. But to tell you the truth, I enjoyed working on cars, I enjoyed trying to figure things out, and working with the other mechanics, there’s was a strange kind of comradery that existed between us.
One or two years after I left college, we took on the Mazda franchise, that was right around 1973 or so. Mazda, as you might recall made the Rotary engine, the official name was the Wankel engine, and back then they had serious issues.
I remember the first week we opened, looking down the street… it was like a convey of cars backfiring and burning oil, like they were heading out of some war torn city.
The Wankel engine didn’t have pistons like the conventional motors, they had rotors, with “three apex’s”, on each rotor.That was the issue, Mazda was working feverishly to find a solution, to make the perfect apex seal.
We also didn’t know it at the time, but Mazda was just about ready to pull out of the country things were so bad. We were selling two year old “New cars” that were behind mountains of snow. They would sit there until the spring as no one would want them.
Myself and two other mechanics were being trained pretty much on a monthly basis, out in Piscataway New Jersey. Mostly on how to rebuild rotary engines and diagnose the emissions.
Slowly we turn step by step…
The Mazda GLC was born, then there was light!!
The Mazda GLC, (on the right) stood for Great Little Car, and it was! It was made in 2 door and 4 door hatch back models. This was the real turning point for Mazda, finally a non-rotary engine vehicle that got great milage right around the time of the oil embargo.
To be continued!
Once again I appreciate you tuning into my podcast/blog, Career Change in your 50s. Go to my website at 50plusmarketing.com to review the show notes under Podcast Number 32 titled: Career change in your 50s.
Until next time. Take a deep breath, be thankful for what you have, and learn new things! See you around.