Anyone remember tune up shops?

isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

Back in the "old days" cars needed "tune ups". Usually around the 12,000-15,000 mile range a "minor" tune up was performed. That normally consisted of new spark plugs, points and condenser and a general look over of the cap, wires, rotor and a carb adjustment.

Every other tune up was usually a "major" tune up that included all of the above plus a carburetor overhaul....I know..." What's a carburetor?"

And every town of any size would have at least one shop that specialized in doing these tune ups. These were known as Tune Up Shops. Of course, independants, gas stations and the dealers did these as well.

In the town were I grew up, I think I can remember three of these shops.

Howard's Tune Up Shop actually had a dynometer and we thought that made a big difference in the quality of the tune up.

Howard was a grumpy, fussy old man (he was probably 50) who loved to lecture us. If you brought in a car with Champion Spark Plugs installed, he would go wild and tell you how lousy they were. He insisted that cars should have the same brand of spark plugs that they had from the factory.

He hated cars that had been modified in any way and refused to work on lowriders.

He was as Politically Incorrect as they came but he did do excellent work.

He loved to charge up the condensors that came out of our cars and say "No wonder your car was running rough...just look at this condenser as he handed it over. Touch the can and the clip at the same time and they would deliver a nasty shock to the uninitiated. He would laugh like hell.

Today, spark plugs last 100,000 miles and more and tune ups are a thing of the past.

Todays cars can have "Driveability Problems" that can take great skills and expensive equipment to repair.

One day my buddy's GTO with wide tires jumped out of his dyno and nearly caused an accident. That event resulted in a tirade of obscenities from Howard who, after that refused to work on any car that deviated from stock.

Today, Howard's old shop is a Taco Stand....another dinosaur from the past.


  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    edited February 2014

    I used to get my bike flats fixed at Cecil's Service Station near my junior high. The guys behind the counter there got me with the condenser trick one time. But only one time. :)

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    I got myself once. I had a condenser all loaded up and then the phone rang.

    I set it on a bench next to the phone and after about a ten minute conversation I reached over and
    without thinking picked it up.

    Real attention getter!

  • texasestexases Member Posts: 10,646

    While I bet there were some of those shops 'in town', we in the suburbs used gas stations for tune ups (like the one I worked at). Never did have anyone pull the condenser trick on me, wish I had known about it...

    The boss would rebuild about one 4bbl Holley a week, he had a constant stream of Vettes. But few other carbs got rebuilt. Plenty adjusted, of course.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    In So. Calif there was a chain of tune up shops called Tune Masters. They usually took over old gas stations and they all had dynos.

    They would do the bare minimum to make your car run well. They would replace spark plugs and points but not the condensors. If the cars needed plug wires they would only replace the ones that were actually bad.

    Then they would guarantee the tune up for six months. If the car picked up a miss they would find out why and maybe replace another plug wire.

    If they had to, they would overhaul your carburetor but usually they would only spray cleaner in it and maybe change a small part without removing the carb.

    A lot of people swore by them. They didn't charge much and the results were better than one might think. I think Andy Granatelli had something to do with them.

    Of course, as cars became more complicated the shops went away as did a lot of other shops.

    Most of the good old gas stations that did so much work either closed up or converted their shops to mini markets.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481

    There are still "tune up shops" in a fashion--professional tuners who specialize in electronics and aftermarket speed equipment.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    @MrShift@Edmunds said:
    There are still "tune up shops" in a fashion--professional tuners who specialize in electronics and aftermarket speed equipment.

    Yep, but those are a totally different ballgame.

    I fear the future as shops continue to fold and the shortage of capable technicians continues to decline. I know I wouldn't recommend the trade to anyone anymore.

  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    edited February 2014

    Give it ten years and your car will call the shop when it needs a tune-up and some tech on the other end of the net connection will review the diagnostics and perhaps flash a chip if the automatic Tuesday night software upgrades didn't "take".

    If an actual part really needs replacing, he'll set up an appointment at the multidealer common garage in the warehouse district and have your car drive itself to the address in limp mode where the guys who couldn't grasp coding will follow a menu to replace the sensor or the shock.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    Your ten year prediction may be more accurate then we think!

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