Fast Lane Auto Service–Nashville

The Discovery Channel has a series called Garage Rehab that features Richard Rawlings as the guy who finds and rehabilitates service garages that are in real trouble.  He also has a show called Fast n’ Loud that featured his own Gas Monkeys shop.

Richard learned what it takes to turn a so-so car business into a success and this spin-off went around the country looking into mechanics businesses that had lost their way or perhaps never found it in the first place.  Then helped them to rehabilitate their shop so they could become their own successful business.

Since we were going to Nashville to see the Lane Motor Museum it was an opportunity to take a look at one of the shops that had received Garage Rehab’s special touch.  We knew from the episode featuring Fast Lane Auto Service, that it was run by a talented mechanic that lacked many of the basic business tools that a service business requires.  The Garage Rehab crew consisting of Richard, Russell Holmes, and Chris Stephens, analyzed the condition of Fast Lane, its location, building, facilities, and business, and found it in desperate need of help.

After cleaning up the building, helping the owner obtain an education in business book keeping, providing new equipment, and designing a customer friendly reception area – the transformation was complete.  The show invested at least $125,000 in the rehabilitation of Fast Lane and we were curious as to how well it was doing post-rehab.

From my own experience with business I knew that many small business owners not only don’t have the business skills necessary to run a business, but they often bring with them some bad habits that work against them.  From watching Garage Rehab I could see that these things were addressed but I wondered if bad habits would reappear and that these shops might end up back where the show found them in the first place.

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What we found upon our arrival was a business in as good a condition as when the show concluded its episode on Fast Lane.  We entered the customer reception and waiting area and were greeted by John.  He has a very outgoing personality as well as an obvious knowledge of automotive service, especially in hotrods and muscle cars.

We talked to him about the process of becoming part of the series and he told us that he thinks he was nominated by a customer.  He was very genuine and allowed us to take some photos of his shop floor area.

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While they do general automotive service it was clear that John’s heart is in classic muscle cars and hot rods.

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They were in the process of rebuilding the front end of the Mustang.

Outside the shop building is the area that received the most radical change in the Garage Rehab process.  Originally a poorly organized covered metal building, it is now an outside covered parking area that protects and shows off the long term project cars that the shop works on.

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John explained what a transformation the rehabilitation of his shop and business has had as a result of the show.  His business is operating in the black and his life and family is where he always dreamed it could be.  John is a very happy guy.

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It was a treat to get to see one of the Garage Rehab locations in person and especially nice to see that it has resulted in a success to the degree that Fast Lane now enjoys.

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PRI2017–Products

There is so much to see while you cover all the exhibits here in Indianapolis.  So many familiar products and brands. 

This show I decided to explore everywhere that I could and share with you some of the interesting products that are out there, but you may not be aware of.

MSI Racing:

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Many a racer is looking for longer lug studs or, if you have one of the German brands that use lug bolts, you are looking to convert to studs.  MSI Racing has some excellent solutions.

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Borla is certainly not a new product name for most of us, but did you know that they made fuel injectors as well as exhaust solutions?

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Racers have known about the HANS device for years now.  It has made a huge difference in safety since its inception.  Now there is an alternative from the folks at Necksgen:

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They have other safety products as well.

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You may have heard of Stage 8 or perhaps not.  But you should.  They have developed a fool proof solution for the problem of vibration loosening exhaust hardware.  And now they have specific solutions for turbocharger exhausts.  Turbos have become more common in race engines and have much more vibration and heat expansion and contraction than naturally aspirated engine exhaust systems.

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Speaking of exhaust systems you should check out Stainless Works for their many complete systems that include long-tube headers, hi-flo cats, and collector to tailpipe exhausts.

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Northern Radiator is another vendor you should be aware of.  Many of its applications cover popular imports as well as domestics.

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Another exhaust and header supplier you might not have heard about – Kooks.

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How about Alternators and starters?  Hi performance and compact from WOSP.

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Tired of that expensive powder coating cracking or flaking off?  Don’t get me wrong, powder coating has made a world of difference on many applications, but here is a coating you should be checking out:

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Incredibly durable under adverse racing conditions.  Check with Steel-It and see if its what your application needs.

How about upgrading your vehicles suspension with complete solutions.  Check out BMR.

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G Force Axles can stand those extreme hot rods out there such as the Hellcat.

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AEM has been providing aftermarket gauges for many years and now you can move into the 21st Century with their digital dash.

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Speaking of digital how about chassis height measurement?  Check out Chassis Height Measuring System.

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It measures to specific frame points and adjusts for temperature variations.

Lets move on to your tool box.  A company called Spring Tools has a unique solution using spring technology.  From Center punches to hand impact drivers these spring powered tools will change how you work.

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How about finding a way to collect hardware as you take things apart?  Most of us use magnetic trays, but that doesn’t always work on stainless hardware and can only stick on steel and iron, not fiberglass or aluminum.

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When it comes to fabrication or manufacturing there have been three technologies that have dominated.  Welding, machining, and casting.  Today there is another.  It is called 3D printing or additive manufacturing.  At this year’s PRI show there were many examples.

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Windform above.

Stratasys:

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The complex shapes and structures boggle the mind.  This new technology needs a new way of envisioning design.

Along with 3D printing comes 3D scanning so that objects can be converted to be understood and manipulated by computer systems.

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PolyShape is another company that uses additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping.

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3rd Dimension is another exhibitor.

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Clearly 3D printing is a game changer.  It allows for creativity beyond what we have seen so far using multiple materials and integrated shapes and functional structure beyond our wildest dreams.

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PRI 2017 Opening Day in Indianapolis

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Another Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis and this one celebrates 30 years!

The traditional breakfast was very well attended.  It included Dave Despain interviewing Chip Ganasi.

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When it concluded the gates opened at nine o’clock and the showroom floors were a mass of racing people exploring the exhibits and searching for their suppliers.

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As we did our own exploration we came across some interesting vendors:

Have you ever felt the need to blow off a race track?

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Are you searching for a big turbocharger?

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Hunter was there with working displays of their latest tire mounting and balancing equipment along with the latest alignment machine.

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The tire machine above is incredible.  It lifts the wheel and tire into place, you show it where the TPMS sensor is located, step on a pedal, and the machine does the rest.  It dismounts the tire and after you have placed the replacement tire on the wheel the machine mounts it for you.

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The “Road Force” balance machine figure where the weights need to be located as well as their amount.  Automatically hiding the stick-on weight behind any wheel spoke. Then it calculates the road force with the roller on the back providing the pressure to check the roundness of the assembly.

Scattered about the show were several cars that looked the worse for wear.

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It is a the latest trend in creating monster powered drag cars that look, at first glance, as if they were found stuck in an overgrown field.  Interesting trend.

We saw a really fantastic looking Rambler American that a lady had bought and turned into an autocross car.  The flared fenders are beautiful and the suspension engineering is top shelf.

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That is it for today.  We spent hours on the exhibition floors so you know that the above is just a small piece.  That leaves more for tomorrow!

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The Smokey Mountains and the Tail of the Dragon

The fall is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the mountains that border North Carolina and Tennessee.  The foliage can be bright and spectacular.  The roads are fun to drive.

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We drove the P71 as it is the most comfortable car for a road trip with plenty of room and a great personality.

Our luck held out and the weather was mild and the sunlight enhanced the fall colors.  Sometimes it was overcast and then a few miles later the sun would break through tweaking the senses with a beautiful display.

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The windy roads made the ride even more enjoyable.

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Deal’s Gap is the start of the Tail of the Dragon from the North Carolina side.  Route 129 goes for about a mile or so and then you are in Tennessee for the remainder of the 11 mile section.  It has at least 318 turns over that distance and these turns are not trivial.  Many are switchbacks.

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There are many other driver that come to this road to see what it is liken as well as to challenge themselves.  As they enter into a spirited driving mode they imagine themselves as race car drivers in the days of old when public roads were used as race courses.

Some will find that the state police do not have the same feelings.  Others will discover that the Tail of the Dragon can bite back.

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We decided to skip the Tail for a while and explore the rest of the roads including the Skyway.

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There were some great sights along the drive.

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You can get over a mile high on these roads.

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We stayed at Fontana Village with plenty of company.  There were many car enthusiasts from all over with many different types of cars.

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It was a wonderful weekend and the roads and cars were not the only scenery worth noticing.

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Cars on the side of the road

From time to time an interesting car is sighted “on the side of the road”.  So here is a small collection that I’ve spotted in the last couple of weeks…

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The green car is a classic Citroen.

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A post war Ford and the VW Kaman Ghia!

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Above is a Packard

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The car above certainly is not vintage, but seeing a BMW i8 is rare indeed.

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How About Some Book Ideas?

I know that the Christmas season seems a long way off, but you may as well start thinking about that car person that you need to find a good book for.  Here are a few ideas:

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First off how about a book that helps the novice understand more about their car.  This has great illustrations as well as perfect explanations of all your car’s major components.  If you know someone who needs help communicating with their favorite mechanic this will do the trick.  It appears to be out of print, but check on Amazon.com for a good used copy.

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There is nothing more fascinating to read about than how much the automobile affected Americans since it became part of our culture in the beginning of the twentieth century and beyond. 

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With all their computers, networks, and wifi capabilities cars are the new frontier for hackers.  Read all about it.

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With the advent of the automobile came better roads, gasoline and service stations, and much, much, more.  Thing have changed and this provides a look back as well as a look forward.

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For the race fan who needs to get up to speed on Formula One, this is the book to have on your coffee table when the races are broadcast.  In the off season it will educate and entertain you.

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Tommy Kendall provides a great introduction to this book on the quest for racing speed.

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Racing has always been a dangerous sport and especially in the mid-twentieth century.  The most talked about race for the last hundred years has bee the Indianapolis 500.  Here is a book that will provide you insight and history on this famous race.

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This novel is a page turner for the car enthusiast.

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The sub-title says it best, “Where old car nuts tell their stories”

Hope these help you find the best reading book for your favorite automotive enthusiast.  Remember, Christmas is coming!

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Visit to Transporter Werks

Back in the post World War II era many German companies were struggling to survive the devastation and destruction that had occurred.  One of them was VW, short for Volkswagen, or people’s car.  It had been designed by Dr. Porsche as an affordable car that every German could own in the “new” Germany of the Nazi party. 

It had an air-cooled engine in the rear and would seat four adults in relative comfort.  Its luggage compartment was in the front and its engine would make enough horsepower to move it along while getting very good gas mileage.

Porsche would go on to design the very sporty 356 and then the 911 cars.  These were also rear engine cars that had air-cooled engines.  The 911 grew to a six cylinder that allowed it to reach some very impressive speeds.

Meanwhile VW used what parts were left over to produce what became known as the “Beetle” or “Bug” and introduced it to the US market.  Its design struck a chord with the post war young families.  It also provided gas mileage that would be very attractive to the baby boomers.  While the American car companies produced large, heavy cars that had fuel consumptions that might dip into the single digits, the little VW would fill its gas tank for three dollars and drive for a week or more.

Along with the Beetle VW made other variations such as the sporty Karman Ghia and the VW bus or Transporter.  The VW bus used the same flat four cylinder engine in the rear that initially produced about 34 horsepower.  It was a design where the front cab area hung over past the front wheels and it had side doors and plenty of seats.  Since it was air cooled its heating and defrost system used air warmed by the engine that was carried through ducts all the way to the front.

The original Transporters were produced from 1950 to 1967 and by 1959the engines had grown to 1600cc and produced about 47 HP.  While they were underpowered, they were also very popular, especially with young people getting their first vehicle.  They were cheap to buy, cheap to own, and had a personality that generated miles of smiles.

The design went through changes in the body style and eventually the engines.  In 1983 they migrated tow water cooled boxer engines and in 1985 a 4WD version called the Syncro was offered.

These transporters are still sought after but, as you can imagine, are getting quite long in the tooth.  This means parts and people who know how to fix and restore them have become a small and specialized group.

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We paid a visit to one of these specialist that we had found in Raleigh, NC.

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Tucked in off of West Street, behind a fence, is this treasure of a specialty shop where many generations of the VW transporter are serviced and restored by a crew of dedicated technicians.

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Sean Fraser owns and runs the shop which has grown over the past twenty-plus years, to become a go-to shop for people who care about their VW.  They also spend time on repair and restoration of Porsche cars.  Including the 914.

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Their largest customer base involves the VW transporter in its many generations and variations.

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Shown above are the famous and rare 21 window versions of the Type 2.

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Above is the even more rare version of the Transporter, with this one undergoing a complete restoration.

Being able to repair and restore these VWs requires plenty of parts cars as original VW parts are very hard to come by.

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Here are some shots of some Syncro versions of the Westfalia.

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This one is being completely restored.

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Shops like this are as rare as the vehicles they specialize in.  If you have a version of the VW transporter or just care about them this is one of the few places where you can get the job done right.

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