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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tribute to Junkyard Hans - Life Changing Lessons

Tribute To Junkyard Hans

As written in a previous post, after graduating from High School in 1970, I was able to purchase my first “muscle car”.  It was a 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS with a 300 HP 327 V-8 and a factory 4-speed.  Not having much of any experience working on cars, I had a friend named Rich who kind of took me under his wing and trained me in the mechanical automotive world.  He showed me some tricks like advancing the timing on that 327 V-8, and getting amazing power gains from it.  He and his dad had worked on cars throughout his teen years and he was a very talented Chevy guy (he had a great looking black 1965 Nova with a big V-8 & 4-speed in it) and actually became a auto mechanic.
My 1962 Impala
After I started “breaking” my car, I needed his help in showing me how to fix it, as my job was pumping gas and I certainly could not afford to pay someone to do it for me!  The first thing I broke was the differential and it was one of at least three or four that I blew up.  Rich told me that there was no use trying to rebuild the old one, we needed to go to a junkyard and buy a decent one out of a wreck.  There happened to be a junkyard that was within 2 miles of our house, in Butler, Wi (I wish I could remember the name) and Rich decided that I needed lessons on how to deal with the feisty older German immigrant who owned the place!
Being kind of quiet and introverted with strangers in my teen years, I certainly did need help with this guy!  He was a short, very stocky with muscular forearms, scary man with a thick German accent and you had to listen carefully to his every word in order to understand him.  And most of his spoken words were “cuss” words!  Rich told me that the number one rule was to never, ever pay him the first price he wanted for any part.  You had to stand up and negotiate!  He told me not to pay more than 50 or 60 percent of his original asking price.  “And don’t be afraid to turn and walk away, because he will always call you back over”.  
Well, Rich went with me the first time, we approached him and I asked if he had any “good” rear-ends that would fit a  ‘62 Impala.  He said sure and took us over to them.  We looked them over and Rich found a nice “posi-traction” unit.  It was an extra cost option on the Impala of that model year and was an upgrade from what I had blown up.  After telling him I wanted that one and asking the price, he replied “65 dollar”.  Being absolutely scared to death, I tried to act disgusted, blurting out with a shaky voice “that’s too much, I’ll give you 20 dollars”.  Well, Holy Cow, old Hans came unleashed, yelling a series of cuss words mixed with German language that I couldn't understand and he totally freaked me out!  I then heard the words “55 dollar”!  So, I’m sure I was trying to keep from shaking and said “No, I don’t have that much” and offered $30.  Out came another torrent of cuss words and gibberish until I heard the words “45 dollar”.  I then said “ all I have is 35 dollars” and got still another round of gibberish until I heard “$40”.  I held up my hand and said “Nope” and said to Rich “Let’s go” and turned to walk away.  Just as Rich told me, we didn't get more than a few steps and he hollered out for me to give him $35.00!  I handed him the money and nervously watched as he yanked an extra-large screwdriver from his pocket, and proceeded to scratch his “mark” on the differential.  I learned later, he did that so he would know if you went home, got the old piece and tried to return it, saying that he sold you a broken part!  Well, that was my first very scary experience with Junkyard Hans and I’m sure I was sweating profusely!  
After we got out of that place and I calmed down, Rich told me that I had done a good job.  As time went on, having to go back so many times to buy parts, I actually started to enjoy the banter with Junkyard Hans!  He was a crafty old guy and I’m sure he was enjoying putting on a show, I think he took pleasure in seeing the young guys growing up and losing their fear of him.  Every once in awhile, I would see a hint of a little smirk on his face!  It’s funny how some people can change your life,  I really did learn some valuable lessons in how to deal with people from that old German immigrant!  Wish I knew his last name and what happened to him, he went out of business decades ago and probably sold his land to developers. This is my tribute to Old Junkyard Hans, who helped me to grow up and become a man!  Dan
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