After about five weeks of travel, I find myself at home again for awhile. My last sales adventure took me to Australia, Thailand and Japan. Then I worked trade shows in the United States for two weeks — including Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas — to finish my hotel odyssey.
After all this travel, I returned home to the one thing you hate to see under your restored vehicle: a puddle. This is especially embarrassing if you have fixed it once when it was a small leak and you now have a larger one. But more about leaking automotive transmissions later.
I had never been to Australia before and was quite impressed with the country as seen from Sydney. Sydney is the young city, according to my customer.
There is definitely a car culture in Australia from tuners with Japanese cars to American-style muscle cars. Ford and Holden, a partner of General Motors, battle it out on the racing circuit. All kinds of short track, outlaw cars, and drag racing are popular in Australia.
The Holden GM cars look a lot like some of the GM cars of the 1970s. Holden will be exporting a left-hand-drive GTO to America next year. According to the specifications, this GTO will be faster than the 1964–to–1968 U.S. Pontiac GTO in the quarter mile and have reliable disc brakes. Its selling price will be $39,000.
Ford is not sleeping in Australia. Their cars, including the Mustang, Falcon, and Fairlane, are quite common. In the shire of Berola I saw a Falcon, El Camino-style, with three inch exhaust and American-style mags and a big-block Ford engine.
It is interesting that the road maps in Australia clearly point out where the traffic cameras are as well as where the police normally park to observe traffic. Wednesday and Saturday nights are cruise nights in most of Sydney. My host stated that it is the police policy on those nights to send home cruisers that do not follow the regulations. If the cruiser is seen again, he is given a ticket.
In Japan, the Japanese rice rocket business is still booming in spite of an economy turned bad. A lot of specialty shops supplying aftermarket equipment have gone broke. Turbo systems are the hot ticket along with engine back custom exhaust.
Unlike Australia, where they seem to give cruisers a break if they have a violation, Japanese police ticket for everything and impound the vehicle for street racing.
I had the opportunity to attend the Meineke Muffler press conference at AAIW. The presentation was impressive, including a muffler and pipe challenge from all their stores. The three best pipe benders from all their stores competed, making a custom exhaust system as well as a standard exhaust system. It appears to me that Meineke is trying to get the 18-30 group as their target customer for mufflers, shocks and brakes.
Another interesting twist at SEMA/AI was meeting Brock Yates, one of the original Cannonball Racers from the 1970s. Cannonball was named from Cannon Ball Baker (1882-1960) who rode motorcycles cross-country. Brock Yates and his band of crazies ran several lawless, outlaw car races between New York and Los Angeles. The last race was 1979 and several movies, including Cannonball Run, were based on the racers’ experiences.
Back to the transmission leakage in my garage. In an obscure booth at the Las Vegas show was the answer to all gasket troubles. These Asian exhibitors had the answer; a compound like Silly Putty that you formed by hand and then applied to the gasket surface. As with other sealants, it came in different kinds from non-hardening to solid as a rock. They also had three or four colors. When anyone asked them a question about the product, they just answered, "Yes."
Every answer was "yes." "Will it make me money on the slot machines?"
"Will it work on water pump gaskets?"
"What product should I use on valve cover gaskets?"
They were yes guys and proud of it.
On the last day of the show I went to see them again and they were gone. In fact, their neighbors in the next booth indicated that they were gone on Wednesday, the second day of the show.
Did they sell everything they needed to sell? Yes. Did they win enough money on gambling to retire? Maybe. Did they not understand what kind of show it was? Possibly. Did they not send the money for the booth to the Show management? Probably.
Now I’m back at home. Does the Plymouth still leak ATF? Yes.
If you always answer in the positive, you can completely avoid the negative.
Originally published in the December 2002
Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright December 2002 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.