Classic car mechanic Pete Gjerstad, owner of Mid Century Motors in Ballard, works on a customer's 1937 Buick. He understands that most of the public likes the romance of the classic American automobile, but says he gets most excited by what's under the hood.
A classic mechanic
Many who attend classic car shows gawk at the early American automobile with its sturdy chrome bumpers, curvy bodies and splashy detail work. But professional classic car mechanic Pete Gjerstad, owner of Mid Century Motors, one block south of Northwest Market Street in Ballard, gets most excited by what's under the hood.
"The general public has the image of the classic car as the American dream and all that. I see them as machines," said Gjerstad, a 20-year Ballard resident who worked for Gilmour Automotive on 15th Avenue for 18 years.
"I appreciate the romance of these cars, but the mechanical side is what does it for me," he said. "In this business you get to experience driving and working on a lot of different cars and see how the different manufacturers solved various problems."
Parked in his garage are a 1965 Chevy Caprice in need of brakes and a fuel pump, a 1959 DeSoto, which needs work done on its engine, transmission, drive shaft, brakes. and electrical system. There's also a 1961 Cadillac convertible coupe, awaiting its rebuilt dashboard.
"It's fun to see an old Pontiac or Buick engine because most cars you see have the Chevy small block engines," said Gjerstad who drives a 1965 Dodge Dart that he said he loves. "I made one payment on it-$500.
"I have read lots of books and remember what I learned in high school auto shop," recalled Gjerstad.
He also learned from his father.
"My father was an architect, but would rather have been running a shop like this one, fixing small engines and small appliances," said Gjerstad. "His parents wanted him to go to college so he did what they wanted him to do."
"Pete's the man," said Sean Bryan, a loyal customer of Gjerstad and owner of Seattle Classic in North Seattle.
Bryan wheels and deals in American classic cars and recreational vehicles on eBay and said he has sold more than 500 automobiles on the online auction. He has a 1958 Edsel station wagon he said is worth $22,000 that he will put on eBay soon. He just purchased a 1967 Plymouth GTX 440 convertible with rare power windows Gierstad will help him go over.
"It took me three years to find a good mechanic," said Bryan with admiration.
"I just bring my stuff to Pete and say, 'Call me when it's done, buddy.'"
Mid Century Motors, 5338 Russell Ave. N.W., Ballard. (206) 963-5986.