Memoirs Of An Independent Repair Shop Owner: The End of the Line - On Being One's Last Mechanic (In This Life)

Phil Coconis
by Phil Coconis

At some point on my chosen career path, it occurred to me that I had a number of customers who had to experience “giving up the keys” on my watch. That is to say, I was the last mechanic they employed to keep their vehicle or vehicles maintained.

For those that made it all of the way to seriously old age, this would have involved an elective process of ceasing as a driver sometime before the final curtain; for others, whose life was terminated more abruptly, they were motoring right up to the end. A few even died IN the act of driving their cars (fortunately, not due to any mechanical failure that I’m aware of).

All things considered, I viewed it a real privilege to be their ultimate mechanic in “The Here and Now”.

Many of these customers that come to mind are especially worthy of note. I hope to get a chance to relate some of their stories in the future. And again, as I said last week, the future is now—being that the end of the year is a good time to reflect on such things.

The first one I’ll tell you about is especially appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, because he just passed, a couple of months ago. Second, because he was a local musician and performer, whose vehicles (the last of which I sold to him) were a working part of that equation.

I’d known of him since the ‘80’s, seeing him perform at local events— especially those with nautical themes, being that the Port of Los Angeles was an influential part of the locale—usually dressed in some reasonable facsimile of old sailor’s garb, singing traditional sea chanteys with accompaniment on his well-seasoned four-string banjo.

I got to know him as a customer when he followed a recommendation by another customer who sold him his mid-‘80’s Jeep Cherokee—a carbureted four-cylinder model with stick shift and 4X4. I was able to keep him on the road (and on-the-cheap) with that Jeep for many years—no mean feat on carbureted four-cylinder vehicles from that period (save for Honda’s).

These maintenance visits usually included a sometimes lengthy jam session, especially so when I expanded my string-playing vocabulary to include Mandolin—which, of course, served as and excellent compliment to his banjo! “First things first” has been my motto for some time; and music has certainly been a “first thing” for much of my life. It unquestionably was that way for him, and he dug the sessions as much as I did, to be sure.

We always got around to his vehicle in due time.

I sure am glad that we had our priorities straight.

I did get a chance to visit with him for a bit on a trip to my old stompin’ grounds earlier this year–his current ride, a classic rear-drive Corolla still performing the proverbial yeoman’s duty, hauling him and his gear to gigs around the South Bay and greater Los Angeles Area. His can-do, worry-free manner was still intact, and in full-song, too, as far as I could tell.

But Geoff Agisim is gone, now—and his presence will be certainly be missed.

As an ASE Certified L1 Master Tech, Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.

Phil Coconis
Phil Coconis

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  • Zackman Zackman on Dec 27, 2012

    Our family mechanic in the 1960s and 1970s was also a neighbor. He had his own shop, Plover Garage, in North St. Louis. Half the shop was mechanical, the other half was a body shop he rented out. Both sides did outstanding work - pretty much near dealer prices, too, but the quality of work was exceptional. I last saw him in 2005, he thereafter went into a nursing home, and am not sure if he's still with us or not. His wife passed years ago. He always drove Chrysler products, my favorite being his 1965 Town Sedan - the beautiful six-window one that's very rare. He also had an all-original 1941 Pontiac in his garage, too. I'm sure his son inherited all that, but don't know what he did with the car. Phil, he was a good guy all-around, just like your buddy.

  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 27, 2012

    Was this one of the fellows in the Sea Chanties by the lighthouse ? . I'm Tom's little brother . -Nate

  • SPPPP Too much individual choice in that program, maybe?
  • Eric I would like one of each, please. But make that a '641/2 Mustang and a 1970 240Z
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Funny comparison:
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Some insight.
  • Amwhalbi I know this is apples and oranges, but I'd rather have an Elantra N, a Jetta GLI or a Civic Si than either the Mustang or the Z.