Going mobile

A South Bay Mechanic on the Road

By Brian Covert
Headlight Feature Writer

“When you stop to let ’em know
You’ve got it down,
It’s just another town
Along the road…”

—Jackson Browne
The Road”, 1977

The days when family doctors used to make house calls are rare to be seen — that is, unless it’s a car that needs attention. In that case, Ken McIntire, M.D. (Mechanical Doc) is called for a diagnosis and prescription.

McIntire, a Lomita resident, is one of the very few state- and locally licensed mobile mechanics in the South Bay area. In his two-way radio-equipped, orange-colored garage on wheels, he travels around Torrance, Lomita, Harbor City, Palos Verdes and the beach cities, fixing whatever ailments his customer’s cars have to offer. And with a customer list of about 250-300 people, it’s a full-time job.

The job is made a little easier with the help of his wife Shirley, who is on the other end of the two-way radio and the telephone, relaying information and making appointments. Ken’s grown children, Kevin and Kathy, also help out whenever needed.

Ken’s jobs include a variety of electrical and mechanical work, but he draws the line at major overhauls. His rates vary from car to car (no Jags or Mercedes, thank you) and from job to job. In the long run, he usually ends up more reasonable at pay-up time than most repair shops in the South Bay.

Not to get excited, though. Ken operates strictly from word-of-mouth of his present customers to their friends and relatives. His customers more or less do his advertising for him.

“I’m totally comfortable and happy working with the people. Sure, there’s better jobs and there’s worse jobs, and I may end up going to something else, but in the meantime, I’m satisfied with the way it’s working — because it’s a personal thing rather than strictly business.”

Once in a while, he may have a problem in collecting from forgetful customers, but difficult situations are rare.

“There’s a high amount of mutual trust necessary for this type of business because a lot of my customers, I never see,” he explained. “They call up, they tell us where the keys are, I do the job and leave ’em the work order.”

And Ken McIntire’s future plans? As long as his health and the going are both good, he says he’ll stay with the business.

In a closing note, Ken summed up his feelings about his work and what it means to him as he spoke of his pre-mobile days:

“I had a cash offer of $15,000 for my customer list,” he recollected, “but I couldn’t think of a single customer that would be real happy with having somebody call them up and say, ‘Hey, I bought this list’, so I declined.

“And I’m glad I did.”