Ann Arborite Lou Caincross
"The first year was tough. They closed Packard down to one lane, and that almost put me out of business. Then the second year, the state of Michigan ran Operation Shift, where they'd send cars into transmission shops with the vacuum hose pulled, and if you were honest like I am, you'd put it back on and didn't charge them anything--but if you weren't honest, you'd stick them with a new transmission. And they shut down Independent [Transmission] and AAMCO and a lot of others," barring them from doing business in the state for years.
Shocked car owners avoided independent transmission shops and turned to the dealerships. Luckily for him, "the next year, the state did the same thing to the dealerships, showed they were just as bad if not worse than the rest. And that helped my business a lot!"
For Caincross, the 1990s were the golden age. He had four people working for him, kept ninety transmissions in stock, and installed seven a week. "Transmissions were overheating, and the bands were breaking pretty regularly," Caincross recalls, especially in winter, when drivers got stuck in the snow and spun their wheels. GM and Ford models had their share of troubles, but Chrysler had more: "If there was a big snow, we'd have three, four, maybe even five Chryslers in the lot when we got here in the morning."
When his agreement with Continental was up, he struck out on his own. But as cars got better, the transmission business got worse. With today's computer--controlled drivetrains, he says, "it's harder to hurt the transmissions.