My wife, Kris, and I bought a 1962 Thunderbird in Manteca. I had acquired a 2002 Corvette prior to that, so Kris was interested in getting a classic car. Due to the owner’s health issues, the Thunderbird had not been driven for years. It had been started occasionally. We got the Thunderbird for an outstanding price. Even if the drive train needed to be replaced, we would still be way ahead of the value of the car. The engine proved to be sound, however the transmission seemed to be leaking fluid from the front seal.
One day, while driving through Colfax with a friend of mine, he pointed out Denny’s Transmission. He had heard that they did good work. I subsequently checked with members of our club and other sources and they all gave good reviews.
Due to the leaking transmission, I had the Thunderbird towed to Denny’s Transmission. The owner/operator of the business is Bart Denny. This is a “one man” shop. He started working on transmissions with his dad when he was 14 years old. Now he is 62 years old. As of October of this year, he has had this shop for 40 years!
After test driving the vehicle, he pulled the drain pan while the transmission was still in the car. That is when he discovered the transmission casing was cracked and some other issues in the transmission. He called me and gave me the bad news. The casing needed to be replaced and a rebuild was needed.
Here is my motivation for writing this article. He called me and asked me if I would like to see him tear down the transmission. I jumped at the chance. I have to say, it was an amazing experience. He placed the transmission on this workbench alongside the specific tools that he needed. It was obvious by the wear marks, that some of the tools had been utilized many years on many transmissions. For about the next hour and a half he completely disassembled the transmission as he provided me with a running narrative. He checked clearances and specifications. He told me the function of every part. He pointed out which parts needed to be replaced or worked on, and why they needed to be replaced or worked on. He organized the groupings of various parts. Oh, and by the way, he just happened to have a good used casing in his shop (40 years of accumulated parts).
When I left his shop that day, I told myself that I had just witnessed something pretty remarkable. Maybe it was because I like to think of myself of somewhat of a “gear head?” But then again, it is probably because I realize that Bart’s skill and a shop like his could be on a “short list.” What a shame if that is indeed the case?
I contacted Bart regarding my intent to write this article. He gave me the “go for it”, adding that he has been a fan of the Roamin Angels Car Club from club’s start. He also indicated that although he really does not need additional business, he is quite the talker and welcomes a visit to talk cars and transmissions. Motor on!
Denny’s Automatic Transmission • 220 S Auburn St, Colfax, CA 95713 • (530) 346-2051
– By Ray G.