In the 1970s when I first started building and modifying cars and engines, I used catalogs and phone numbers to shop, search and buy parts.  One of my first go-to catalogs was JC Whitney when I was building the dune-buggy.  Another place I looked for parts was ads in the back of magazines like Off Road, Car Craft and Hot Rod.  Later when I had the ’66 Chevelle SS, then ’68 Camaro and the ’71 Corvette I had as a senior in high school, I had part catalogs for Super Shops and USA Speed. For stock parts the local auto parts store was the go-to place. 

During that same time, I worked in the shipyards and one of my jobs was engine repair/rebuilds.  Most of those were big marine diesel engines. One time, I was rebuilding a Perkins straight 6 diesel we used as generators on the tow boats. I spent several days on the phone searching for the parts I needed.  I eventually found all the parts, drove many miles to buy and pick up the parts, then a couple more days building the engine and testing it.  We tried to keep a fresh Perkins and fresh Cummins main engines on standby in the shop as a replacement for when one of the boats had an engine failure.  We also kept a fresh 671 GM diesel engines on standby in the shop for the barge pump engines.  Keeping all the towboats and barges fully operational kept me busy.  There were many days I spent on the phone hunting parts then driving many miles to go buy the parts.  I recall one time I needed a turbo charger for a Cummins KTA 1150M.  The M was for the Marine version of Cummins.  Cummins in Houston said they had the turbo in stock, so I let my boss know.  He said to go pick it up then take it to Corpus Christi, TX to replace the failed turbo on the boat.  I got to the Cummins parts counter, and they told me that they no longer had that turbo in stock.  Apparently after I called, someone else called and put a deposit to hold it for them.  I said that I needed to use the phone.  The parts guy saw the Stapp logo on my jacket and said, “Is your dad Bruce Stapp?”  I did not want to go into that I was not family but if this would get me the turbo faster I responded, “…. Yes he is.” He walked back into the storeroom and brought out the new turbo charger, put it on the counter and said, “…. You can’t tell that man anything.  Sign this and get out of here before the other guy shows up.”  I signed the paper, grabbed the box with the new turbo and got in the truck to head to Corpus. 

Today is so much different with how I shop for parts.  The Internet opened so many variations of what parts to buy and where they are shipped from.  I have bought parts recently that showed up the same day I bought them.  And I did not have to drive to pick up the part. 

Recently I needed to buy a new engine block for the Bug.  Everywhere I looked for parts places in the States, no one had them in stock, they were all backordered.  I found an outlet in Canada that had the one I needed in stock.  I bought it online using PayPal and it shows up at my front door two days later – from Canada.  I was amazed at how fast I got it. 

My current project – all others are on hold for the moment – is repairing my daily driver, a 2003 Z71 Tahoe.  I was involved in the first traffic accident in my life a couple weeks ago. I know what all I need to buy to repair the Tahoe but am now waiting for the insurance to authorize the purchases.  They wanted two sources of parts suppliers to authorize.  Amazon has almost everything you need so that was one of my sources.  I used another website for the other source.  After locating the parts I need on each site, I screenshot what I need and converted it to pdf to upload to the insurance site. 

After uploaded the pages, I sat back and reminisced the process of how we used to buy part compared to today.  We have come a long way with technology to ease the process.  Sometimes I long for the old ways, but I forget how difficult it was back then.  I am thankful for how we buy parts today.