Fixing Porsches Is More Than A Job For This Father And Son
Photography by Alexander Bermudez
“I’m not a number,” says Number Six played by Patrick McGoohan in the ’60s television series, The Prisoner. Well, if you have your car serviced at almost any large dealership, you probably know by now that you are just a number on a computer screen, and more than likely have no chance of meeting the mechanic working your vehicle. Any recommendations for maintenance or work will be strictly by the manufacturer’s book. These dealership shops can be perfectly competent, of course, but when it comes to older and more classic vehicles, you probably know better and go elsewhere.
One of those garages that meet these criteria is the Porsche-only TLG Auto, located in North Hollywood, California that has been serving the Porsche community for almost 37 years. It’s not just another “German car” repair shop—it strictly specializes and works on Porsches—as it’s not a 924, 944, 928, or 968.
After a number of years working for Porsche dealerships throughout the early ’70s, family patriarch Tony Gerace and his wife Lois started the shop in 1978, wanting to provide customers with the type of service that in their opinion couldn’t be provided at dealerships. Son Marco officially joined TLG in 2002, having learned many tricks of the trade, essentially, at his father’s knee.
Petrolicious had a chance to sit down with the pair, and find out more about them and what’s ahead for their family business:
Benjamin Shahrabani: You collectively have decades of Porsche experience, but it all has to start somewhere. What was your first automotive job?
Tony Gerace: My first automotive job was as a mechanic’s helper and apprentice. I was 16.
Marco Gerace: As the son of a Porsche mechanic, it’s easy to say that my first job was shop helper. But, out of college, I worked as a freelance automotive writer. I did some work for a few Petersen magazines, and I did a few articles for Excellence Magazine, too.
BS: How did you choose your profession?
TG: I was always a motorhead. I like working on cars and I like working on motors, and I just fell into it. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. Pretty simple.
MG: As I said above, I started working at the shop as a kid. When school was out for the holidays, my dad would take me to work with him, where I would wash parts, sweep the floor, clean up dirty rags, take out the trash cans, and help with some of the line work like oil changes and brake
jobs. As I got older, he gave me more complex jobs (although I was still expected to do the cleanup work) and I found myself really enjoying the work.
In about 2003/04 I left my job at an aftermarket manufacturer, and started working full time at FOX Sports Radio. However, because that was a night job—and weekends and holidays—and I worked at the shop with my dad during the day, in about 2007 I got to the point where I started burning out and I had to make a career decision: radio or Porsches. After talking with my dad about it I decided to stick with the family business and I poured everything into becoming a partner at TLG and taking over the business when my father retires.
BS: How did you come to concentrate on the Porsche marque?
TG: In the late ’60s, I was working on all kinds of sports cars—British, Italian, German—and when my boss bought a ’67 911, I bought his 59 A Coupe. I liked working on the Porsche the best. I like working on fast cars, and didn’t think I could make good money working on American hotrods, so I focused on working on Porsches.
BS: What’s a typical day like at work?
MG: There is no typical day, but if I had to give readers a run down, it would be that I come in early before anyone else and do uninterrupted paperwork for about an hour. After that, I roll the garage doors up, and that’s about when our technicians Steve and Dan show up. We move all the cars out of the shop so we can sweep the floor, pick up rags, take out the trash, organize parts and tools, and plan our attack on the day based on how the previous day ended and the day’s schedule.
My dad shows up and makes his way around the shop doing oversight, giving directions and advice on jobs, organizing his workload (engines and transmissions), and drinking coffee. He also fields telephone calls as needed.
We’re all into our uniforms and working on our respective tasks for the day by 10:00 am. We work steadily through until a break for lunch, and then we continue with whatever jobs we’re working on. At 4:00 we start winding down and wrapping up the day’s work.
BS: Speaking of work once again, what is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car during a job that should not have been there?
TG: The first thing that comes to mind is a huge, dead rat. We were doing a clutch on an ’87 Carrera, and we pulled the motor and transmission out and there was a petrified, dead rat cooked to the top of the bellhousing. But, throughout the ’80s, I saw a lot of cocaine, guns, and money in people’s cars. But that wasn’t that weird back then…
BS: Both of you have several special Porsches, including a couple you drive to work sometimes—can you tell us a bit about your favorites?
TG: I’ve had The Blue Car the longest. It’s a ’73 911T with a few tricks and bits. The motor is a 2.8-litre twin-plug.
MG: I alternate between a 2001 Boxster and a 2006 Cayenne Turbo S for daily driver duties. I also have a 1975 Carrera that I inherited from my dad when I sold my 1974 911. I recently put a 3.2L, non-intercooled turbo motor in it with a Euro 915 gearbox … it doesn’t look like much, but it boots and scoots when you want it to. What’s really cool about the 75 Carrera, though, is that it’s been in the family since the mid-’90s. My father gave it to my mom to use as a daily driver, and she drove it for eight years and 100,000 miles in that configuration.
BS: What unique challenges and rewards come from working on high-end vehicles?
TG: The unique challenge, for me, is to keep the cars special in my mind. They are a means of earning a living for me, but they are my clients’ pride and joy and not just a utilitarian appliance. It’s important—and sometimes difficult—to see the cars as special when you work on them for a living. But the reward is when they sing, when I see them work the way they are supposed to and when they are getting used the way they’re supposed to.
MG: The most unique challenge we face is dealing with long-term storage. Really: that’s a huge problem that we didn’t have 10-15 years ago. As the cars get olde,r they get more difficult and time-consuming to work on due to things like rust, parts availability, extended labor times from machine shops, etc. In the past few years we’ve added an additional 4,000 sq.-ft of dedicated storage space just so we have a place to keep the cars while we’re doing motors, gearboxes, restorations, etc.
BS: What are some of your professional goals for the future?
MG: My goal for the shop would be to continue to provide excellent service to our clients…for another 30 years.
So there you have it. If you have a Porsche in need of maintenance, mechanical repair or restoration and don’t want to be just a number, you’ll certainly be in good hands with this friendly father-son duo with decades of experience in exactly one thing: Porsche.
Special thanks to Tony and Marco for taking time out from working on Porsches to speak with us. This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.