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History in the Printed Word and on the Shelves

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As most of you are hopefully aware – and many of you may actually remember – the magazine you’re reading today began life 52 years ago this month as Automotive Rebuilder. Through the decades, we have tried to do things right – supporting the efforts and extoling the virtues of the independent rebuilder and remanufacturer.

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Have we done everything perfectly? Of course not. Over the years we’ve had a few typos here and there, a few cover illustrations that just didn’t work as planned and maybe a headline that was too cute and didn’t say what we really wanted it to.

It would be great to go back and fix things, but you know what they say – you can’t go home again.

Luckily, as I look through our back issue volumes, those cringeworthy revelations are overshadowed by recognition of this industry’s history. In ads and in feature articles, the shelves of my library are a wealth of reminders of where we’ve been and companies that have been along for the ride.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to go back in time in Boonton, NJ, the home of Kanter Auto Products and its wholesale division Rebuilders Choice. You may have noticed the ads featuring vintage pinup girls Miss Easy and Miss Easier in our pages for the past several years – when I walked through the doors of the cavernous warehouse, I felt that, had they been standing right next to me, I would have paid them no attention.

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Fred and Dan Kanter started their business with a passion for Packards – they purchased a 1937 project vehicle in 1960 and found an assortment of parts in the back seat. After getting the engine running and the car back on the road, they started selling the extra parts.

Over the next several decades they expanded beyond the Packard community to service a wider range of collector cars. By purchasing truck loads, train cars and even entire warehouses of products, often from auto parts stores and vehicle dealerships that were closing, they were quickly able to load multiple shelves with automotive history.

Let me quickly clarify that statement: in this context, “Multiple Shelves” is a gross understatement and needs further explanation.

Many, many floors of a massive old  warehouse cover more than 120,000 square feet, with miles of shelving crammed with millions of NOS and vintage OEM engine, suspension and body parts.

Need piston rings for a 1951 Henry J four-cylinder? You can choose from probably four manufacturers, names of which you’ll recognize but not find anymore in your local parts store. How about a water pump for a 1928 Whippet. Sure – Fred can probably walk over and pick it up without hesitation.

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Main bearings for a 1938 Packard Straight 8? Please. How about a challenge?

Were they given the chance that I was, vintage car enthusiasts and history buffs alike could walk through the space with their heads on a swivel, finding treasure after treasure around every corner. Instead, they can learn more about the vintage part numbers as well as exact reproductions of pistons, bearings, fuel pumps and other components in stock at www.rebuilderschoice.com.

They say that time travel is impossible, but I’m really not so sure anymore.  n

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