By David Stuursma
“All the good mechanics are disappearing. So I’ve raised my own.” Dick Luening said pointing to his sons. “Glen’s a hardcore mechanic, and Todd, my younger son, is an metal artist. Todd can weld a car together. I don’t have to look for rust-free MGBs. It’s unfortunate, but the true mechanics are no more. Today all you’ll find are part replacers.”
I met up with Dick at his shop, MG Limited, after making a wrong turn. I’m told it happens all the time. There’s no address on the street, and that’s intentional. The guys at the shop prefer to fly under the radar. I could see why. They were busy.
I liked Dick practically as soon as I met him. He’s got a genial confidence without being boastful, is easy going yet hard working, and I don’t think he realized how much straight truth was coming out of his mouth as we walked around the cars and talked. Could this be a side effect of wrenching and racing MGBs for the better part of 45 years?
I’ve had worse theories.
MG Limited is (eventually) found in a suburb of Milwaulkee. The shop and the numerous outbuildings around it aren’t fancy, not by a long shot, but that’s part of its charm and effectiveness. It’s all business and low overhead. Okay, maybe not all business. The shop also has a race team: The Killer Beez. Arguably, racing sharpens the mechanic to a very fine edge—a successful racer, especially. “A lot of the upgrades to customer cars trickle down from racing. And you learn to expect the unexpected,” said Dick. “Racing keeps me young, although my wife likes to remind me I’m not 50 anymore.”
I didn’t visit Dick looking for advice—mechanical or life. My Moss co-worker, Andy Kuhn, is MG Limited’s long-time sales guy, and when Andy heard I’d be in Dick’s neck of the woods, he made sure I stopped in.
Looking over the notes I jotted down from my conversation with Dick I can see that my questions could be boiled down to: “How do you make an operation like this work?” His answers were unintended lessons in self-sufficiency. Like any good sibling would, Dick blamed his older brother for setting him on his path. “My brother had a Twin-Cam MGA and he said ‘it better be running when I get back from the Airforce.’”
The Road to Self-Sufficiency, as paved by Dick Luening and quickly jotted down by me:
“When you own your own business you get to work half days… any 12 hours you want.”
“Repetition is the best teacher.”
“I bought my first MGB, a ’63, when I was 16 for $1300. I still have it.”
“Never assume a body panel will fit.”
“If I’m stuck on something, I walk away from it. I sleep on it, let it stew for awhile.”
“I’m the guy that bails out the backyard mechanics when they get stuck. It’s what I love.”
Perhaps Dick’s best words of advice on self-sufficiency are also his most humble. The pros, too, know to ask for help. “Take stuff to experts,” he said.
To Dick Luening and all the experts out there, we thank you!