During a 40th anniversary celebration this past weekend for his Island Automotive repair and maintenance shop, Keith Pershing neatly summed up why he’s so dedicated.
“The saying goes that if you love your job, you don’t have to work a day in your life,” Pershing said.
“Well, maybe just a bit,” he added during an impromptu speech.
He, his wife Vicki, and their tech and admin team threw a party for customers and associates, many of whom brought along their vehicles—ranging from vintage Model T Fords and Cadillacs, to modern exotics such as Maserati and Ferrari.
The thing about Pershing and his team: they can fix or rebuild them all. And that’s in addition to taking care of regular cars for regular customers whose trust they’ve built up over the four decades Island Automotive has been in business.
John Kernan owns a string of classic convertibles, topped perhaps by a 1936 Packard convertible that, at one time, was owned by 30s actress and sex symbol Jean Harlow.
Others in his stable (his wife lays claim to a few of them) include a 1947 Cadillac, which they’ve driven up to Canada and also across New Zealand, a wooden Town & Country Chrysler, a 1962 Corvette and a 1963 Jaguar XKE.
“I like coming here because they are able to handle really big classic car jobs,” Kernan said. “They rebuilt the motor and transmission on the Packard. Nobody else on Marco would even think of taking on a job like that.”
Speaking to the crowd of about 100 people who enjoyed the morning, Rudy Socey said it was a good opportunity to show Keith and Vicki Pershing how appreciative everybody is for what they’ve done and achieved in the business.
Accepting a table clock as a memento from his staff, Pershing joked about the timepiece signifying that it might be time to retire.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he quipped.
He also paid a humorous tribute to his wife, saying that he wasn’t sure whether 40 years of business or 34 years of marriage was the toughest.
“But in the end, I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” he said, giving his wife a hug.
Besides offering full-service automotive servicing at the shop on Elkcam Circle, Pershing’s passion has always been working with older and particularly imported cars.
“When I was 12—and living in Detroit—we had a VW beetle with an engine that failed,” he said. “It took weeks to convince my dad, but eventually I took out the engine and rebuilt it… and it worked.”
That was basically the catalyst to a career-long passion for restoration, culminating perhaps 3 years ago when he and a team of auto technician specialists brought home honors from the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival in Auburn, Ind.
Their yearlong authentic restoration of a rare 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster scooped a “primary” first place in a category reserved for first-time exhibitors of these cars.
Significantly, the restoration has to be “authentic” instead of “replicated,” so the team basically produced something indistinguishable from the original, right down to the smallest identical nuts and bolts.
The contact number for Island Automotive is 239-394-1887.