Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.
Dave and Linda are owners of Davco Performance Automotive, “The best little repair shop in Syracuse.” Davco has been a Northside Business Partnership member since 2012. Read on to discover what drew them to the area, what keeps them here now, and what kind of oddities you might find in someone’s car.
Q: How long has your business been on the Northside?
Linda: We’ve been here since ’99 . . . Both Dave and I were born in Brooklyn. We migrated to Long Island, like every person in Long Island comes from Brooklyn, I think. We started a family there and Dave worked in transmission shops and managing shops and so on. We came very close to owning a couple of shops there, but one thing or another prevented us from doing that. We decided that it was best to relocate somewhere else. So we did our homework and we looked at statistics. We knew we wanted to stay in New York State because we wanted to stay close to the rest of the family. We had small children. We wanted a good school system. So we started looking upstate. At the time, we didn’t have internet back then, so we subscribed to different newspapers in three major cities in upstate New York. We chose to concentrate on Syracuse based on quality of life here. We started looking for business opportunities and houses. That’s what brought us here. We were able to buy a house for half the price of what our house was on Long Island and were able to start a business with the rest of the money.
People’s cars can be very personal, like a home on wheels. What are some of the stranger things you’ve seen in people’s cars?
Linda: There was that one time when that lady came in and had work done . . . She calls back a couple of days later and said ever since you worked on my car, every time I step on the break, there’s a clunk. So we said, by all means, bring it in, we’ll take a look at it. See what’s going on. So he road tests it. Sure enough, every time you step on the break, there’s a clunk. There was a watermelon, underneath the seat, the back seat, rolling around the floor.
Dave: When you step on the break, it would roll forward, and BOOM! Clunk right into the front seat. So I picked it up, said there’s your noise! She said, “Oh, I’ve been looking for that! We went to the grocery store the other day, and I thought I bought a watermelon, but then we couldn’t find it!” There’s your watermelon.
Q: What’s your favorite Northside place to have a drink (coffee or stronger!)?
Linda: To be honest with you, I do like the restaurants here on the Northside, and I do—well, let me say, we eat at our desks. In a small business, we have to be here all the time. So, I bring my lunch, and we eat our lunch here. We work late. Sometimes we don’t get out of here until 8 o’clock at night and I’m darned tired! I want to go home. So, to answer your question, if I was a woman of leisure, and I didn’t have to work long hours, I’ve always wanted to try Laci’s . . . For me, to even leave here for an hour, it never fails . . . Something happens when I’m gone and we care very much about our business. In our real world, our favorite place to stop for a drink after work is the Dunkin’ Donuts drive in window on the way home!
Q: How do you feel about all the “self-driving car” stuff?
Linda: That would be a question for Dave. He is amazingly technical. When a customer comes in for a repair, has a question, he will explain things in such a way that’s like, how the heck do you know all this stuff? He could build you a rocket ship to the moon . . . Now, I don’t know how to change oil, but I can talk to the customer on their level. I can interpret what he is saying on a highly technical level to a point where the customer can really understand what he’s talking about.
Dave: It has a lot of opportunity to go a lot of different places . . . There’s holes in the algorithms and in the technology that can be very dangerous. We’ve seen that for years, with cars that have throttle control that’s not mechanical control, the gas pedal you step on in your car, if it’s newer than an ’06 or ’07, the gas pedal that you step on probably has no physical connection with the engine. It used to have what’s called an accelerator cable that went from the gas pedal to the throttle body and that controlled the throttle opening on the engine. Nowadays, depending on how hard you’re stepping on the gas, that tells the computer how fast you want the car to go and the computer actuates the throttle motor on the engine and opens and closes the throttle.
You may remember, several years ago, Toyota had a problem where the cars were just taking off out of control, jumping off curbs, people were crashing into stuff because they’d step off the gas and then the car would just keep on going. They tried to figure out what the problem was and sometimes they thought it was a floor mat stuck under the gas pedal, but eventually they changed a lot of accelerator pedal position sensors, which is basically what your accelerator pedal nowadays is. They pretty much worked the problem out but we still see a tremendous amount of accelerator pedals that go bad. Typically when they fail, they fail in what’s called fail safe mode. In other words, you can’t step on the gas, you have reduced tension power, maybe you can limp someplace but you don’t have the power you could because you’ve got checks in the system. Computer sees, even for a fraction of a second, if it sees an anomaly in those voltages it will shut down and reduce the power on it so that if you had to, even if the car took off on you, you’d be able to control it by stepping on the break . . .
So with any new technology like that, there’s a lot of bugs that have to be worked out. In the future? Yeah. Self-driving cars are something that are definitely a wave of the future. Will we see them in my life time, in the next 20 or 30 years, where they are at the level of cars today where we drive ourselves personally? Maybe. But I think a lot of what we’re seeing today is computer augmented, computer assisted driving, and I think that is going to continue to grow. But I don’t think that the actual full, computerized mode of operation where you just sit back and read a book and the car drives you to work is going to happen in the next 20 or 30 years.
Q: What’s your dream car?
Linda: I don’t know. I don’t have a dream car! All the cars, to me, look the same. The only reason why I know the difference between a Toyota and a Honda is because I work here! But if I didn’t have the experience of working here, I wouldn’t know one car from another on the road. I still cheat and look at the emblems so I know the difference! The high end cars, the Mercedes and the Audis, knowing what I know because I work here, I wouldn’t want ‘em. I used to love Jaguars, but I don’t like the new Jaguars. I don’t like the way the new Jaguars look. As long as it has heat, and it’s safe.
Dave: I’ve all my share of classic cars. I had a 55-T Bird that just recently sold. We did a complete frame off for my son on his 69-GTO. Started that when he was 11 and finished it when he was 16 so he could take it to his first prom.
Linda: That’s a love story. (Unclear if she meant the car or the prom!)
Dave: That’s still in the family. My son has that. I gave that to him when he graduated college. But, I don’t know, it’s a hard one. There’s a lot of cars out there that I like and enjoy, and there’s all kinds of super cars out there, like McLarens, and Nismos, Ferraris, things like that. But I’m kind of a pick-up truck sort of guy. I’ve evolved from one thing to another, I’ve owned all types of vehicles over the last 50 years or so. I like the Fords, I enjoy, I had a Mustang convertible not too long ago. But at the end of the day? I’m kind of a pick-up truck, motorcycle kind of guy. If I had to pick a car that I said was my ultimate dream car, it would probably be a ’57 Thunderbird, with a turbo in it. They didn’t make many of those and they’re quite expensive. But I enjoy such a broad spectrum of cars.
What do you feel is the Northside’s best quality?
Dave: I think that the Northside’s best quality is its diversity. We have such a diverse amount of immigrants, refugees, and perennial Northsiders that have been here for generations. Affordable housing, access to a lot of different options when it comes to access for entertainment and shopping. I think that the Northside has a lot to offer and that’s one of the reasons why the Northside has been targeted by developers . . . When we first came here in the 90s, I really feel that the Northside had the most potential of any area. It’s had its ups and downs, but its’ certainly much better than when we moved here in the late 90s.
Linda: Coming originally from downstate, going to the city was going to New York City. I don’t miss it. Not one bit. Here, the city of Syracuse, has everything New York City has to offer on a much smaller scale. You can go to the theater. You can go to nice restaurants. You can go to festivals. There’s so much that the city has to offer . . .
There’s a lot of historical culture here. We’ve got new immigrants coming in now, not the Germans, not the Italians, but now we’ve got the Vietnamese, the different African countries, and so on. They’re bringing in new things for our future generations to talk about in their culture. It’s a big melting pot here, just like New York City . . . I tell this story so often, because it’s so—it’s engrained in me, and it will be forever. When we first started the business, there was an African man that came in to get his car repaired. He was REAL tall, real tall, real thin. At that time, the office wasn’t here, it was in the garage, and I had a little tiny office in the back of the garage, and while they were fixing his vehicle, he sat in the office and we chatted. Well, I had learned that he was one of the Lost Boys—
Dave: —Lost Boys of the Sudan, to clarify—
Linda: —Of the Sudan, yes. He told me a story about how he and his friend walked thousands of miles through the desert, and he’s been here for about 4 months. In 3 months, he was set up with food, shelter, and a maybe a little bit of money. But in those 3 months, he learned English, he got himself a job, he purchased a vehicle, was paying us to have his car fixed. In three months. And just a couple of years ago, I opened up the Sunday newspaper, there he was, that same man that sat in my office, telling me his story, was featured in the newspaper, that he, with two of his friends who were resettled in Pittsburgh, where they are today. He remained in Syracuse and I believe he still lives here today. Has saved, worked hard. Worked real hard. Contributed to society and saved enough money to build a hospital for other children in the Sudan. It’s just amazing, and it makes me happy to be here in Syracuse.
The documentary that this man, John Dau, was featured in is called “God Grew Tired of Us.” It is available for streaming on Netflix.
To learn more about Davco, visit their website and follow them on Facebook.