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PRESTON AUTO IS CURRENTLY CLOSED

At Preston Automotive we focus on collector cars, classics, high performance, and special interest vehicles.  They deserve special attention and respect.  We understand that when you bring your car to our facility you are entrusting us with your prized possession.  As such, we take great care and go to extensive lengths to care for fragile original parts and expensive paint.

Serving Sammamish, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, and the greater Seattle area since 1982.

From: Dave Plummer
To : All Visitors
Subj: Jim Preston

I'm sorry to bring the news that my good friend Jim Preston passed away this weekend. He smoked three packs a day but it was skin cancer that ultimately got him. He's the oldest Sammamish native I've ever met, and so the most sun he ever got was in Cambodia or Laos, I imagine.

Back then, Jim was 19 and had been accepted to technical college for the heavy-duty diesel mechanics program when his Vietnam draft number was called. It was nine months into his tour when he got a bittersweet letter from his mom explaining that he actually had been exempt from the draft, but they didn't realize it at the time!

Jim was my mechanical graduate professor. I thought I knew a great deal about cars and mechanics when I met him, but I learned so much from him over the course of the next 10 years that the only way it would be possible is if I started out completely ignorant, so perhaps I did!

Two to three times a week I'd head into his shop on Sahallee to "check on him" and get updated on the various cars and projects in the shop. Each issue was like a bug in Raid (our old defect tracking at Microsoft), and I'd follow along as he solved it. There were collector cars worth millions of dollars next to boomer's project cars, and both received his expert attention.

Each week was like an episode of Quincy, except the "patient" was a dead Hemi or Mustang or Corvette. Jim was something of a legend, so people had often exhausted several other mechanics with their problem before they'd be referred to him at last. Often he knew what the fix was before the car arrived just based on the description. At some point, there are only so many ways an old car can go wrong, and I wonder sometimes if he'd seen them all.

For new problems, Jim diagnosed and debugged logically, like the great developers I've known. He didn't just swap parts on and try it to see if helped unless he knew specifically why and what he was doing. His shop was incredibly tidy and organized, if not clean enough for dining. There were no junk drawers, no piles of nonsense "just in case". He taught me the value of space and organization. It doesn't mean I follow it, but I appreciate it.

My favorite day was Fridays when the local septuagenarians would wander in to commiserate about their olden days, tell stories that were sometimes rooted in reality, and compare notes on the decline and fall of western civilization (and how hard it was to get any parts these days without ordering it online, and they all feared and loathed computers, but used them).

Hanging out at Jim's always reminded me of the "Barber Shop Scene" in the movie "Gran Tourismo". Jim was a lot more cheerful than Eastwood, but the vibe was the same. The Playboy magazines went back decades in neat rows, with various favorites decorating the cabinet doors. He smoked like a chimney, cursed like a sailor, and it took a special kind of girlfriend or wife, like my own, who would venture in there with you.

This was no simple fixit-shop. Jim was a skilled fabricator, machinist, and weldor. The shop was equipped with powerful lathes, large 4-axis mills (always hand-programmed), and a complete engine dynamometer cell. Such a cell runs engines at maximum power with open exhaust against a water brake, yet the system he built kept it silent next to Sahalle golf club. I took a 360 video of the shop not long ago - I figure it's 3 minutes well spent, as there just aren't many left:

Sincerely,
Dave Plummer


Jim's Shop on YouTube

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