Saturday, April 20, 2013

Is this the best parts house in the world? Possibly.

Park's Auto Parts is a staple of motoring in Charleston. There are a couple dozen across the lowcountry but the original is on North Charleston's Rivers Avenue, or the 'daul lane' as the old timers call it. The minicipality of North Charleston was a byproduct of the Naval Yard on the Cooper River that was started at the turn of the century and boomed throughout the Cold War period. At some point in the 80's, someone got the idea that if the bridge over the Charleston Harbor was taken out, the Naval forces would be they pulled the base and the town crashed in spectacular fashion. However, in it's heyday, North Charleston's dual lane was the Woodward Avenue of the South with car sales, machine shops, and other outlets for men in uniform to spend their money. Park's would certainly have seen a lot of that disposable income. Luckily, they've managed to retain all of that knowledge and experience and to this day have staff that knows what they are doing (!), have a Speed Shop, and even hard to find parts in stock.

Now Park's remains a rarity in the auto parts business. For one, they have a Speed Shop in a separate room off of the main lobby. By Speed Shop, I don't mean an assortment of exhaust tips and clear taillights but glass cabinets full of Holley and Edelbrock carburetors, headers hanging on the wall, racks of gauges, and parts cross reference manuals lining the desks. In the age of Jegs and Summit, it's very refreshing to see.

Aside from just having the Speed Shop, Parks has people that car actually tell you how to put those parts to good use. For example, today an employee walked me though the paper catalog and pieced together an electric fan and temperature switch and relay setup for my Falcon. Go to Advance and try that. Sure, they can be a little short with people who have no fucking idea what they are looking for but they pass my lithmus test. I always know a good parts house when I go to the counter and ask for something for a Ford 351. If the guy asks "Cleveland or Windsor", I know I'm in good hands. If I hear "Sir, does the vehicle have a Q or an H in the VIN", I know it's time to leave. This is a "Cleveland or Windsor" kind of place.

Perhaps my favorite reason why I love this place is that they always have what you're looking for in stock. Hell, they had jets for my Holley 650 double pumper. They didn't have the idle air screws outside of the rebuild kit so they cheerfully ordered me a set. I needed a gas tank for a 1988 Shelby CSX-T; they had it for $100. I thought I'd pay 3 times that and wait for a week. Oh, and what's better - they are open until midnight, even on the weekends. How many times have you given up on a project at 11PM just because you couldn't get a barbed  1/4" NPT fitting?

All in all, this place is badass. Some will say that the wait is long, the staff is rude, it's in the ghetto, whatever, if it's 11:30PM and the guy behind the counter finds that all-important wheel bearing in stock for your Renault Alliance GTA, none of that other stuff matters.

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