When you’ve got enough scratch to afford a new ride, having a car is easy. If your motorvator coughs, sputters, quits or even smells funny within six years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first) just take that metal-flake dream machine back to the dealership and get it fixed — in and out, no muss, no fuss, no credit card required. For the rest of us who have cruised out from under the umbrella of the factory warranty, though, car trouble can be a real pain in the tailpipe. Where do you take it? How much will it cost? Which shop will give you a deal as supple as fine Corinthian leather, and who will give you the ungreased driveshaft?
Here, in no particular order, is a list featuring some of the fine local chapels erected to the care, rehabilitation, and worship of the Great God Auto. When your ride takes ill, these will fit the bill.
Foster’s Garage Located in what might be the most classic garage in Little Rock (service lifts? Those are for amateurs!), Foster’s Garage has been on Eighth Street for decades. This writer has been taking his own heaps there for years, and Foster’s never fails to fix what’s broken promptly and get me out the door for a lot less dough than I expected. They’re my go-to guys for everything from major issues (like the time my Ford’s gas tank mysteriously started puking petrol out the fill hole) to routine maintenance like brakes and oil changes. A word of warning, though: They open at 7 a.m., and you should get there around then. They fill up fast — a testament to their local reputation — and it’s strictly a first-come-first-served operation. 409 W. Eighth St. 371-9535. 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Helmich Auto Service Yet another very small, very well-regarded garage buried back in the darkest heart of Hillcrest, folks have been taking their cars to Helmich’s for years, with those I talked to having nothing but praise for Helmich’s straight-shooting honesty and the quality of their work. It’s a two-man operation — a pair of brothers — and they do everything from oil changes to the automotive equivalent of the heart/lung transplant. Never had anything fixed there myself, but if their name being mentioned as one of the best and most reasonable garages in town a half-dozen times in my informal Facebook peep-survey bears any weight, maybe I should reconsider. 2712 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-9988. 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.
Hillcrest German Auto Having a fine, German-made auto like a vintage BMW or Mercedes Benz is great, until it comes time for service or repair. Then you’d better hope you can sell a lung on the black market, especially if you’re considering taking it back to the dealership. That’s where a great, local place like Hillcrest German Auto comes in. It’s not in Hillcrest anymore, but it is located conveniently near downtown, where many of the Deutsch autobesitzer tend to congregate. They’ve built a sterling local reputation over the years. If you’ve got a Panzerwagen that’s getting a little long in the tooth, write their phone number and address on the sunvisor in permanent marker. It might come in handy someday. 714 S. Arch St. 376-8300. 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Jett’s Service Station George Jett’s two-bay operation on Markham has been helping Little Rock drivers solve their automotive maladies for years, and lots of folks in Hillcrest, Stifft Station and Capitol View swear by their honesty and know-how. It’s just the kind of place you don’t see anymore: a friendly, local garage that can do everything from rotate tires to change a battery to swap out a bleeding rack-and-pinion. They can handle most routine automotive problems, and if it’s too complicated for them to fix in house, they can make recommendations on a trusted mechanic who can. 3101 W. Markham St. 664-4485. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Kittle’s Garage Another of the old-line garages that’s survived mostly on service, honesty and word-of-mouth, Kittle’s Garage has been in North Little Rock since all the way back in 1952. Cars have changed quite a bit since the Truman administration, but the folks we spoke with at Kittle’s said their staff often travels out of state to stay up on training so they’ll be ready to repair the newest automotive gadgets, gizmos and computer brains. They do everything there except bodywork and refurbishment of automatic transmissions. The garage takes appointments for service on a first-call basis every morning. 1300 N. Poplar Street, NLR. 376-1519. 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Fri.