Sunday, September 3, 2017

Laconia, Belknap County, New Hampshire: Retiring mechanic has his eyes on the sky

 Terry Murphy of Belmont, who has spent the past 32 years as a master mechanic is retiring on Thursday and plans to replace fixing cars with restoring two 1940s vintage airplanes. 

LACONIA - After 32 years spent under the hood, Terry Murphy whose Court Street Auto has been a fixture in the city is hanging up his wrench.

Murphy, who will turn 67 next month, locked up the three-bay garage for the last time on Thursday at 5 p.m.

"It's been trying at times, but satisfying," Murphy said of his years as a master mechanic.

While Murphy's retirement will mark the loss of an independent automotive repair shop, the property owner, Stafford Oil, plans to continue to offer full-service gasoline sales. Two Citco branded stations remain the only gas stations in the city where you don't have to fill your own tank.

His interest in what makes things tick came from his late father, a Marine pilot who went to school to learn aviation mechanics when his service ended.

Murphy made his livelihood fixing motor vehicles, but the wild blue yonder sang its siren song to him as it did to his father before him.

He earned his private pilot's license in 1972, and in his retirement he plans to finish restoring two 1940s airplanes he owns.

His 1947 Aeronca 11-AC single-engine two-seat fabric-covered plane is nearing completion.

In his younger years, Murphy said, he'd work 70 hours a week at the station and still have enough energy to come home and spent a couple of hours at night working on the airplane.

"Now I'll be able to get back to work on it," he said, standing in the shop that has been his workplace for more than three decades. He bought the business, which includes a convenience store, in 1992, after working there since 1985.

The second plane is a 1948 Piper Vagabond that has been in his family since 1961. His father acquired it after it crashed at their home airport in Connecticut. He rebuilt it. The family moved to New Hampshire in 1987.

The Vagabond is true to its name, said Murphy, explaining first his dad owned it, then his uncle, then they jointly owned it. When his uncle had a student pilot at the controls during a practice landing, they touched down with such force that one of the wheels snapped. The instructor throttled the plane forward to take off again, and began circling Murphy's house gesturing at the flapping wheel, flying low enough that he was able to yell for them to come to the airfield.

The plane continued to circle until it was nearly out of gas and touched down on one wheel. As it slowed, Murphy's father sprinted alongside, supporting the wing on the wheel-less side. The engine was shut off with the propeller horizontal, preventing any further damage.

Once his planes are restored, Murphy hopes to find a small airfield where he can enjoy taking to the skies without having to worry about high-speed corporate jet traffic. He's looking forward to working on his planes without a deadline to get the repairs completed.

During his years as an automotive mechanic, Murphy said more components became electronic. He also saw design changes fostered by more stringent emission standards and safety requirements for insurers.

While Murphy has sold the majority of his specialty tools to Curtis Hodgman, a fellow mechanic who has spent the past 10 years working at the shop, he plans to bring his fabrication tools and hand tools to his Belmont home to work on his planes and to tackle a growing "honey-do list."

The shop's hydraulic lifts were sold and removed on Aug. 26 and the tire balancing machine was sold on Tuesday.

Terrance Agrusso, who tended the gas pumps for Murphy, will continue in that role for Stafford.

"I'll miss my customers; many of them have become friends over the years. A number of them have come in wishing me well and bringing in presents. I have enough gift certificates for restaurants to last a year," a grateful Murphy said.

Original article can be found here ➤

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