106. Sitting in a dusty East Nashville neighborhood shop is a masterpiece. We suspect the man trained to fix it, though, is an even greater treasure.
In Nashville Bob Acuff can fix your rare car. We suspect he can fix just about anything. He can probably help you fix your life if necessary, though he would never admit to the ability. Bob is a master mechanic with old-world abilities and the patient wisdom that comes with old skill.
Bob specializes in repairing and restoring Jaguar automobiles, especially the rare and much sought after E-Type, a machine so precise and so beautiful it is included in MoMA, New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Because of his profession as a master mechanic–and for so precise a machine–Bob has had to develop a unique ability to listen, patiently assess, diagnose, and finally to disassemble a thing and put it back together, if necessary, without losing a single bolt.
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Bob’s story, at least on paper, is pretty straight forward. Nashville native. Graduated high school in the mid 1960s, chose to learn a trade instead of going to university so, following his father’s recommendation, he attended Nashville Auto Diesel College and earned his certificate. The Vietnam War was underway, and the draft, so instead of waiting for the government to order him he volunteered and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving as a Technician Crew Chief on a transport jet.
Following his service in the Air Force he returned home to Nashville and enrolled at MTSU and earned a degree in Aerospace Administration. He couldn’t find a job in his field due to so many qualified pilots coming back from Vietnam so he instead chose a job running a private auto shop. He then teamed up with his brother and rented their own shop briefly before finding their East Nashville shop in 1978, renting it for $350 a month, buying it only a couple years later. “Best investment I ever made.”
We met Bob while scouting walls for our We Are Nashville murals. We returned to check on him after the deadly March tornado because it literally went right on top of his building, destroying buildings next to his and, sadly, taking the lives of two young people only a few hundred feet from his building.
We knew Bob was a retired mechanic and we knew he had some lovely cars inside his shop. But we had no idea just how specialized a skill Bob had. We knew even less how much his skill informs his general living.
Put simply, on the outside Bob appears to be an average guy who has lived a steady life and raised a good family. A good, quiet, citizen. But once we sat down to talk we learned of his deep wisdom.
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