Wes Duenkel
October 3, 2018

For Northridge, California’s Saul Gutierrez, his passion for cars started with his father. “My father worked on cars. Once I was old enough to help, my father didn’t want to work on them anymore!”

His love of auto mechanics led him to study it after high school, but spinning wrenches for a living quickly lost its luster. “Auto repair is a dirty job. You’re working on old cars that are neglected for what seems like centuries.”

But it was in during these early mechanic jobs that Gutierrez learned the fundamentals of the automotive business. Most importantly, “If you don’t do a job right, it’ll come back and bite you.”

Gutierrez’s next job proved pivotal in charting his future path. “I went to work for a company that dismantled wrecked and recovered Fox-body Mustangs.” It was there that Gutierrez developed a soft spot for Ford’s popular Ponycar. “I owned a 1993 LX that I drove everywhere. It was always fast and reliable.”

The salvage business branched into offering reproduction parts, including wheels. “A customer of ours asked me to come and work at his Mustang performance shop, where I worked for seven years before striking it out on my own.”

Gutierrez opened GEAR Driven Automotive about five years ago. The shop specializes in repairing, restoring, modifying, and customizing classic and modern American cars. What is his favorite part of the business? “I get to work on cars that most people don’t see often. One day I might be working on a classic Corvette, the next day a GTO. The work is always changing. Classic cars always need something. A customer may want a different engine or add a supercharger.”

To contrast it to what he started out doing, he says, “At least I’m not changing brakes all day. Classic and modern muscle cars keep me entertained.”

Gutierrez recognizes there are always challenges. “My biggest challenge is to stay on deadline when a customer brings a car into the shop with a history of questionable repairs. Sometimes 10 different people have worked on the car before, and we have to spend time sorting all that out before we can move forward.”

How does Gutierrez keep customers coming to GEAR Driven Automotive? “We focus on treating our customers right. We try and give them their money’s worth, and then some. If a customer is pleased with the work, they not only tell buddies, but strangers. If a customer comes in as a referral, he or she is sold on the work already. Happy customers are great advertisers.”

Gutierrez still owns the 1964 Ford F100 shortbed truck he drove in high school, and he recently picked up a 1990 Mustang LX as a project. “It’s very similar to the 1993 I owned before.”

We can’t wait to see what Gutierrez has planned for his business and his personal projects.