Dry a tear and lift up your glass to the friendly local automotive machine shop as they dwindle in number. Now almost as rare as the midwestern pool hall, the machine shop was once a burgeoning operation where independent garages, dealerships, and shade-tree mechanics alike sent in blocks, heads, flywheels, press work, and in many cases odd items like brake cylinders to be sleeved and shoes to be relined.

Was a time when the parts shops that were serious about... well, parts... all had a machine shop in the basement or around back. The places without them were the posers trying to sell 27 different kinds of air freshener and most of the parts for a small block chevy but not much else.

Where have they all gone? Hmm.

Maybe it's all the environmental regs.

Maybe it's the fact that more and more parts are rebuilt on an exchange basis. Rebuilt heads. Rebuilt long blocks. With the complexity and tolerances of modern aluminum engines no one gets out the plastigauge any more.

Maybe it's the fact that modern cars and light trucks can run up to 200,000 miles and beyond without needing so much as a valve job.

Or that a generation of shade-tree mechanics is now in the nursing home with no one to take their place.