Global disruptions are paved over almost as quickly as they arise. But in dimly lit auto shops from Los Angeles to Bishkek, evidence of the past half-century’s turbulence is never entirely discarded.
The outpouring of individual autonomy in post-communist states in Asia and Europe transformed cars into status symbols and auto shops into portals, crossing borders, geographies, enclaves, and generations. Upon inspection, discreet details reveal worldviews and circumstances. A mechanic in Baku, Azerbaijan wears an immaculate 1980s tracksuit commemorating West Germany’s European Championship. Armenian auto workers in Yerevan make Skype calls to family members 11 hours apart in LA. In Detroit, a Latvian technician preps imported Taiwanese body panels for a used Toyota.
More recent upheavals also loom over the automotive repair industry. New technologies, resurgent Cold War-era conflicts, faltering supply chains, and reassessments of traditional masculinity are acutely felt. While preserving continent-wide histories, auto shops and their occupants also double as weathervanes for looming changes.