Cars in the air and planes from the ceiling suspended. Planes with wingspans of 8 and 10 feet. Quirky to da max.
You will find the cars in the air and planes from the ceiling suspended at Precision Peoples Car Repair, 1346 San Pablo at Camelia.
The man behind Precision Peoples and the planes is Ken Shapiro.
He is in 45th year in business. He is a reminder of a Berkeley that is slipping away, when the young and struggling could come here, start a business, buy a house, make a life with room in the margins for quirky things.
Shapiro grew up in and around Boston. After high school he earned an FAA Airline and Powerplant mechanic certification, but a quick comparison between a union job at the Boston Volkswagen dealership and a non-union job doing airline work led him to a several year career in the Boston Volkswagen dealership.
In early 1972, Shapiro left Boston in a 1958 VW. Via lots of places including Oaxaca – one of those young and wild drives all night across the continent that some of us knew in the 1960s and 1970s – Shapiro and friends made Berkeley. Pretty nice!
After a stop in Berkeley, Shapiro went to visit Santa Monica.
Shapiro holds the framed photo here. If you look closely, you can see that the glass is broken. It broke during the 1989 earthquake. Shapiro keeps it as-is to remind.
Santa Monica was lovely, but the weather was – too nice. Sun every day! Shapiro preferred Berkeley and came back to our occasionally dreary skies.
He opened a garage in Berkeley in April 1972 He was working with his friend Ron Glinn shortly after opening when a photographer stopped in and shot photos of Shapiro and Glinn.
The photographer came back for a model release. The photo was used on the cover of a book of photographs copyrighted by the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley in 1973. David Flores was the editor, Mike Mokotoff was the associate editor.
Glinn soon moved on to Petaluma; Shapiro is no longer in touch. But Shapiro stayed and the business grew.
And then – the airplanes. Shapiro flew his first remote control model plan in the late 1970s. It was a SIG Cadet. For years, Shapiro flew his planes at a designated park in Richmond. Recently, the City of Richmond determined that model airplanes are not a viable hobby and repurposed the park. This means that Shapiro must travel 73 miles to Woodland to fly.
He has many planes.
The air above the floor of the garage at his Precision Peoples Car Repair is filled with planes.
All good planes must come to an end.
Off the main floor is a back room, on the west side of the shop. That room is more or less completely dedicated to – more remote control model airplanes in various states of construction and repair.
The ground level is pretty much RC airplane and cars-being-fixed territory, but there are other little pieces of quirk:
But we aren’t done. There are stairs and they go up to a storage area. Any guess as to what is in the storage area up the stairs?
The lone wing is a remnant of the original SIG Cadet.
Ken shows pure joy when he talks about his planes. There is joy in the photos around the shop of him and his family out with his planes:
In this photo and the one below we see a Beechcraft Stutterwing – more on it later.
Shapiro loves the planes, and he loves flying them. But – it is a real shlep to go to Woodland with its runway and acres to fly over.
His eye has wandered.
Remote control boats have entered his world – big time.
He simply drives to San Francisco, to Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, and bingo – he can operate his boats.
What’s next? Probably more boats. Occasional adventures with flying at events, such as the Lake McSwain Float Fly that is put on by the Turlock Remote Control Club. Probably more attention paid to the G scale / G gauge model railroad layout in his garden.
If not next, soon: an addition to the murals on the south side of his building, adding a Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing biplane. It has an atypical negative wing stagger, meaning that the lower wing is farther forward than the upper wind. Shapiro is all about the Staggerwing.
I asked my friend to look at the photos here.
“Didn’t know they came this big. Dude is serious about this. Wonder if his customers notice them?”
Well, I’m sure that some do and some don’t. He wasn’t done.
He knows someone. (One more mention by him of this “someone” and I am going to have to pry a little.) He says that she doesn’t miss much. As in he never saw her miss anything. She had asked him about the “Gluing Depot” sign just west of Peoples Precision’s big garage door on Camelia. I went and asked and learned it is not related to Peoples Precision, not a sign for the airplane construction side of things. I think it has something to do with shoes, or maybe books. “Cool name, no?”” Yes. But – What about the post in its entirety?