Amazon better than NAPA?

My 1965 Buick has a transmission that leaks. It’s leaked for years, but it seems to get worse all the time. I’m not sure where it’s leaking from, it can be difficult to tell, but I thought I would start with the pan. The pan gasket and rear seal are doable, the front seal is less fun.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I think it’s fair to let everyone know that I have a love/hate relationship with auto parts stores. My first job after I graduated High School was with the local (and now defunct) Big A Auto Parts in Loveland Colorado. I was a Will Call driver and worked the counter for a couple years before I decided to do something else with my life. My experience has resulted in a very low tolerance for parts men (and women). I often do business at the local Checker because I know a guy there, but they are carrying fewer and fewer parts for my old car. I have found that the Greeley NAPA store generally has better luck getting the parts I need to keep my classic Buick on the road.

Thinking I should take care of my transmission leak, I stopped at the local NAPA store last Saturday. My Buick has a two speed transmission which I always assumed was a powerglide. It’s not. The actual transmission in my car is a switch-pitch Super Turbine 300. This transmission was used in Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs from 1964-1969. It seems to be a good transmission, other than leaking it has always worked great, but it is obsolete. The woman at NAPA, who I admit did give it a good shot, couldn’t find a filter kit for it. She checked her numbers and they were no longer available.

The next stop was the Internet to see how discontinued these parts really were. I looked several places and couldn’t find anything. There were some discontinued parts available on eBay, but that was it. The whole idea was put on the back burner.

Today I had a thought. Perhaps Amazon would carry this part, maybe I should check. The Amazon automotive search interface is a little sub-par, so it took a while to find the right part. After entering the year, make and model of my Buick the parts were all just kind of listed there. Several transmission filters were listed, but they didn’t specify if they fit the TH400 or the ST300. One thing did stick out though, they listed a WIX filter for it. If you’ve never been the parts business you may not be familiar with WIX, but they are a filter company that used to carry many hard to find filters.

My next step was to visit the WIX site. I punched in the number of the filter kit Amazon listed for the Buick and confirmed that, yes, it was a TH400 filter. Fortunately the WIX site itself has a nice search tool and they listed the kit for a ST300. Returning to Amazon, I searched for that new part number, WIX 58880, and amazingly Amazon lists it as in stock.

The filter hasn’t been ordered yet, so it may not be as good as it sounds, but it looks like they have the right part and will send it to me. The moral of the story? Twofold I guess. First, if you work a parts counter out there, or own an auto parts store, be sure to check all your resources. The NAPA store should be able to get WIX filters, and it wasn’t like they were busy and didn’t have time to look it up. Second, if you are an owner of a classic vehicle, be sure to check everywhere for those hard to find parts. You never know where they will turn up.

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