I love people with a passion.  I admire anyone who hoards with their brain – cherishing, collecting and categorizing anything and everything associated with a specific interest.

 And that is why I am a huge fan of Bill Rugge, self-proclaimed “Motor Head” and owner of Autotek, automobile repair in Bradley Beach who has been consumed with anything and everything cars for half a century.

 “I got interested in cars through my older brother,” said Bill, who grew up in Bradley Beach and Ocean Grove.  “I would sit on the hood of a car and read the manual to my brother as he was underneath fixing it.  This is when I was a really, really young kid.”

Bill began his career as professional mechanic as a teen, in between pumping gas and fixing bicycles at the Aamco station in Bradley Beach (now Autotek).

In 1970, Bill purchased the first Datsun 240Z in Monmouth County for $3727 from a dealership in Belmar.

“That car would come from the manufacturer needing to be set up – the engine tuned like a piano,” said Bill.  “Since I had one, I knew how to work on the engine.  The dealer didn’t know anything about it, so they sent them to me to work on.  At times we had a lot full of 240Z’s waiting to be set up.”

That was the beginning of Bill’s loyal customer following and sharp reputation as a mechanic.

“It used to be that all you needed was a screwdriver, pair of pliers and a hammer,” he said.  “Today, it’s a lot more complicated –$10,000 worth of equipment – but the best tool is still experience and your head.”

Sitting in his waiting room last week, it is clear that his customers realize Bill is the trusted King of Cars – I hear over and over again “Oh, Bill’s got it” or “Yeah, Bill knows what he is doing, I’m not concerned.”

When he is not putting something together or taking something apart –  he rebuilt the engine of a 1967 Ferrarri 330GTC for fun – he is usually listening to a CD from his collection of more than 3,000 or re-reading one of his Hot Rod or Car Craft auto magazines – he has a complete collection beginning in 1950.

“I am a motor head through and through – I have always just been into cars,” said Bill.  “I taught my mother to drive a car before I was old enough to have my license.” 

AutoTek is a family business, with his wife Teri – who he met in Asbury Park in the early ‘70s while he was living in the city – and his daughter Julie Flood working the front-office.  Mechanic Jared Bennett has been part of the team for 23 years.

Looking back on turning his passion into a respected area business, what does Bill think? 

“It’s been a great ride,” he said, laughing.  “It has been a really great ride.”

Check ‘Autotek Inc’ out on Facebook for discounts and specials.