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Ranking the best fictional TV mechanics

by | Nov 3, 2022

TV and automobiles were both major forces in America in the mid- to late-20th century, so it’s perhaps no surprise that mechanics are regular characters throughout the history of television. But which ones are the best? Let’s find out with this completely unscientific list!

I’ve ranked these TV mechanics on two aspects: mechanic quality and character quality. Mechanic quality is based on how good the TV mechanic is, from how they’re portrayed on the show, and taking into account the number of vehicles that they’re required to repair. Character quality is based on how critical the mechanic was to the show and/or how funny I, and I alone, found him or her (if the show was a sitcom).

So with that in mind, let’s get to it!

Honorable Mention

Lenny and Squiggy – “Laverne and Shirley”
OK, Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggman (David Lander) are more greasers than they are mechanics (although Lenny drives a truck, so that’s something) but they are examples of greaser subculture being represented on TV. Lenny (not to be confused with our own Lemmy) and Squiggy were also important and hilarious characters on the show, so I feel like they at least deserve an honorable mention. Also, Michael McKean is hilarious and has been in so much good stuff, like “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Better Call Saul,” and many Christopher Guest movies, so I’m also weighing that into their inclusion, to be honest.
Mechanic quality: F
Character quality: A

 

The List

12. Colonel Hogan, Corporal LeBeau, Corporal Newkirk, Sergeant Kinchloe (later Sergeant Baker), Sergeant Carter – “Hogan’s Heroes”
There was no one specific mechanic on “Hogan’s Heroes.” Instead, the whole crew works in the motor pool, although their “work” usually consists of stealing vehicles or sabotaging them, such as in the clip below, where they sabotage Klink’s motorcycle to prevent him from going to the Russian Front. In fact, it’s not really clear that any of them are good mechanics at all, as much as they are good saboteurs. But they’re all hilarious and obviously important characters on the show.
Mechanic quality: F
Character quality: A+

 

11. Red Green – “The Red Green Show”
This one may be less familiar to American audiences. “The Red Green Show” was a Canadian comedy series that aired on CBC Television and on PBS in America. It was a parody of home improvement and do-it-yourself shows that featured Red Green (Steve Smith) as a handyman who would fix things in rather creative or unconventional ways, usually relying heavily on duct tape. He was a mechanic just as much as he was a handyman, which is to say: not much. One example of his mechanic prowess can be seen in the video below, where he develops a rather … um … unique solution for aftermarket power windows.
Mechanic quality: F
Character quality: A

 

10. Sergeant Luther Rizzo – “M*A*S*H”
Sergeant Luther Rizzo (G.W. Bailey) was the motor pool mechanic on “M*A*S*H,” although he was definitely not a major character. He appeared in only 13 episodes of the 256 episodes that the series aired. His character is probably best known for his frequent naps and casual work style, so it doesn’t seem as though he’s a great mechanic. However, I’ll give him bonus points because the motor pool on the show seemed to function well. His character is probably best exemplified in his take on the secret to success in the army, which he describes to Klinger in the video below.
Mechanic quality: D
Character quality: C

 

9. Tim Taylor – “Home Improvement”
Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) is the host of “Tool Time,” a home improvement show. However, he’s actually a rather incompetent home improvement specialist, as he thinks he knows more than he actually does and tends to be hasty and incompetent. He does better at working on cars, which he is occasionally shown doing on the show. His passion about cars is demonstrated in the clip below, where he is inspecting a 1988 Mustang GT that his son, Brad, wants to buy as his first car. Unfortunately, his price negotiating tactics aren’t as strong as his car knowledge. And maybe his car knowledge isn’t that strong after all, as he tests…one cylinder. Of eight. Also, cracked blocks aren’t normally found with a compression test, although it isn’t an impossibility.
Mechanic quality: C
Character quality: A

 

8. Goober Pyle – “The Andy Griffith Show”
Yes, if you’re thinking of mechanics on “The Andy Griffith Show,” your first thought is probably of Gomer Pyle. We’ll get to him shortly. First, we’re going to talk about his cousin Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), who was actually on the show longer (he had a guest appearance in season four and then was a recurring character for the rest of the show’s run). Goober came in as a fill-in when Gomer’s character was spun off for his own show, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” He, like Gomer, is portrayed as a capable mechanic. In fact, in one notable episode he takes a car apart and reassembles it inside the sheriff’s office, and then takes it apart again and reassembles it outside. Goober was also the origin for some automotive-related or -adjacent plots on the show, such as when he goes to an auto show in Raleigh and calls up his old trade school buddy, Roy Swanson. To impress his successful friend, he brags that he owns a chain of gas stations. It doesn’t work out well, as you can see in the video below.
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: B

 

7. Gomer Pyle – “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
Of course, the original mechanic on “The Andy Griffith Show” was Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) with his catch phrase “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” The character was so popular that he got his own spin-off, as mentioned above. Like Goober, he’s portrayed as a capable mechanic. Not only that, but the actor Jim Nabors himself had a car connection, as he sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start of the Indianapolis 500 almost every year from 1972 to 2014. And Gomer is such a good mechanic that he can belt out “Santa Lucia” in a rich baritone while working on a car, as seen in the clip below.
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: B

 

6. Bonnie Barstow – “Knight Rider”
Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson) was the lead design engineer for KITT. Although she’s not technically a mechanic, she’s often seen working on KITT in the show, so I’m going to include her. (Plus “Knight Rider” was one of my favorite shows as a kid, so I want to include it.) Other than working on or making improvements to KITT, she also routinely chastises Michael Knight for how he treats the car. The show doesn’t really highlight her skills, although she is portrayed as capable. Also, I have to give her bonus points for working on an artificially intelligent car; that has to take some special skills.
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: B+

 

5. “B.A.” Baracus – “The A-Team”
Sergeant Bosco Albert “B.A.” Baracus (Mr. T) is the highly-skilled mechanic of the A-Team, who can make impressive machinery out of ordinary parts. He also drives the A-Team’s van, a 1983 GMC Van, not letting anyone else drive it and getting furious if it gets any damage. B.A. was easily the most popular character on “The A-Team,” not surprisingly, because he was played by the one and only Mr. T. Let’s just say I pity the fool who doesn’t like “B.A.” Baracus or Mr. T. (Sorry, I had to.)
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: A

 

4. Cooter Davenport – “The Dukes of Hazzard”
Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones) helps the Duke boys restore a 1969 Dodge Charger to become the General Lee and frequently fixes it after the many times they crack it up in the series. He’s also an “honorary Duke,” as he often assists the Dukes in escaping the law, or helps them foil Boss Hogg’s schemes. He’s clearly a good mechanic, as he has to repeatedly fix the General Lee, as well as the many county patrol cars that are damaged due to the Dukes antics. He was also an important character on the show, appearing in all of the show’s five seasons.
Mechanic quality: A+
Character quality: A

 

3. David Puddy – “Seinfeld”
David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) is easily one of the most popular recurring characters on “Seinfeld,” appearing frequently as Elaine’s on-again/off-again boyfriend with many catch phrases like, “Yeah, that’s right” and “Alright, high five.” He starts off as Jerry’s mechanic on the show, eventually being promoted to salesman at a Saab dealership at Elaine’s urging. He hates the term “grease monkey” to describe a mechanic, saying “I don’t know too many monkeys who could take apart a fuel injector.” Puddy is a hilarious character on the best sitcom of the ‘90s, so I have to rank him highly. In the clip below, Puddy, a Saab salesman at this point, breaks up with Elaine and starts ringing up Jerry for rustproofing, transport charge, storage surcharge, etc. on a car Jerry is purchasing, no longer giving Jerry the insider deal he thought he was getting.
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: A+

 

2. Latka Gravas – “Taxi”
Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman), based on Kaufman’s “Foreign Man” character from his stand-up, was the mechanic for the Sunshine Cab Company fleet. Although a popular character on the show, Kaufman grew tired of playing him, leading the writers to give Latka dissociative identity disorder, so that Kaufman could play other characters. Although his skills as a mechanic aren’t really established in the show, he has to be a good mechanic to keep the whole taxi fleet running. The quality of the character can be seen in the video below, a best-of Latka from season 2 of “Taxi,” especially in the first clip, where you can see Danny DeVito nearly breaking character at how funny he is. Besides, Latka is played by the legendary Andy Kaufman, so I’m giving him extra points just for that.
Mechanic quality: A
Character quality: A+

 

1. Fonzie – “Happy Days”
There can only be one correct #1 here and it has to be the epitome of cool. Fonzie, a.k.a. The Fonz, a.k.a. Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) was an auto mechanic who had a “magic touch” that could fix anything: cars, jukeboxes, windows, etc. In fact, Fonzie’s talent as an auto mechanic leads to him becoming an auto mechanic instructor later in the show. He was such a popular character that he quickly went from a minor character to a lead character early in the show’s run. Fonzie is likely the first character that anyone thinks of when thinking of “Happy Days” and he has been referenced many times in movies and popular culture, such as in “Pulp Fiction” and “The Martian,” and he is the inspiration for the phrase “jumping the shark.” In terms of both mechanic quality and character quality, I don’t think you can beat The Fonz.
Mechanic quality: A+
Character quality: A+

 

What do you think? What television mechanics did I forget? Do you have a gripe with my ranking? Let us know in the comments!

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