Shop Press

Shop Press is the news and idea hub for everything related to working on cars and trucks, focusing on repair, technology, and wrenching lifestyle.

From the creative minds at:


Hot Off the Press

Texas nonprofit helps low-income vehicle owners afford auto repairs

At any given time, about 1 in 5 vehicle owners are delaying some sort of auto repair, with the most common reason being that they can’t afford it, according to the Auto Care Association Factbook. All this deferred work adds up to an estimated $31 billion that drivers...

A day in the life of a service writer (VIDEO)

The hardest job in an automotive shop might just be that of the service writer. Taking heat from the boss, the techs, and the customers isn't easy. That the role is for dynamic individuals becomes apparent quickly when considering the tasks that make up the job. Watch...

Serviceability Hall of Shame: Ford Taurus Spring Shields

The Serviceability Hall Of Shame was born from all the times we’ve looked at a vehicle and realized some usually simple task was going to be nightmarish. It is, ultimately, a response and explanation of the inevitable question, “Good Lord, why?!” Today’s entrant isn’t...

January Automotive Horoscopes

Aries: You may not think of some of your repairs as innovative, but a creative fix is a creative fix. Your outlook is out there, and that's OK. Expect to see someone else cribbing your notes but remember to take it as flattery. Not everyone has the same gift of seeing...

It’s totally fine to run your fuel tank down to empty

One of the pieces of automotive wisdom that’s been repeated by publications and mechanics alike for ages is that it’s not good to run a fuel tank below some arbitrary fill point, like a quarter of a tank. At some point, that probably wasn’t bad advice. But today? It’s...

LOF PSA: Don’t forget the lube job

Please forgive me, because I’m about to be a dinosaur and proselytize for a few moments. Many moons ago, I would have customers request an oil change and a lube job. It was so prevalent that the acronym for this, LOF, is still in pretty common use. (That’s “lube, oil,...

Best of Shop Press 2022

Shop Press officially launched in March 2022, at least if you go by the press release. Between then and now, we’ve published well over 100 articles and videos dedicated to auto repair professionals and wrenching enthusiasts. We greatly appreciate everyone who has...

The real history behind the fake turboencabulator (VIDEO)

by | Apr 1, 2022

I forget when I first saw the turbo encabulator video, but it was a long time ago, early in my life as a wrench. I came to understand most mechanics had seen it and was a bit of an in-joke, but had no idea it neither originated in the automotive industry nor was the original concept even created for gearheads. I loved it immediately. I’ve long wanted to spoof this video, and if you’re reading this, I got my wish. But in making this video, I am also compelled to share a bit of the history behind it.

The turboencabulator videos I’d seen as a kid were both automotive in nature. One was a video shot around 1977 with an actor named Bud Haggart, and it was made after an industrial training film about GM trucks. The other was clearly shot on a set for a Chrysler product, and that one was filmed around 1988. Little did I know that the same fella stars in both films. Here’s ol’ Bud in action.


But this long-running joke is much older than that. It began in 1944. Written by John Hellins Quick, the British Institution of Electrical Engineers published the technical description in their Students’ Quarterly Journal. It gained steam in America, however, when Time picked up on the joke and ran excerpts from Quick’s article in 1946. There was quite a bit of hubbub from readers writing in. In 1962, General Electric published a data specification sheet for the whimsical product.

GE Turboencabulator

Fifteen years after that, Bud made it famous for a new generation of viewers. This time around the block I must wonder if it was perhaps funnier; instead of the audience being the nerd engineers themselves, now it was aimed at the victims of those nerds, those of us who suffer at the hands of these people who seem to delight in complicating things. And due in no small part to that, the joke keeps going, with all sorts of people putting their own little spin on it. It’s been enough of a running gag that there’s a Wikipedia page with a list of various versions.

The joke’s influence is even evident without mentioning the turboencabulator specifically. A few years ago, I began watching an Amazon Prime series called The Patriot at the urging of a good friend. The main character (played by a fella named Michael Dorman, how ‘bout them apples?) is stuck giving a highly technical talk regarding the piping industry, and he’s not educated in the field.

A Turboencabulator

The archetypal turboencabulator. Illustration by Josh Seasholtz.

His boss advises him, “Keep it simple, John. Little something like this. Let me walk you through our Donnelly nut spacing and cracked system rim-riding grip configuration. Using a field of half-seized sprats and brass-fitted nickel slits, our bracketed caps and splay-flexed brace columns vent dampers to dampening hatch depths of one half meter from the damper crown to the spurv plinth. How? Well, we bolster 12 husk nuts to each girdle jerry, while flex tandems press a task apparatus of ten vertically composited patch hamplers, then pin flam-fastened pan traps at both maiden apexes of the jimjoints.”

I watched that the first time and rewound it and watched it a few more times, thinking of old Bud the whole time. And now, of course, I’ve gotten to have my own crack at keeping the joke going in the Dorman studio.

It’s an honor to participate in such a long-running gag. If you’d like to join me, feel free to tack one of these babies onto a few estimates today!

Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline feedback
View all comments


Miata Spotter’s Guide (VIDEO)

Miata Spotter’s Guide (VIDEO)

If you want to learn the various generations of the world’s favorite reliable roadster, it’s as easy as learning your...

Click to leave a comment!x

Get Articles In Your Inbox

Subscribe to receive a monthly email summary of our latest Shop Press stories.

Shop Press

Thanks! You're now subscribed.