John Vanek: Auto Motivated
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
ORINDA — While people become involved in the auto repair industry for a variety of reasons, John Vanek’s motivation came primarily from the heart. “I’m one of those guys in the business who really loves cars,” he affirms. “I love working on them, driving them and just about everything else. Even when I’m not at the shop, you’ll often find me working on one of my personal restoration projects at home, which include a 1953 Chevy pickup and a 1936 Ford sedan.”
Thanks to a close family connection in the industry, John was able to jumpstart his automotive career at an early age. “When I was a kid, my older brother opened his own repair shop,” he remembers. “I started out sweeping the shop when I was 15, and I eventually worked my way up to servicing the vehicles.” After 24 years working at his brother’s business, John moved on to the shop he currently manages, Orinda Motors, Inc.
A native of the East Bay, John was born in Berkeley and now lives in El Sobrante, where he appreciates the outdoor opportunities afforded by the local landscape. “My wife, Barbara, and I enjoy going on walks and hikes so we can take in scenic views while getting fresh air and exercise,” he says. “There are a lot of places to do that here, including Tilden Regional Park, which is pretty close to our house.”
Outside of work, John engages in a variety of hobbies and pastimes, from restoring old cars to playing music. “Besides cars, music is my biggest passion. My main instrument is the drums, but I also play guitar and bass.” John also keeps up with his and Barbara’s grown children, Kyle and Sarah, both of whom live locally. Furthermore, as members of the local Elks Lodge, he and Barbara invest a significant amount of time into giving back to their community. “The Elks Lodge does a lot for local charities, including annual fundraising events like dances and pasta feeds, so it’s very rewarding to be a part of that.”
In his life and career, John espouses the importance of treating others fairly and honestly. “I treat people the same way I like to be treated, which is a big part of living with honesty and integrity. Auto repair is an expensive investment, so I always try to use my knowledge and experience to help my customers make good decisions and hopefully save some money in the process.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, John says he’d take some time to go exploring. “I’d probably go on a big backpacking trip—nothing outrageous, maybe just some trails around Yosemite. There’s also a trail up north called the Lost Coast Trail that I’d like to do. Other than that, I would spend more time working on my cars and playing music.”
Q: What was your first car?
A: A Datsun 510.
Q: If you could drive any car, what would you choose?
A: A 2014 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.
Q: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.
Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My Tonka trucks.
Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: The Ibanez acoustic-electric bass guitar my wife gave me for our 20th anniversary.