Woodbridge Township, New Jersey
RPM Automotive (formerly Shine's Texaco)
Located just off Main St. in downtown Woodbridge, RPM Automotive stands as a functional, mechanical legacy of automobilia in central Jersey. Now owned and operated by Ray Estok, RPM was built and founded in 1947 by Ray’s father, Michael Estok, Sr.
Originally known as Shine’s service station, the garage was built on property that Michael Estok won in a card game of pinochle. In 1949, Shine’s became an authorized Texaco filling station. In an area now overpopulated with auto repair shops, Shine’s was one of the only full-service shops in post-war, downtown Woodbridge. According to Ray’s memory, the only other shops were the Town Garage, located on the corner of Amboy Ave. and Green St., and Calso (now known as Chevron), located in the current parking lot of Provident Bank on Amboy Ave.
To highlight the intersection of local history, Shine’s was in operation during the horrific Woodbridge train wreck of 1951. In fact, Ray’s oldest brother Edward appeared on Douglas Edwards and the News on CBS, interviewed on the nightly news as the first citizen on the scene of the accident.
Ray’s father operated Shine’s until 1975, when Ray and his brother Michael took over the business. In 1995, Ray became the sole proprietor of the business and changed the name to RPM Automotive.
Ray read the writing on the wall for the future of automotive technology, and in 1973 he was part of the first graduating class at Monmouth College to receive their certification from the National Institute of Auto Service Excellence (now known as ASE). Ray took this certification class on his own initiative, but received a ribbing from his father and brother for sporting the certification patch on the shoulder of his shop coveralls. In the long run, this patch served as the mark of the industry standard for certified mechanics and reflected the legitimacy of their business.
Ray furthered his expertise in engine repair through his experience in go kart racing. In 1987, Ray placed second in national points for the Manufacturer’s Cup in the World Karting Association. As the son of a life-long NHRA drag racer and possessing a moderate level of automotive knowledge, I understand that Ray is the Woodbridge guru for small engine overhaul and repair.
Beyond the “functional museum” status of RPM’s historic service station, there is a deeper significance of Shine’s place in Woodbridge’s neighborhood social history. The shop office has served as a local haunt, a gathering place, for Woodbridge men to sit and shoot the breeze. In my interview with Ray, he likened the shop’s role as a social space to a typical neighborhood barber shop. In fact, in the antique office chairs once filled by my maternal grandfather and Ray’s father, I now sit and bs with Ray , my father and other “old-timers” as they spin tales of hot rods in the annals of Woodbridge automotive history.
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