TMCP #537: Ask Rick – Lessons Learned to Promote (or Dismiss) Employees; Plus an Easter Project Car Review Blowout!


Rick Schmidt – Ask Rick:

When to Promote a Superstar….and When to Let Them Move On.

April is here and Easter is upon us! For some of us, Spring brings on the need to get out our cars and get them ready for driving. For others it is the time to look for a project car to work on since it is now warm enough to spend hours in the garage or driveway bringing it back to life. This time I decided to Ask Rick about not just three but SIX cars to get his take on; 3 were crusty (but promising) restoration projects, and 3 were terrific (and affordable) examples of 3rd generation Pontiac Firebirds/Trans Ams that might be good fits for my son to take on. However, we started by addressing some thought listener questions on business: promoting and dismissing employees.

Rick’s Take on What to look for in Employees:

Many listeners wrote in asking about best practices when hiring/promoting employees….and also how to know if they should find “opportunities elsewhere.” In the case of NPD, Rick said that for an initial hire they have a ninety day trial period where their performance will be reviewed and at that point the next obvious step is made. While many people that come to NPD do have a fairly good understanding of how cars are built in the first place, it’s the ones that put in the extra effort with customers and memorizing the parts catalogs front to back to stand out. He did say that the path to upper management or alternative positions is not always from the locations you would think. Not always does the person that has restored numerous vehicles make the best customer service rep. The person that shows initiative and is willing to positively interact with the customers can learn the other parts of the job. It is the basic instincts to help others find the right part that is critical and key to a great customer experience. In the end, they always want to find a way to help customers with their projects – and they pride themselves on helping people on the phone and in person (i.e. it’s not just a click-it-and-ship-it service)!

Rick’s Take on Project cars:

This month, instead of sending Rick great investment vehicles that are already done and ready to drive, I sent him six listings of vehicles divvy’d up into two specific groups. The first group were three full-blown basket cases that had the bones of greatness underneath them…..but that were half rotten. The second group were three terrific 3rd generation Pontiac;s suitable for a podcast show hosts teenage son to tinker on!

Shelby GT350

Group #1 – The Basket Cases from eBay!

The “Full Restoration” Project car line up was a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am Special Edition, 1966 Mustang Fastback, and a 1969 Mustang GT350 four speed in Acapulco Blue.  I asked Rick which one he thought was the easiest or most worth restoring. He pointed out that a Camaro or Mustang would be easier and faster as all parts are available for the build and no wait time or delays in build looking for hard to find parts. The GT350 really lit Rick up but even at that he thought the price was excessive for a rusty project car that will need even more money added to the deal. All of these three cars would be straight forward and relatively easy to restore, and all three would result in a valuable treasure when complete. Rick’s a sucker for a Shelby though, so that would likely be his pick.

’89 Formula

Group #2 – the 3rd Gen Birds of Bring a Trailer

The next three cars were all third Gen Firebirds which seem to be enjoying a period of affordability. The line up was a 1989 Firebird Formula WS6 (5-speed), a 38,000 mile 1986 Trans Am, and a White 1987 Trans Am GTA. Rick said he had a brand new IROC-Z when he was in college and he did not have a great experience with it as the dealership was never able to fix it’s issues. Years later those problems have been figured out, especially with the later EFI cars. The Formula with the WS6 suspension package and 5-speed really caught his eye and felt the $14k price was worth it. The 1986 Trans Am had low miles and he thought presented well and clean. The final car, 1987 Trans Am GTA, had 134,000 miles on it. It looked terrific, but in Rick’s experience with 1980’s GM products was that when they went over 100k miles then everything was worn and loose, and he was not a fan of the early digital dashes for multiple reasons. He’d go with the ’89 Formula and row his own gears.

You can find out more about NPD at the website National Parts Depot, or on social media via NationalPartsDepot or on

Thanks Rick!

-Rob Kibbe

This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!



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