serving kentuckiana since 1959
Barr’s Transmissions | New Albany, IN |
our services
  • Automatic Transmissions
  • Standard Transmissions
  • Domestic Transmissions
  • Foreign Transmissions
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  • Motor Home Transmissions
  • Industrial Transmissions
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Barr Transmission

Barr's Transmissions was featured in the September 2009 issue of Transmission Digest.

Guarding His Reputation

Working with other family members in a business can be difficult -especially if the owner is your father and you have a bad attitude, as Kevin Purvis acknowledges he did as a young man.

Kevin has owned Barr's Transmissions in New Albany, Ind. -- just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky. -- since January 2008. He got his first taste of the business at the age of 15 while his father, Bill Kitchens Sr., was running a transmission shop in Beaumont, Texas. "He started taking me in there to clean up the shop and help the other employees with whatever they needed."

Before moving to Texas, his father had worked for John Barr, who started the shop in New Albany in 1959. "John Barr kept calling him, wanting him to come back and work for him, and Dad wouldn't do it. Finally, John said, 'Why don't you just come back and buy it from me, Billy?' So he bought Dad a plane ticket, Dad flew back here, they talked, he bought it, the school year ended and we moved back. I was 16 then."

After working for his father at Barr's for a couple of years, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 to 1985. "When I got out I really didn't want to do transmissions, because Dad and I just didn't get along when I was younger. Technically, he's my step-dad, but he's the only dad I've ever known. I tried a few things, got a union job over here with my uncle across the river, and I just didn't like it. I realized anybody could come in and do what I was doing I needed something that not a lot of people can do. Dad and I got to talking, and I came back to work for him. That was in 1986, and I've been working on trans­missions ever since."

However, he spent a good part of that time working in other shops, he said. "In the early '90s, we had a big falling out, so I left."

He worked at a succession of other transmission shops and dealerships, learning more about the business at each place. Meanwhile, his younger brother had been running Barr's for their father but broke his back about six years ago. "Dad made me a deal I couldn't re­fuse, so I came back to work for him then. Kevin's business is about 95% transmissions, but he also performs other services such as brake work for customers if he can save them some money by doing the repairs. "My main goal is, if I do your transmission I don't ever want to see your car back on my lot again except for preventive maintenance. I build every one of them just like it was mine." He works on both automatic and manual transmissions, foreign and domestic.

"I've got a basic rebuild price; hard parts are additional, and I make sure my customers understand that." Kevin said. "When I get it apart I always call them and let them know what the total's going to be, and then I run with it from there.

"I try to make sure they fully understand everything from the beginning, and I do know that I lose a few jobs that way. But I don't want any confusion. When they come pick their car up, I don't want them saying: 'Hey, you didn't tell me about this. What are you charging me this for?' Then we've got a problem, and that's going to affect my name. Our reputation is everything to us. I'm not perfect, but I've been doing this a long time and I like to think I'm close. I learn something new every day."

Kevin said he has a set pattern that he follows for each type of unit that he rebuilds. "My philosophy is accuracy is number one and speed's number two."

He asks customers to come back for a recheck about 10 days after a rebuild. "The way I explain it, the transmission's not like a motor. It doesn't have a break-in period, but the seals kind of do, and I don't make them; I just install them. Normally, if I do have a problem it's going to go back to a leak. And if it leaks I want to catch it before it damages my transmission. So I have them come back after about a week to 10 days so I can recheck it.

"If my customers do have a problem, I go above and beyond to try to solve it, get it taken care of, whether it's related to me or not.”

It depends on what it is. But I try to make the customer as happy as possible. That way they do talk about me - and its good talk - when they're done. That's a major chain reaction."

(Reproduced with permission of Transmission Digest. For subscription information, call 800-274-7890 or visit