I'm looking for an old sci-fi book. It features a hillbilly roadside mechanic who turns out to be some kind of super genius with mechanical things, but has poor money and social skills. He fixes the car of the protagonist, who I think is a scientist of some kind, and the protagonist eventually realizes that the repairs are impossible. It also features another invention of the same mechanic that permits to attract or repel any kind of specific material. The scientist uses it to extract gold from the ocean and sets up a business that gives the mechanic all that he needs, as he does not comprehend money, eventually they make a spaceship out of an old tank, propelled by that invention to battle some aliens or a comet.

I read it in the 90's but it was already old, late 70's or so. I read the Portuguese translation in small softcover book (a "Pocket Book").

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As per Uneducated and simple-minded character creates device to draw gold from sea water and a force field that wards off enemy missiles, I suspect that this is the Bud Gregory stories by William Fitzgerald (actual name William Fitzgerald Jenkins), with his usual pen name of Murray Leinster used when it was published as fix-up novel Out of This World.

The more widely known Bud Gregory series comprises three 1947 Thrilling Wonder Stories stories, as assembled in Out of this World (fixup 1958), plus "The Seven Temporary Moons" (February 1948 Thrilling Wonder); all originally appeared as by William Fitzgerald. Bud is a hillbilly whose intuitive knack with high technology allows him to solve various superscience problems.

From "The Seven Temporary Moons":

.... Once he'd made a gadget which stopped bullets — and guided missiles — and then threw them unerringly back from where they started from. And he'd made a device which was a sort of tractor-beam which drew to itself selected substances only.

A bit of iron at one end of a curiously-shaped coil made the device draw to itself all iron in the direction in which it pointed. But a bit of gold in the same place made it draw gold .... Murfree was using that device, now in Ocean Products, Inc.'s Maryland-coast establishment, and Dr. Murfree was getting much more than ten dollars a day from it.


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