Score a 9.8 for the spinners in the Midas Group (NYSE:MDS) PR department. The good folks at America's most familiar muffler shop decided to write the headlines for us this quarter, assuring us that "Midas delivers solid results and returns to profitability."

But maybe I should cut Midas some slack. This quarter's $0.16 per share in earnings brings the firm up to breakeven for the year -- it posted an identical loss for Q1 -- and it looks much better than last year's 2 bucks' worth of red ink for the quarter.

The release says that comparisons with prior-year quarters aren't meaningful, and they're not kidding. The firm, which operates Midas parts and service shops, as well as licensing out the name to others, is still pulling up from a nosedive, having lost $2.25 in 2002 and $4.93 last year. That's quite a fall from the $2.28 in profits it showed in 1999, the first year after it was spun off from Whitman Corp. (NYSE:PAS) a once-scatterbrained conglomerate now doing business as Pepsi Americas.

Fans of financial tomfoolery will not be surprised by last year's big bath, with charges for everything, including a bill for "Hazmat removal of 30-year-old waiting-room gumballs." OK, I made that one up, but you get the picture. The accounting team did its best to wipe the slate clean with 2003's huge write-downs and restructuring charges. Businesses were shed, and plans were made, such as entering the tire-hawking business.

That's why this quarter's $52 million in revenues isn't really a drop from the prior year's $78 million. Comparable store sales were up 1.4%. Hmm. Not so great? Well, at least give Midas credit for getting gross margins up to 58%, a 10% gain if you strain out last year's special items. But investors will want to cast a wary glance at SG&A, which actually ticked up 2% as a portion of sales -- again, after draining the bathwater.

If you'd purchased the stock two years ago, you'd have been part of a nice turnaround play. Buy the shares now, and who knows? The balance sheet shows only $600,000 in cash and $73 million in long-term debt.

A lone analyst predicts $0.40 per share for the year, giving the firm a forward P/E near 40. That's too rich for me, especially with beaucoup competition, from profitable little outfits such as Monroe Muffler and Brake, as well as bruisers like Goodyear Tire and Rubber (NYSE:GT), AutoZone (NYSE:AZO), Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP), Pep Boys (NYSE:PBY), and every retailer's boogeyman, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT).

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Fool contributor Seth Jayson has no position in any firm mentioned. View his Fool profile here.