My Number One Question in the Shop

I get asked  the question “How do you get into this business ? “.  Some just ask out of curiosity while others dream of doing this for a living. The dream job of long hours, mediocre pay, dirt, grime, a not so healthy environment.  Well for my self it certainly beats every other job I have ever had.

The question is not an easy one to answer.  I painted my first car for pay at 13 years old worst paint job ever. By the time I was a junior in high school I worked at the local Napa store and painted cars on the side. I also built a few cars some I drove, some I sold, and some ended up in the local wrecking yard.

I moved to Boise Idaho where I went to work for Cal’s Service Parts. They had a speed shop and an old guy named Dave who ran it. Dave was known as Father Speed he was a great guy. I worked at that job while I went through my idiot stage of my life for four years. I learned a lot I got to work with Holley and Accell in the pits a few times. I worked with a guy named Owen Corbett he taught me how to treat customers, how to create and maintain a beautiful store.

During high school  I was in DECA for 3 years I would like to thank Mr. Brown for being one of the good teachers. I learned how to market my business, maintain it, and  the economics of business. I took bookkeeping as well and learned what I needed to know to setup my books.  I had 3 years of auto mechanics with Gene Mills as my teacher. A lot of stuff has to be taught in high school auto mechanics that is text book foofoo but Gene did a good job. Year 4 Gene quit and we got the worst teacher on earth. I got kicked out of class before the end of the first semester and got the only F on my report card in all of my years in school. Looking at what I do now that is laughable.  I got even but that is another story.

My Dad was a great welder, fabricator, and mechanic. He taught me how to build an engine, a transmission, rear differential and all the other stuff.  I learned to use a metal lathe because his dream was for me to become a machinist. I built my very first automatic transmission when I was 18 my dad hated automatics and gave me a hard time saying that it would never work. He was very impressed when it not only worked but made it 800 miles to Boise.

My brother Bob was 13 years older than me. He went to school to learn auto body repair when he got out of the service. I was 8 years old when he would take me to his shop to help. He gave me a body file when I had finished a Cadillac fender skirt to his approval. That file had his initials in it. I have used that tool on every car, truck, and motorcycle I have painted for the past 50 years.

My brother and my father taught me things they did not even mean to.  My dad had some terrible accidents while working, while my brother had hearing loss, and heavy metal in his blood from grinding lead. So I learned to be very careful, to wear hearing, and eye protection. I also use the best respirators you can buy.

I was in upper managment of a large GM and Chrysler dealer for years. Then one day it changed owners and for the only time in my life I got fired. Best thing that ever happened.

So did I just wake up one day and decide to build cool cars, trucks, and motorcycles, no. I worked all my life to be at this point. The hardest part is build the patience to never settle on”Well that is good enough.”  It is perfection or do it over and to do one project at a time.

One project at a time. Ever watch a build on one of those television shows.  Look in the back ground where there is a string of customers cars half done. How would like to be the owner of one of the cars not being worked on? That I will cover in another post later.

So starting your own shop something only you can weigh out. If you have some builds under your belt, the patience, and plan on being exhausted at the end of everyday you can do it. You will probably never get rich but at the end of the day you will feel something that money can not buy. The feeling of accomplishment and a love of your work.

May God Bless



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