|Owner Walt Chaney proudly poses in front of his shop, Chaney's Collision Center in Glendale, AZ.|
|Estimator Larry Thude and parts manager Michael Gray discuss on-going repairs at the parts bins at Chaney's.
|This smashed up vehicle will be returned to factory specifications after repairs.|
"My uncle found me this property in 1975. Glendale was a tiny town surrounded by farms - lizard acres," owner Walt Chaney laughed. His goal was to build a two-man shop. He did build a two-man shop and then kept building until currently Chaney's is 15,000 sq. ft. on a one-acre fenced lot.
Chaney, a well-respected leader in the Arizona collision industry, fell in love with fixing cars when he was a student at San Diego Junior College. "I took the course as a lark," he said, "and I loved it." His instructor at the college, Quinton Laywell, mentored him into the industry. "Quinton could fix anything. He was an unbelievable bodyman," remembered Chaney.
After college, Chaney worked for Laywell at North Park Auto Body in San Diego for one year for free in response to Laywell's offer to "Come work for me and I will teach you the trade." Chaney did learn the trade from Laywell and stayed in the industry. "That is how we apprenticed in those days; you worked for free," explained Chaney. "The experience was quite valuable."
After working his way up through the trade for several years and making good money, Chaney decided to start his own business. Originally from Arizona, he and his wife Joyce moved back there. Joyce Chaney has never worked at the business per se, yet is her husband's strongest supporter in his endeavors. "Joyce took care of everything while I took care of the business," Chaney mused. "She has always supported me."
Chaney paid for everything as he built it. "I refused to borrow money to make it," he said. "Sometimes it was difficult and the family had to make sacrifices for this mission." However, it was a family venture and there are pictures showing Melissa and Jim, the Chaney children, with paint rollers helping complete the shop.
Another tradition that stems from those good old days is Joyce Chaney's brownies. Walt rarely walks into a meeting, still today, without those famous fabulous brownies. Jim Chaney, Chaney's son, followed in his father's footsteps. Today he is managing a Sterling Collision Center in Pennsylvania. Melissa loves teaching kindergarten in the Peoria Arizona School District.
Good reputation, quality work
Business is good for the shop that Chaney built. His reputation was established by performing quality repairs at a reasonable price. His business exploded after he put in the first Black Hawk bench in Arizona, allowing him to do unibody repairs for most of the shops in the area. His mentor, Laywell, was selling Paulee Universal Benches at that time and introduced Chaney to the bench and unibody repair.
Through work with a VW dealer, Chaney started fixing Rabbits. "I became the VW repairer of the valley," he noted. He was having to redo many jobs that had been fixed without the proper equipment. "At that time, I had two benches and we were really humming. The problem was not that other repairers were doing bad repairs but the fact that none of us had any instructions. We were never told how to repair anything. The manufacturers never recognized we even had wrecks."
Credit to I-CAR
Another first on Chaney's resume is I- CAR. "I-CAR is what really put me on top," he stated. He and Earl Mecherd, Nationwide Insurance, became Arizona's first I-CAR instructors. In those early days, an instructor had to be college certified, so Chaney attended Arizona state at night and became an accredited instructor. He looks back at those times fondly: "I-CAR really didn't have any classes yet and we had to furnish all the materials. Mecherd and I would teach two to three classes a week. We had to check everyone in, prepare the materials, and train the class." Joyce Chaney made her contribution to the success of those first I-CAR classes by sending boxes of homemade cookies to every class.
Chaney spent many years instructing I-CAR classes, moving into the Train the Trainer program. His level of involvement at I-CAR worked well with his philosophy at Chaney's Collision. The insurance community observed his expertise with unibody repairs and began sending work to his shop.
Chaney's is insurer friendly and always has been. His administrative staff, Larry Thude and Kim McMahan, adhere to this philosophy. Thude, who writes most of the estimates, is managing successful direct repair relationships with Farmers, American Family, State Farm, American National Property and Casualty, 21st Century, and EMC. Thude started in the industry as a car jockey, then moved into the insurance segment where he worked for Farmers Insurance and became the first Farmers Circle of Dependability (COD) coordinator in Phoenix. In 1999, he left Farmers and has been working at Chaney's ever since.
Office administrator Kim McMahan is in the collision repair business because she really enjoys it. While attending college to earn her degree in respiratory therapy, she worked part time in an autobody shop, subsequently changing her career path to become a part of the collision repair industry.
Chaney's uses Mitchell and CCC estimating databases, along with the Auto Quote management system. Thude writes most of the estimates with McMahan as back up. They work well as a team, managing the high volume of business.
Chaney's office is upstairs. If he is not in his office, he will most likely be found in the shop - his first love. He still personally test drives every repair.
When asked how he processes each repair, Chaney laughed and explained: "each highly-trained person jumps in and does the job and the car moves through the process." In all seriousness, Chaney's is an organized and efficient process. Chaney has accused himself of being "fanatical" about procedures in the past and it looks like his attention to detail is still "under development."
The latest and greatest
Efficiency is key to this busy I-CAR Gold Class shop. Cars blueprinted for repair are lined up against the fence waiting to enter the state-of-the-art shop. Four
Chaney's Collision Center
7161 N. 61st Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85301
Fax: (623) 939-8658
Owner: Walt Chaney
Size: 15,000 sq. ft. on one acre fenced lot
Paint Department: Blowtherm heated down draft booth
Frame Racks: Celette Dedicated Bench, World Rack, Shark Electronic Measuring System
Alignment Racks: Hunter G111
journeyman technicians use the Celette dedicated bench. In addition to Celette, they have a full-frame World Rack and a Shark Electronic Measuring System. One of the journeyman body technicians finishes the jobs on the Hunter G 111 4-wheel alignment system, which resides in a separate bay on the paint shop side of the property.
Across the parking lot from the body shop is the paint and detail department. The journeyman painter sprays BASF products in the new Blowtherm heated downdraft booth. The detail bay is actually a separate room. Set apart from the paint department by the alignment space, the detail bay stays very clean.
The parts manager works closely with the office to keep the cars moving efficiently through the shop by operating a well-organized department.
In fact, this whole organization works well together with what appears to be very little effort. However, those of us in the industry know it is not as easy as it looks. Chaney predicted: "We have the beginning of the end." He doesn't mean that in an apocalyptic sense, just the demise of the "old" way of doing business. He has seen where the industry came from and where it is headed.
"We used to do a good job for the customer and insurance company. They sent us work and we got paid," reflected Chaney. "But everything is more complicated now - and will continue to be different for the foreseeable future." In retrospect, he thinks that the industry is not as bad as it used to be. For him, the end of the industry is much better than the beginning.
Thude, who is writing estimates and managing insurance relationships, chimed in: "the only thing we can be sure of is that every day around here is going to be different."
Walt Chaney does have a hobby, though he hasn't spent too much time with her lately. She is a 1963 Piper Comanche, in mint condition - red and white and looking brand new. "The plane is like a great woman or bodyman - never aging!" he proclaimed.
Chaney's Collision Center is a solid business built around Walt and Joyce Chaney's core values - a testament to the collision repair industry of hard work and doing that hard work the right way.
* No relation to author