Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
Auto body shops in the Cleveland area of Northeast Ohio are said to be facing overwhelming demands this winter. A Touch of Class Auto Body Inc. off Brookpark Road has a five-week wait list for new customers, and several other body shops around the Cleveland area are experiencing the same overwhelming demand.
“Any shop that’s doing this right now…I know no body likes to hear this, but any shop that’s doing any type of quality work we’re all so far behind it isn’t funny,” said Kevin Harrison, the owner of A Touch of Class. “It’s been so busy we actually put on a second shift of employees because the overload has been just five-weeks out all the time.”
Harrison said another factor is the demand for parts. “They’re having trouble getting parts from Columbus to Cleveland, Pittsburgh to Cleveland, so that delays us even more,” he explained.
“So sometimes you tell a customer a car will be done in two or three days, but the next thing you know it’s four or five days because we’re still waiting for parts.”
Auto shops’ businesses in Illinois are booming because of the large number of cars damaged in storm-related accidents.
Zara’s Auto Body Shop in Springfield, IL, said they have had an average of 100 cars in their lot to fix since the region started getting hit with winter storms in January 2014.
That’s good for business. But the shops are seeing a shortage of new OEM parts from manufacturers.
“If the new parts aren’t available, not only are we in the same position lacking parts, but so is every other body shop in the country trying to find those same parts, so they aren’t even available a lot of times in the salvage yards anymore,” said Kim Woolard, a customer service representative at Zara’s.
Todd Liston says he’s fixing double the usual number of cars this year at Auto Body Specialists in Rockford, IL. The surge in business started in 2013, but has accelerated from the January 2014 storms. State Farm Insurance reported a 20 percent jump in their car insurance claims from December 2012 to December 2013.
A fire of undetermined origin, reported at 3:50 a.m. on February 23, 2014, destroyed Standiford’s Auto Body Shop at 9938 Feed Spring Hill Road SE in Mill Township, OH. Captain Rick Kinsey of the Uhrichsville Fire Department said the 30- by 90-foot metal structure and its contents are being considered a total loss. Included in the fire were a tractor and a 1934 Lincoln automobile. Kinsey said the owner Lawrence Standiford, who lives in a house about 20 feet from the body shop, reported the fire. No one was in the body shop at the time and no one was hurt, but siding on Standiford’s house was damaged by the fire.
“The building was fully involved upon our arrival,” Kinsey said. He added that the rear section of roof already had started to collapse when firefighters arrived. Thirty-four firefighters from seven area fire departments worked for about four hours to extinguish the blaze. Kinsey said a lot of the metal construction had collapsed, and firefighters had to take metal apart to get to the fire. Kinsey said an investigator from the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office will assist in an investigation.
In January 2000, Cory Trenkamp was in a car accident in which his neck was broken. After months of recovery, rehabilitation, and confinement to a wheelchair, he entered college at Wright State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in math. He now teaches math online through the West Central Ohio Learning Academy, according to Anne Coburn-Griffis, writing in the Putnam Centinel.
“My parents take my siblings and nephews for rides around our farm. Last summer, my three-year-old nephew wanted me to ride with them,” said Trenkamp. “Since my wheelchair wouldn’t fit on it, I looked into some options.”
Trenkamp located a body shop in Columbus, OH, that makes wheelchair-accessible golf carts but the cost for such a vehicle was high. “My dad asked a buddy of his if he knew anyone that could convert ours. He said he’d like to try.”
That friend was Mark Ricker, the owner of Mark’s Auto Body just west of Ottoville, OH, on U.S. 224. He and a crew that consisted of Vernon Etzler and Tony Butler worked on the cart renovation in his rural shop over the recent cold winter months. On March 14, 2014, Trenkamp and his father Carl joined them all there for a final fitting. With the press of a button, Ricker lowered the passenger-side door into a ramp. Trenkamp drove his wheelchair up the ramp and locked the chair in place, just as he does in his van, for a perfect fit. Under windy but blue skies, Trenkamp and Ricker took the finished cart out for its inaugural spin. According to Ricker, Etzler was the brains behind much of the cart retrofit.
“We cut it in two and put steel in to lengthen it out,” said Etzler. “There’s a lot to doing it, stretching everything out—throttle cables, brake lines, putting another seat in.”
When asked how long it took to complete the project, Etzler belly-laughed. Ricker smiled and explained. “It took a month and a half, but the first one always takes longer.”
Trenkamp himself located the mechanism that locks his wheelchair safely into the floor of the cart. Ricker explained that the original front seat is now located near the back of the cart. It sits just behind the area where Trenkamp can now drive in and park his wheelchair. A new seat was installed in front. A new steel roof had to be made and installed as well.
“Just for Cory,” said Ricker. “Just for his safety.”
Cincinnati Reds decals personalize the red vehicle, which is street-legal with tail lights, turn signal, and a distinctive horn. The cart will run up to 30 mph. It seats seven.
“We can load up with the grand-kids and go to Jennings Park,” said Trenkamp’s dad.
Now his son Cory can join them, although he has other destinations in mind. “We don’t have sidewalks near our house, which there should be. Now I can get up to town if I want to. Take it to the game; maybe use it as a bull pen car. You get tired of riding around in minivans.”
Ricker suggested mounting a drop-down television in the ceiling of the golf cart. “Maybe next year,” grinned Trenkamp.
Carl Richard Roberts passed away March 7, 2014, after an extended illness. Carl briefly owned a gas station before going into auto body repair at Leeson’s Body Shop in Youngstown, OH. He began working independently in 1960, opening Robert’s Auto body at a family building on Heck Road. He opened Peace Valley Auto in 1975, and later moved his work across the street opening Robert’s Auto body in 1982 until his retirement in 2002. He is survived by three children and six grandchildren.
A car was on fire outside of Mark’s Auto Body on Alpine Road in Eau Claire, WI, where it was being stored for the winter. A section of Alpine Road was closed off to traffic as a result.
Township Fire crews say they’re not sure why the car started on fire, but say it has a fuel leak, and keeps reigniting. Foul play is not suspected.
There is minimal damage to the building, but the car has been deemed a total loss.
The Township Fire Department along with the Eau Claire Sheriff’s Department responded. The call came in just before 8:45 p.m. on March 14, 2014.
Mark’s Auto Body plans to be open during normal business hours.
Michigan Democrat John Dingell, an ardent advocate of the auto industry who has held his seat in Congress since 1955—longer than any other person in history—said that he will retire from the House of Representatives, a senior House Democratic aide said.
Dingell first entered Congress to finish his late father’s term, and went on to serve nearly six decades.
“I’m not going to be carried out feet first,” Dingell, 87, told The Detroit News. “I don’t want people to say I stayed too long.”
Dingell said that he will not seek re-election in November 2014.
In his heyday, Dingell wielded power as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and has shaped major laws for cleaner air and water, protecting endangered species, and providing health care for poor children.
Dingell also expressed disappointment with Congress.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he told The Detroit News. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
The newest Andy’s Auto Body location in Wood River, IL, is going to be like a “new car dealership without new cars,” as manager Chuck Tucker told writer Nathan Grimm. The shop will have all the trimmings of a new car dealership, including a full auto body shop and a full mechanical department. The location will also feature between 30 and 50 used cars for sale, according to owner Mark Anderson. Anderson said that the 13,000-square-foot building, just a block from three existing new car dealerships with another on the way, was prime real estate for his business. “There’s a lot of dealerships right there, which will help us develop customers,” Anderson said, noting, “Four dealerships, but none have a body shop.”
Customers of the body shop’s Alton Square Mall location will notice a similar, if not new and improved, showroom, Tucker said. The waiting area will still have the leather chairs and 70-inch television that customers are accustomed to, but the Wood River location will also have WiFi technology, a gourmet coffee bar, a fireplace, and a computer for guests who may need to get work done while they’re waiting.
Although it’s a new location, Tucker said the staff will be seasoned veterans in the automotive field, some with more than 30 years of experience.
It’s an exciting new venture for the body shop, but it’s also a nice new start for the building, which has sat empty for years. Wood River mayor Fred Ufert said the building hasn’t been occupied for around eight years, since Federico Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep moved to its new location. Ufert said the city is “glad to see that building used.”
“It’s a good deal for them and a good deal for the city,” Ufert said. “We’re thrilled that they’re here.”
It was a quick turnaround for the building, too, as Tucker said the doors opened on March 14, 2014. The business had a grand opening March 22, 2014, and McKay Auto Parts had a barbecue at both the Wood River and Alton Square Mall locations. Despite all the newness, Tucker said one thing won’t change—Andy’s Auto Body’s commitment to running a “reputable, locally owned business.”
Andy McDonald, assistant professor for the Waubonsee Community College Auto Body Repair program in Sugar Grove, IL, described a tradition of excellence to the Kane County Chronicle.
McDonald talked about strong finishes at state and national competitions, and said high-caliber students find work soon after school. Since 2008, Waubonsee students have earned four first-place awards, seven second-place awards, and two third-place awards in state SkillsUSA competitions. Several students have advanced to the National SkillsUSA completion in Kansas City, MO, earning second-, fourth-, and eight-place awards.
A lot of that was accomplished with older training technology, but now the school has been endowed with a $50,000 Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grant from the Collision Repair Education Foundation.
Waubonsee was among four schools nationally to receive the award in 2013.
As a result, the school will add a new paint room, a new paint booth, and a new frame rack, which was donated by Spanesi Body Shop Technology of Naperville, IL.
A North Aurora-based Sherwin Williams store will donate paint for the interior of the program’s building.
The equipment is worth tens of thousands of dollars, and McDonald said it will provide a boost, allowing students to work with state-of-the-art machinery that they would encounter when they are employed. “It’s more real-world,” McDonald said.
For instance, with the older technology, there were 1980s-style spray booths, and paint might have to dry overnight. But with newer technology, McDonald said, cars can be “baked” for 30 minutes. He said it also helps mistakes get corrected more quickly.
He said the old equipment wasn’t bad, but “it was just old equipment. Now, it’s going to be better.”
Sue Murray, the assistant vice president of career and technical education at Waubonsee Community College, said it was the second year the school had applied for the grant. She said it’s an opportunity to put a wish list together. She said I-CAR seeks the donations.
She said the donations will improve an already-successful and popular program. She said having such a program is a positive for Waubonsee.
“It is always full,” she said, adding that there are few such programs in the state. She said because such programs need equipment that can be pricey and require plenty of space, “schools don’t go into it lightly.”
At Waubonsee, she said, it’s a big help to have a program experience such accolades.
“It has a very good reputation,” she said.
Darrel DeGreves, the store manager at Sherwin Williams in North Aurora, said his store’s donations will be between 20 and 40 gallons of “Moonlight White” paint for the interior of the building.
“It’s really needed,” he said. “The building was originally a horse barn, and they’ve converted it into an auto center.” He said he is happy to help. He said he is familiar with the program and is impressed by those who are in it. “The kids are good kids,” he said.
Waubonsee’s auto body repair program is approved by the Illinois Community College Board and certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). It is taught in accordance with National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) standards and follows I-CAR guidelines.
Waubonsee’s auto body repair program gives students real hands-on experience making both structural and non-structural repairs on a variety of vehicles. Students develop skills in the areas of frame repair and straightening, sheet metal repair, welding, plastic component repair, refinishing, and both solvent-based and waterborne painting. Students repair an average of 78 cars each year. The auto body repair program is headquartered in the Auto Body Building, an 18,000 square foot facility on the south side of Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus. This facility houses three spray booths, two prep stations, a modern classroom, and a computer lab.
Waubonsee’s facilities and program are compliant with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and have been certified so by the Illinois Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Students earn personal EPA certification which is a requirement for those working in the field. Students have trained on a mechanical frame measurement system and two computerized systems. Other equipment includes three frame machines, a state-of-the-art waterborne paint system, and six resistance and MIG welders.