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Midwestern News

1HomePageMap small mw 0816Local 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.

Accurate Auto Body CARSTAR has been certified I-CAR Gold Class.

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.