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

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.

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.”