Monday, 23 April 2018 13:22

MN Auto Body Shop Expands With Classic Car Restorations

Written by Jordan Gerard, Bluff Country News
Lee Auto Body – Classic Car and Truck Restoration brought this 1963 Ford Thunderbird back to life at its new restoration shop on East Main St. in Spring Grove, MN. Lee Auto Body – Classic Car and Truck Restoration brought this 1963 Ford Thunderbird back to life at its new restoration shop on East Main St. in Spring Grove, MN.


A need for room and a demand for classic car restorations resulted in a new full-time business venture for a Spring Grove, MN, auto repair shop.

Lee Auto Body purchased the mechanic building on East Main Street in Spring Grove, MN, from JC Nerstad, who had originally bought it from Al Otterness. And thus, Lee Auto Body – Classic Car and Truck Restoration was born in 2018.

“We’ve been doing more and more old car restorations, and we needed the room to do that,” Lee said. “Before, we would do the restorations when we had time, but now we’ve got one full-time person.”

Lee employed Dan Frye from Decorah, who is dedicated to restorations.

The idea was formulated at local Spring Grove Auction Company’s spring auction last year. Requests and conversations about restoring classic cars were a staple for Lee at the auction.

“It just kind of worked. JC (Nerstad) thought I was the perfect fit for that building,” Lee said. “People were talking to me at the auction about restorations. I thought it was a good fit to do it.”

Indeed it was. The business gained the space and customer list to make a go of restorations. Before the building came to Lee, Nerstad purchased and remodeled it, including new concrete, office space, garage doors and a new coat of paint.

“We’ve done a few restorations there so far. A 1962 Thunderbird convertible, 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback, 1967 Chevelle convertible and a 1970 Chevy Camaro,” he said. “We’re working on a 1968 Chevelle right now.”

The body work is done at the uptown building and the painting at Lee’s main location on West Main Street. 

They have two rotisseries helpful for restoration work, as the car can be turned around multiple ways---even upside down.

“It saves time and makes it easier to work on,” Lee said. 

The most commonly restored cars are muscle cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Many people bought the cars new and decide to restore them to their original look and color.

“It’s fun bringing them back. There [are] so many memories,” Lee said. “Some people got the cars when they were married or had kids. It’s pretty neat.”

Oftentimes, the cars are restored for special purposes, such as weddings or milestone anniversaries. A 1966 Chevelle was completed in time for a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

“They’ve got pictures standing by the car now and then. Those are the things that make restorations worthwhile,” Lee said. 

Lee and his crew worked on a 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee replica for seven years. The owner started out restoring it at Lee’s, but stopped when he had financial issues. He would start restoring it again off and on. 

Finally, the car was finished in time for his wedding. The owner even drove it to Duke’s Fest in Ohio. He met the living cast of the TV show “Dukes of Hazard” and got their autographs.


Out of the 189 General Lee replicas present at the festival, the owner’s General was voted one of the Top 10 Best General Lee’s. He won many more awards for the vehicle.

“I like seeing the end result when it’s done,” Lee said. “It’s different [from] everyday cars.”

The restoration shop has about five or six people currently waiting for a car to be restored. Lee hopes he can have two or three more employees there dedicated to restorations.

Lee started his mechanic business in 1994 on his farm southwest of Spring Grove. He moved it to town a few years ago, which boosted his business.

His company includes mechanic work and body work, such as collision repairs. Did he ever think he’d grow to have a restoration part of the business?

“Nope. I didn’t know what to expect at that time. When I was out there, I couldn’t grow anymore,” he said. “When this happened here, it was overwhelming right away. There [are] so many people who come here. It doubled overnight.”

As the restoration business grew, the mechanic part grew too. Lee gained another mechanic and a secretary.

“We’ve been able to get more stuff out there and done,” he said. “We’ve had more work than we’ve ever had. It’s nice having the room.”

To talk about restoring a classic car, give Lee a call at 507-498-5000. Check out the shop’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ Lee-Auto-Classic-Car-Truck-Restoration-573722269654774/.

We thank Bluff Country News for reprint permission.