Monday, 18 March 2019 15:43

Danville, KY, Man Has Run Kleckner’s Collision Center for 42 Years

Written by Robin Hart, The Advocate-Messenger
The guys at Kleckner's Collision Center are, from left, Loren Arth, Earl Kleckner Jr., Wayne VonLinger and Earl Kleckner Sr. The guys at Kleckner's Collision Center are, from left, Loren Arth, Earl Kleckner Jr., Wayne VonLinger and Earl Kleckner Sr. Robin Hart


The guys at Kleckner’s Collision Center love cars and trucks.


“That’s what makes it more fun than work,” said Loren Arth as he seam-sealed a Jeep’s back panel before painting it.


The Jeep had been struck by a dump truck, which crushed the back end, Arth said. They’ve been working on the vehicle for about two weeks and are ready to paint it so that it will look brand-new.


Earl Kleckner started his body shop business 42 years ago in a small garage on North Second Street in downtown Danville, KY.


He built a much larger, safer and environmentally friendly garage about 14 years ago on Thoroughbred Drive off of Perryville Road and now has three professional technicians working with him to repair and paint damaged vehicles.


On March 4, a massive pickup truck used to haul cattle was nearly ready to be driven out the door after extensive repair work was done. Thanks to the expert talents of Wayne VonLinger and Arth, the truck will be better than ever, Kleckner said.


The entire interior had to be removed along with the bed and all the doors so that repairs could be assessed and made.


As VonLinger lay on the concrete floor attaching a running board, he said as he’s gotten older, he can still do the work; “it just takes a little longer.”


Kleckner made a final alignment inspection and explained how the new bed had been placed on the truck. He made sure everything was aligned perfectly and demonstrated just how gently the tailgate could shut without slamming it.


“It’s a perfect fit,” he said proudly.


Kleckner said Arth is “an exemplary painter” and VonLinger is excellent with heavy mechanical work. They make a great team, Kleckner said.


Kleckner’s son, who’s also named Earl, is new to the business. He has a degree in communications, but he’s learning the body shop business, especially working with customers, suppliers and insurance adjusters and how to handle lots of paperwork, his father said.


Traditionally, late winter is a slow time around the shop, Kleckner said. “A lot of people like to wait until spring to repair damage from the winter.”

The two most common incidents that bring vehicles in for repairs are backing into a car that’s not ordinarily parked in a person’s driveway and hitting a deer. “They’re all over.”


Kleckner said he’s a “self-taught” body repairman and became intrigued with working on vehicles at a young age, as his father tinkered with them when he was just 10.


When Kleckner was 12, he saved up $25 from his newspaper route and purchased his first car---a 1947 Plymouth---without his parents’ knowledge. He said he and his brother hid the car in a field near their home in Ohio.


“It was our little dirt tracker. We had it about a year before our parents found out about it.”


When they did learn about the car, “They weren’t real thrilled,” but were glad the boys knew better than to ever take it out on the roads, Kleckner said, laughing.


One day, Kleckner hopes to “semi-retire” and leave the business side of the body shop to his son and his expert team to continue doing what they do best. For years, he hasn’t had time to fly his model airplanes, and he wants to do a little fishing.


In August, Klecker will turn 71.


“I don’t feel like it. It’s kind of sticker shock,” he said. “It comes fast.”


We thank The Advocate-Messenger for reprint permission.