Collision Repair Industry Veteran and Author Gary Ledoux Writes into the Sunset

Collision Repair Industry Veteran and Author Gary Ledoux Writes into the Sunset

If you’ve been in the collision repair industry in any capacity within the last decade or so, you likely know who Gary Ledoux is.

He wrote for Autobody News for several years, is the author of five different books, including one about the history of collision repair in America, and played an integral role at American Honda when it developed its ProFirst Body Shop Certification program in 2010.

Now semi-retired at age 68 and living in Jacksonville, FL, Ledoux is currently working on a book about the history of his hometown fire department, with a working title of “Nashua’s Bravest: The History of Firefighting in Nashua, NH.”

In 2018, Ledoux published his fifth book, “YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America,” an 860-page book that has been getting positive reviews from people throughout the industry. Four previous books centered on Old West history.

Ledoux has embraced the stereotypical retirement plan, purchasing a 37-ft. Itasca motorhome that already has 25,000 miles on it. He’s driven from Palm Springs to northern California, across the U.S. from California to Florida and from Key West to New Hampshire, and has big plans to see more of the country firsthand within the next few years.

Ledoux’s No. 1 goal in retirement is to be active and pursue his creative passions, such as writing and travel. He has learned by example that if you don’t proactively pursue a productive retirement, things can get old quickly.

“One of my uncles had a great career, but he didn’t know what to do when he retired,” he said. “He ended up watching television 24/7 and died at 78 without really enjoying his retirement. I decided that that wasn’t going to happen to me.”

Ledoux took business and vocational classes in high school, then spent some time at NH Voc-Tech College. He landed a series of jobs at various local parts jobbers, PBE jobbers and car dealerships. He worked the parts departments at Toyota, Alfa Romeo, Subaru and Acura stores, as well as selling new vehicles at one Ford dealer and working as a service advisor at another.

In 1973, Ledoux tried to become a firefighter in his hometown of Nashua, but he didn’t meet the physical requirements. He was too short---even after “fudging my application a little,” he said.

One year later, he relocated to Amherst, NH, where, being all-volunteer, the fire department's physical requirements weren’t so critical. Ledoux was accepted and served as a volunteer firefighter for the next four years.

Like firefighters everywhere, volunteers can be called out at any time of the day or night.

“Being a volunteer company, the fire station was not manned. When the alarm sounded, you ran to the station, grabbed a truck and went," Ledoux said. "One time, there was a house on fire right across the road from the firehouse, less than 20 yards away. By the time a police officer on night patrol noticed it, notified the fire department and we responded, the house was fully involved. We managed to save the cellar hole. It was rather embarrassing, but sometimes that’s just how it works.”

In 1988, Ledoux landed a position at American Honda as a district parts aanager for the Acura division, first for the northeastern U.S. and later for the southeastern U.S. He worked for American Honda in varying capacities for more than 29 years.

From 1998 to 2017, he was an assistant national manager for the wholesale parts marketing department, eventually concentrating on the collision repair industry. That’s when he met literally hundreds of body shop owners all over the country and developed a wide range of highly successful advertising/marketing promotions for Honda’s wholesale parts marketing department.

In 2009, American Honda assembled a team to develop the company’s first OE body shop certification program.

“There were about 12 of us and we did a complete year of research before we pulled the trigger on the program,” Ledoux said. “A lot of the OEs were featuring certification programs, so the clock was running. At first, it was called the Honda ProFirst Recognized Program, but we realized that we needed to have the word ‘certified’ in there, so, in time, we changed it to the Honda ProFirst Certified Body Shop Program.

"It was great watching it grow and witnessing its success. When I retired from Honda in 2017, we had 1,200 shops in the program and now they have closer to 1,600. It works because shops value the certification and Honda owners respect it.”

Why does the ProFirst Program---now called the Honda and Acura Certified Collision Program---work so well for shops that have invested heavily in specific tools, training and equipment to do proper repairs on Hondas and Acuras?

“It benefits everybody and, in the end, it results in a quality, OE standard repair,” he said. “Back in the day, just having the right parts was enough but that doesn’t make it anymore, because today's cars are so sophisticated and the technology is changing all the time."

Ledoux has been writing professionally since 1992, including five books, columns and feature articles in multiple Old West magazines, a running column in Motorcycle Industry and Power Equipment Trade magazines and a column and feature articles in Autobody News, and he was publisher and editor of the Honda ProFirst Quarterly Magazine.

A big part of Ledoux’s legacy includes his definitive history of the collision repair industry, “YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America,” which he published in 2018. He saw a definite need for a book that chronicles the history of body shops, complete with a collection of 60 photographs used to tell the story.

It was a labor of love that tested Ledoux, but he was proud of the finished product.

“I found a ton of great stories and anecdotes from the early years of the industry, plus I spent countless hours poring over industry magazines going back as far as the early 1960s,” he said. “Historians take a lot of information and put it into a narrative that is accurate and entertaining, so that was my goal with 'YesterWreck.'”

In “Nashua’s Bravest: The History of Firefighting in Nashua, NH," Ledoux is now writing about another one of his passions---fire departments and their colorful histories.

“When I started asking around about the history of the Nashua Fire Department, I discovered that several people had documents that were partially written while others just had notes they collected over the years. But nobody knew how to turn it into a book," Ledoux said. "I thought, I can take all of it and put it into a book that people would love to read, with the addition of my own research.”

The book is slated to be published the first quarter of 2022.

Just like in John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley," Ledoux and his wife Rachel and their dogs, Snoop, Bridget, Bailey and Mindy, will be taking to the highways and byways of America. With his trusty laptop onboard, Ledoux and his family are poised and prepared to take on this new stage in their lives.

As Gary would say, “Happy trails!”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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