By Mike Davey - June 4, 2016
It’s rare to find any custom car that isn’t a team effort. The sheer amount of work involved, combined with the diverse skills needed, means there are few people who can do it on their own. Even when they can, the issue of time crops up. How long do you want your custom build to take?
John St. Germain of Time Bomb Customs in Goodwood, Ontario, takes the team concept one step further. He picks the right shop for the task at hand, and then another specialist for whatever the next step might be. His customs are his design and his concept, and he does some of the work himself, but he relies on a floating team of experts to do what’s necessary.
His latest project is the Tri-Five Merc. It may have been more of a team effort than usual. John St. Germain and Dave Mainland did the metal work. Rick Fabian did the bodywork, and here we should pause for a moment to mention that this stage took about two years to complete. That’s two years of designing, cutting and welding. Just listing the many subtle and overt body modifications that went into the Tri-Five Merc would probably take up most of the magazine. The suspension work went to John Edwards of Dream Machines. Len Hurley, known locally as Mr. Hot Rod, did the engine. Last, but certainly not least, John Connery of Connery’s Custom Paint did the finish work, giving the vehicle its colour scheme.
“I used the new Shimrin 2 low-VOC paint from House of Kolor,” says Connery. “The paint job is called ‘Champagne and Beer.’ It’s Champagne Pearl with Sterling Pearl fades and highlights and Kandy Rootbeer roof and scallops.” Tri-Five usually refers to the 1955, 1956 and 1957 Chevrolet automobiles, in particular, the Bel Air, 150, 210 and Nomad. They’re incredible cars and remain some of the most popular vehicles for collectors and hot-rod enthusiasts.
You may have noticed this Tri-Five isn’t a Chevy, and we don’t just mean that it’s been customized. The car is definitely its own beast, but it traces more of its ancestry to the mid-50s Mercurys produced by Ford than to anything ever built by Chevrolet. The car’s name is a hat tip to the often customized and hot-rodded Tri-Fives.
St. Germain obviously wanted a distinctive custom with the styling of the mid-1950s. This begs the question, why not just customize a Tri-Five Chevy? “I like to look at what everyone else is doing, then not do it,” says St. Germain. “I acquired a lot of parts to build this I’m proud of the work everyone put in and happy with the end result.”
Results like this are hard to argue with. The Tri-Five Merc features body parts and trim from ’54, ’55, and ’56 Mercurys. The engine is a Ford Y-block 312 featuring speed parts from that era (as opposed to modern substitutions). The dash is from a ’56 Oldsmobile.
“Finding the right parts for this car took a lot of work,” says St. Germain. “I didn’t just phone up a supplier and order stock. It had to be authentic parts from the right car. A guy up the road from me collects convertible Lincolns. He turned out to be a great source for parts.” The Tri-Five Merc marries a lot of different parts to make its impact, and it succeeds beyond measure. Every part was chosen for its appearance and performance. Just a few of the modifications involved grafting ’54 flares to the front fenders from a ’55. Of the ’56 Mercury taillights, there’s no sign.
As St. Germain notes, they didn’t have reverse lights. Other changes and substitutions were made to suit St. Germain’s vision. “We used the ’56 Oldsmobile dash because ’56 Mercury dashes are frankly depressing,” he says. “I wanted to do something that was completely different.” There’s no question that the Tri-Five Merc is different. There isn’t a square angle on this vehicle. Even the angles on the doors have been rounded. The front bumper was shaved and the stock grill replaced and modifications made to the cavity. “The whole inside of the cavity is black instead of old. When you look right at the grill, it looks like it’s floating in there,” says St. Germain.
The control arms for the suspension are custom built by John Edwards ofDream Machines, with ten-inch bags in the front and six-inch bags in the back. The Tri-Five Merc can rise up for driving or hug the ground. It all comes together as one amazing vehicle, and the custom world has already taken notice. The Tri-Five Merc made its debut at the Syracuse Nationals and was a top 10 pick, in addition to being chosen as Street Rodder Magazine’s Best in Show. It will probably have picked up more accolades by the time you read this. St. Germain started building when he was 18 years old. His first car was a Model-T coupe, with custom paint, additional gear and a big block negine. Not only is still around, it’s actually St. Germain’s daily driver, the car he takes out most often.
Some of his other notable cars are “Time Bomb,” a menacing looking ’36 Ford roadster painted in midnight black, and “Shoeze,” a coral and black ’50 Ford coupe that was featured in Custom Rodder magazine.
It’s clear that St. Germain is a man with a passion for custom automobiles, and he’s willing to put in the work and find the experts to achieve that perfect balance that is the hallmark of the well-executed build. He sums up his custom philosophy in just a few simple words. “Custom is about getting rid of the ugly,” he says. Definitely words to live - and build by.
by Andrien Montoya
Centennial College is home to eight schools spread out over five campuses in Ontario. The school of Transportation is one of the three schools located on the Ashtonbee campus. The campus can be found at 75 Ashtonbee Road, the main intersections are Warden Avenue and Eglinton Avenue. Every year, the Auto Body Repair program accepts 80 new students.
Centennial College’s Auto Body Repair program educates students on body and frame repair, workplace practices, welding, refinishing, how to use mechanical systems, health and safety in the workplace, computers, mathematics and communication. Centennial College’s Automotive Painter program teaches students how to apply shop practices, and the preparation and application of undercoats and topcoats.
In order to be accepted into the Auto Body Repair program, applicants must present an OSSD (Ontario Secondary School Diploma) or equivalent, or hold mature student status (those 19 years of age or older).
Applicants must also possess Grade 12 level English (E, C, or U or the equivalent), or take the Centennial College English entry test. Applicants cannot directly apply for the Automotive Painter program. They must be employed as an apprentice prior to entering the program. If interested in applying for this program, please contact the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Students graduating from Centennial College’s Auto Body Repair program go on to work as auto body repair technicians, automotive painters, automotive restoration technicians, commercial vehicle body repair and painting technicians, damage repair appraisers, insurance estimators, auto body apprentices, apprentice painters, service advisors or as appraisal trainee parts technicians. Automotive Painter program graduates will be ready for careers in automotive painting, commercial vehicle body repair painting or commercial vehicle painting.
The Auto Body Repair program at Centennial College is 36 weeks long spread over three semesters. The first semester has six courses, the other two have five courses. This program starts in the fall. The Automotive Painter program at Centennial College is one semester long, and applicants can start in the fall, winter or summer. This program has four courses.
By Mike Davey
Jeanne Marriott got the chance of a lifetime recently, when it was announced that she was the winner of the 3M Accuspray System Spray Gun Meet Chip Foose contest. The prize included an all-expenses paid trip to Calgary as well as a chance to meet Foose and discuss his work.
Although in this case, they ended up discussing some of her work as well. Jeanne’s worked in the industry for a number of years. She and her husband run Painted by Dave, a shop in Blenheim, Ontario that does customs, restorations and collision work. Jeanne focused on bookkeeping, front office and administration, but she wanted to do more.
“A few years ago Fanshawe College was running a pre-apprenticeship program and I took a student down for the open house they were running. I decided to sign up myself,” she says. Learning more about the technical side of the business was something Jeanne had always wanted to do, but between raising kids and building a business, there never seemed to be enough time.
“My youngest moved to Toronto right after graduating high school, and the timing just worked out,” she says. “I said to David ‘I’m going back to school!’ He said ‘What the devil took you so long?’” Jeanne completed her Level 2 Apprenticeship last summer, and will complete her Level 3 in November or December of this year. Her passion shows in her school record, making the Dean’s Honor Roll for both her Level I and II. She was also chosen to receive the Tom Haggerty Memorial Award in 2014, given to the student who most represents dedication and passion in their chosen profession.
“We’re a mom and pop shop,” says Jeanne. “We’re trying to find individuals who are passionate about the work itself, not just there for the paycheque. We’ve had employees off and on in the last 10 years where my husband had to go over their work. One day, I was looking at very poor work, and said, ‘I could probably do a better job, because I care about what goes out that door!’ That’s when things started to fall into place.”
Jeanne went out of her way to give something back to her school. When she met Chip Foose, she had him sign a Fanshawe College t-shirt, and draw a truck on it. She’s donating the shirt to the school’s Auto Body Repair program. Jeanne and Dave are both fans of Chip Foose’s work and his program Overhaulin.’ “I’m very much a fan of the work he does and I usually try to keep tabs on what he’s got coming out at SEMA or when he’s got a car at Autorama,” says Jeanne. “He is such a nice person and very easy to talk to.”
Foose is well-known for making a point of including his entire team when it comes to giving credit. This strikes a chord with Jeanne. “That’s the way we run our business,” she says. “We’re about each individual having done their part of the end result, and acknowledging that. That’s his philosophy as well. It’s who he is.” Jeanne says winning the contest and the trip itself were both amazing experiences. “3M was absolutely fantastic throughout the whole process. They handled everything,” she says. “It was actually a little overwhelming, but the overall experience was really great. They really rolled out the red carpet.”
One particular highlight for Jeanne was finding out Chip is an admirer of a car that Painted by Dave sent to Autorama one year. “Chip was so taken with the car at the show that he went back a couple of times to talk to the owner,” says Jeanne. “When I brought it up, he said ‘I’ve got pictures of that car!’ It was nice to see that our work had made such an impression.” Painted by Dave does restoration and collision work, but it’s the custom builds that really excite Jeanne.
“We love the custom builds because we work hand-in-hand with the owners,” she says. “A lot of the time they come in with an idea, and we work with them very closely to make sure it matches up with the picture in their head.”
There’s another aspect to Painted by Dave that Jeanne’s very proud of: the work they do with local high schools. “We work with all five of the local high schools,” she says. “We always take on one or two students per semester, and we do recruit from the girls quite heavily. We’ve put five young ladies through the co-op program.
They might not end up pursuing it, but the young women we’ve had here are always pleased to develop some solid skills.” The pride is evident in her voice when Jeanne speaks about the young women she’s mentored and helped along the path. While not all of them pursue a career in collision, some do. “We have one young lady who’s about to wrap up her Level 3,” says Jeanne. While they are of different generations, there are some similarities between this student and Jeanne that are easy to spot: they’re both women in a male-dominated industry and they’re both about to complete their apprenticeships.
We also suspect Jeanne’s passed on her most important lesson: a passion for do-ing the very best job possible before the car goes out the door.
For more information on Painted by Dave, please visit paintedbydave.com.
By Mike Davey
Bill Hatswell has grown Craftsman Collision by promoting talent.
Bill Hatswell founded Craftsman Collision, a chain of collision repair facilities operating 40 locations in Western Canada, with expansion facilities operating in the US and China. He also founded something else: an internal culture that reveres technical knowledge, practical experience and promoting from within.
In 1970, Bill was the owner/operator of a shop in Adelaide, Australia. The facility was a success, and to this day is one of the most successful collision centres operating in Adelaide. Which raises the question of what prompted him to sell the business and move halfway around the world.
“A friend of mine invited me skiing,” says Bill. “I tried it, fell in love with it, and it became an absolute passion. I told my wife I wanted to move to Canada. She thought I’d lost my marbles.”
There’s no question that relocating to British Columbia was a good move for Bill, his family and his business. Today, Craftsman Collision is a large chain that has gone multi-national. Including staff at head office, Craftsman employs over 400 people. Bill’s experience with the hands-on part of the business led him to value those who started out as technicians and painters, and the culture at Craftsman Collision encourages them to go as far as they can.
Mark Greenberg is the Business Development Manager for Craftsman Collision’s Canadian and Chinese operations. In fact, he was heavily involved with opening the store in China and ensuring it would be a successful venture. Like many people in top spots with the organization, he started out as a working tech. “I just loved cars,” says Greenberg. “I got into an apprenticeship right out of high school and started working.”
Greenberg left the collision repair industry to pursue a career in real estate. It was a successful move. He spent the next decade working in the lucrative world of Vancouver real estate, pulling down the top sales numbers for several consecutive years. “I would absolutely say that my experience as a technician helped me in my real estate career,” he says. “Real estate hinges on details. That sort of ability to see both the details and how they relate to the big picture is essential to a technician.” Greenberg was successful in real estate, but monetary success doesn’t always equal happiness. “I was in a position where I didn’t see my kids much or have much time for work-life balance,” he says. “I started discussing things with Bill and came to work for Craftsman Collision as a store manager.” From there, he worked his way up in the organization, eventually leading the expansion into China, a virtually untapped market for collision repair services.
Mike O’Callaghan is Craftsman Collision’s General Manager of Operations. Broadly speaking, his responsibilities include supervising everything to do with operations. This can be a big job at a single high volume facility. Expand that by over 40 locations and 450 employees, and you’ve got a rough idea of how tough the job must be. O’Callaghan takes it in stride, in part because he knows the staff are well-trained and have a can-do attitude.
O’Callaghan has been with Craftsman Collision for 18 years. His start in the collision repair industry was born of necessity. “I was working at a car lot, and the boss told me to back up one of the cars,” O’Callaghan recalls. “I didn’t want to tell him I couldn’t drive a standard, and I ended up smashing in the side of a nearby Volvo. My boss said ‘You’ve got to pay for that!’ I didn’t have the money, so he ended up teaching me how to do bodywork instead.” An apprenticeship followed, but after a time O’Callaghan decided to apply his skills in another area: insurance. He worked at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) for four years before taking a job as assistant manager at one of the Craftsman Collision stores.
His latest endeavour with the company has been designing and rolling out a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with his team. “Our in-house tech team designed the program and we’re now in the process of training staff on the details,” he says. “I think my early years as a technician gave me the ability to understand why a given process might be more difficult than it needs to be. Frankly, I removed more from our SOPs than I put in. A lot of what I do is talk to the techs. I can say to anyone in collision repair management, if you really want to know what’s going on, what challenges you’re going to face and how to overcome them, you need to talk to the folks on the floor.”
Rick Hatswell is Craftsman Collision’s Chief Operations Officer. The last name is not a coincidence. He’s the son of the company’s founder, but if you think that’s how he got his job ... well, you just don’t know how Craftsman Collision operates.
He started doing bodywork when he was about eight years old, sanding panels on an old MGB his father had purchased. “Where I got serious was about age 13,” he says. “We got an MGB and I worked three summers in a row restoring it. That’s where I learned how to weld, patch and paint.
By the time I was done that car probably had 10 gallons of filler, but I learned a lot about cars from working on it.” Like a lot of people, Rick wasn’t much interested in university after high school. Luckily for him, he had parents who supported his desire to enter the trades. He started an apprenticeship, and worked as a Red Seal apprentice from 1993 to 1997. “I worked on the floor, got my paycheque and that’s what I lived off,” he says. “The experience has given me credibility over the years, and it’s made me more well-rounded. You can learn to run the business as a business, but if you don’t have that experience, there’s going to be a lot going on behind the scenes that you don’t know.”
Rick might not have wanted to go to university right off the bat, but he’s had his share of higher education since. He did an executive undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University, and most recently he received an MBA from a prestigious joint program run by Queens and Cornell universities. “That was full time for two years, with every Saturday in class plus three residencies,” he says. “It’s a difficult course to get into, but they value life experience and family business experience.” The culture in any business starts right at the top, and Craftsman Collision is no exception. Without Bill Hatswell’s attitude, the company likely wouldn’t have the culture it enjoys today. “I’ve always believed in promoting talent,” says Bill. “There’s no better way to know a business than from the ground up.”
By Jeff Sanford
Production management is an increasingly vital role in many facilities, leading I-CAR to create a new Professional Development Path.
I-CAR has officially launched a program for production managers. The courses will be available as part of I-CAR’s Professional Development Program. Managing workflow is a key skill and is especially necessary in larger businesses. The new course is a recognition of this fact. “This is a terrifically interesting development from I-CAR US,” says Andrew Shepherd, Executive Director of I-CAR Canada. “This is not only covering an important role in the shop but moving the ‘learning organization’ concept from theory to practice.”
The new curriculum is designed to go beyond technical training. Through utilizing the real-life experiences of actual production managers and shop owners, the course will provide participants “insight into critical issues and multiple areas of the shop floor, while enhancing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.” Working through the course will enable production managers to “quickly address complex problems shop personnel face in collision repair production.”
The courses enable a facility’s production management leader to utilize techniques like root-cause analysis and process mapping to identify waste and defects in their local workflow process. This allows the production manager to improve efficiencies and increase profitability at their facilities.
I-CAR’s production management curriculum utilizes blended learning, featuring courses that are designed to build on previous ones. Courses feature interviews with industry experts and interactive exercises through a mix of live, online and new virtual formats. The course is currently being offered in the US, but according to Shepherd, plans are in place for the program to eventually make its way across the border.
Each course in the Production Management role must be taken sequentially.