My Story

My Story

Growing up in Sheridan, Wyoming surrounded by real cowboys and Native Americans, I became fascinated with hot rods ( go figure ). At six my father picked me up, put me on the fender of the family station wagon and said “Okay Loren, this is an air cleaner”, and so started my fascination with cars (at six I thought that red station wagon was a hot rod). At sixteen I landed a job as a tire buster and lube rack technician at Poll Motors, the local Chrysler/ Plymouth dealership. That was from 1972 to 1975. In that time I developed a good work ethic and got my hands all over what are now some of the most valuable muscle cars in the world. At seventeen it was time to build my first hot rod. For $50 I was able to buy a 1956 Chevy two door post with no engine or transmission. (There is a 56 Chevy two door post no engine or trans, sitting in my shop right now. Only it has a lot more rust and is worth $5000. Times have changed!) Then came a trip down to the machine shop to pick up a M-head 409 that someone had left there and never came back for. I bought it for the machining cost – a whopping $250. Completely done, that car cost about $1000. Back then a thousand bucks went a long way but it was hard to come by.

In 1975 I went to Wyoming Technical Institute (now known as Wyotech) to study Auto Body Repair. At that time, all of my instructors were already in their 60′s and 70′s. So they taught us what they called “the right way to do it”, today it’s called “old school”. This included all of the metal finishing skills; Hammer and Dolly / Pick and File / Stretching and Shrinking / Planishing Hammer / English Wheel / Lead Filler. They looked at “Bondo-type” body fillers with such disdain that when it came to teaching us how to use them all the instructor had to say was, “You can read the label.” The course took us all the way through paint. Of course, the paints of today are a lot more sophisticated but they are also more forgiving in many ways. There was no sandpaper fine enough, or polishes good enough, to rub out imperfections as there are today. And the metallic had to be laid out perfect at the same time you were trying to get the gloss right, unlike modern basecoat/ clearcoat paints. The unforgiving nature of the old paints required a lot more skill and finesse.

I graduated W.T.I. with a 98% GPA and the next day went back to work at Poll Motors, only this time in the body shop. By 1981, the economy had been in a recession for a long time, business was very slow in Sheridan, and I was feeling restless. Since every male member of my family had served at least one tour in the military, I thought I should at least give it a look. To my surprise the Army offered me an immediate E3 rank with a promotion to E4 after basic training. Soon thereafter, I became a Metal Worker ( 44B ) or, in other words, a welder. It was a good way to learn all the different welding methods while at the same time being an opportunity to fulfill what I have always felt was an obligation to my country and my family. . The welding experience I gained in the service has been of great value in the automotive restoration business. But more than that, my time in the Army helped me grow in ways I hadn’t anticipated. In short, it was a great experience.

In 1985, with my Honorable Discharge in hand, I moved to Colorado Springs. There was no problem finding a job in the collision repair end of the business and so, for two years, I got back into the swing of it. Then, in 1987, I was offered the opportunity to work at Mike’s Frame and Alignment. At that time body shops didn’t have their own frame repair equipment. So they would send that type of work out to a frame and unibody specialist. In the 10 years at M. F. A., I cut apart and reconstructed hundreds of cars and trucks. This gave me an in-depth understanding of frame and unibody geometry as well as suspension systems. By 1997 the insurance companies were forcing all of the body shops to get their own frame repair equipment. This was starting to have an negative effect on business, and after 10 years I was starting to feel restless again and needed a new challenge.

I always wanted to build hot hods as well as restore cars, and at that point in my career it was time to move in that direction. That is when a friend of mine introduced me to a private car collector who made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and before long, I was building hot rods for this new employer on a nearly unlimited budget. It was a dream come true, I could bring all of my skills together in a low stress creative environment. During the 12 + years of building and maintaining this large and eclectic collection of hot rods and collector cars, I ran a small side business, which kept growing until it was necessary to run it full time and has since become Custom Auto Rebuilder. The business has focused mainly on restoring Porsches, but I have applied the same skills and craftsmanship to the many muscle cars that come through the doors as well. My previous employer is still a good client, but now I can offer all of my customers the same attention.

Look forward to meeting you and your dream car.

Loren Rickabaugh