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While most teenagers were playing Little League and going to summer camp, John Wargo, the owner of The Custom Shop in Flanagan, IL, spent his spare time restoring and painting cars. Now 43 and a highly-acclaimed car fabricator, builder and painter, Wargo uses Pro-Spray paint on all his creations, many of which appear at major car shows nationwide and sell for as much as $80,000.
Every year, he wins an average of 25 best paint awards for his show cars. And even though he’s worked on literally hundreds of cars and motorcycles during his highly successful career, Wargo still vividly remembers the first vehicle he ever painted.
“It was a 1975 Firebird and I was 15, so I couldn’t even drive it,” Wargo said. “I worked on it for about six months and that’s where it all started. I wanted to have a nice car when I was old enough to drive, so I did all the body work myself and then did a two-tone paint job on it. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I thought it was pretty cool when I was 15.”
After completing two years of vocational training and learning the basics of mechanical repair, Wargo turned down a college football scholarship and pursued his passion for customizing cars. “I got involved in it right after high school but I couldn’t afford to do it full-time. In 1988, I took a job working the night shift at a printing company producing full-color magazine covers and then I opened my shop during the day. It worked out very well, because I learned a lot about PMS colors, as well as tinting and mixing and blending them through my exposure to the printing processes we used. I wasn’t planning it like that, but it just worked out that way.”
Wargo switched over to Pro-Spray seven years ago and he’s happy he did. “Pro-Spray gives us our best bang for the buck, and that’s why we changed over in 2006. With all the primers, sealers, hardeners, reducers—it can really add up. With Pro-Spray I am getting a real value per every sprayable pint, because we use less and the coverage is exceptional.”
With six vehicles and three motorcycles in different stages of completion currently sitting in his 12,000 square-foot shop that includes a modest showroom, Wargo is passionate and driven to build amazing creations.
But, he’s also passionate about customer service as well. To get a large project ready for this year’s Detroit Auto Rama, Wargo worked 16 hours every day for an entire month to deliver a spectacular 1967 Karmann Ghia with a Viper V-10 motor to his customer just in time for the show.
With a crew consisting of three multi-talented techs, The Custom Shop builds roughly a dozen vehicles and 15-20 motorcycles every year, including one show-class car done in-house annually. Wargo’s signature style has been described in many ways, but the one word most associated with his work is simply, “Wow!” His love of colors is evident in everything he paints and he isn’t afraid to use as many as it’s required in order to fulfill his vision. In fact, one of his creations (a Ford pickup) was painted using 53 colors!
To achieve that wow factor each time on every car or motorcycle he paints, Wargo uses Pro-Spray’s Solvent Basecoat System. And even though it’s a British product, Wargo paints American cars with it all day long and is always ecstatic with the finished product. As his #1 critic and a true artist, Wargo is always searching for that perfect paint job and Pro-Spray has been answering the call time and again.
As a painter who covets new, exciting custom colors, Wargo was immediately attracted by the color library Pro-Spray features, he explained.
“Pro-Spray’s custom line is exceptional, which is ideal for someone like me who does custom paint work. I originally found the company when I discovered their line of ‘Outrageous Custom Finishes,’ and used a few of them on some cars I was painting. From there I decided to go with the Pro-Spray and it has worked out great ever since.
“I also really appreciate the atomization I get with the Pro-Spray,” Wargo said. “In a perfect world, the solvent is supposed to evaporate in the air, so that it doesn’t get trapped into the paint job. That prevents us from getting that die back. With the Pro-Spray, it’s easy to go back and make a repair on the car or on the paint job down the road, because it’s easy to match up and simple to blend into, which many painters don’t think about until two years later when they have to go back and fix something.”