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Walter Bressant, body technician, pictured with Tom Williamson, owner of Marina Auto Body.
Participants first explained the highlights of the welders they brought and then Ara Guekguezian, a certified welder from Pride Auto Body in Van Nuys, CA welded a butte weld with backing on 1 mm with each one. “It’s a brand new I-CAR weld that is launching July 1 and the machine has to be able to do it,” said Chess.
(Toby Chess will be sharing information about the welding equipment in the July issue of Autobody News magazine.)
The aluminum MIG welding comparison was held in the aluminum prep area at Marina Auto Body’s new location. Tom Williamson, the owner of the shop, said they fix a high volume of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and the prep area is expected to be certified over the next couple of months.
Williamson has operated a collision repair business in the Marina area of Los Angeles, CA for the past 16 years. He decided to expand and re-locate in 2012.
“I looked for a year and a half all over LAX proper area,” said Williamson. “You’re really limited in the City of Los Angeles today where you can build a body shop.” The business owner said it was very challenging in terms of permitting.
“Inglewood welcomed me,” said Williamson. “They said, ‘if you’re not within 50 feet of a residence, let’s do this.’ It was actually kind of exciting when we went to City Hall, when we brought them the plans and said this is what we want to do.”
The shop’s long-time manager Jeff Lawson, who had recently retired, agreed to help open the shop, which took six months to complete once the building was located. Williamson said Al Ortiz from Rely On Technologies, a Garmat spray booth distributor for Southern California, was instrumental in helping him find a location.
As a general contractor, Ortiz would lay out plans for the shop at every building they visited. They eventually chose the Inglewood location because of the quality of the building. The two have worked together on various projects over the last 20 years.
Currently, there are 11 body techs and a mechanic at the facility. Williamson brought over four body techs to open his new location, including Ralph Bribibsca and his two sons. Williamson said they already understand the culture of the business and will help get things running smoothly. He expects to eventually have 11 or 12 body techs plus a full-time mechanic.
New equipment was purchased for the shop including a double-downdraft heated prep station, the latest in Garmat spraybooth technologies, Hunter 4 wheel alignment and Car-O-Liner Bench Rack and EVO equipment.
“It’s all about faster and better. You can’t expect people to deliver if you don’t give them a good environment, equipment and training,” said Williamson. “A body shop is limited by the number of cars they can paint in an eight-hour day,” said Williamson. Marina Auto Body can paint 15 in an eight-hour shift.
Plans are also in place to bring over equipment from the Marina del Rey location over the next several months. That shop will be demolished after it closes in February 2017 and apartment buildings are expected to be built.
Williamson operates a second location in Huntington Beach, which is 10 minutes from his home. He said it is a small, efficient shop that has a dedicated staff of employees who have worked there many years.
Williamson started working in body shops when he was twelve years old. He worked as a body technician for 10 years before running an independent shop in Huntington Beach. He bought his own shop there in 1995.
Marina Auto Body has received multiple awards, including the Top Shop Award for Customer Service for the last three years in its market area from the Automobile Club of Southern California.
“Our vision is to continue to deliver quality repairs, provide great customer service and create an environment where our team members want to deliver on the promise to the customer,” said Williamson.