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Thursday, 31 October 2013 21:44

California I-CAR Instructor Kurt Money Looks Back at 20 Years in the Business

When body shop professionals in Northern California yell “Show me the Money!” they’re probably not quoting from Jerry Maguire, the 1996 film starring Tom Cruise. No, it’s more likely that they’re referencing Kurt Money, a body technician who is renowned for being an especially skilled instructor for the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR). Virtually all repairers know I-CAR is a not-for-profit training organization focused on education, knowledge and solutions for the Collision Repair Inter-Industry and developing and delivering technical training programs to professionals in all areas of the Collision Repair Inter-Industry.

Money is celebrating 20 years as an I-CAR instructor this year, but he’s surely not resting on his laurels. As a full-time body man working at Larkfield Body and Paint in Santa Rosa, CA, and teaching a wide range of I-CAR courses, Money’s schedule is jam-packed. If he’s not mentoring body techs and fixing cars, he’s enjoying his Harley motorcycle. Money is all about teaching people, helping them and making a better industry; by volunteering his time when possible and showing that he cares.

Money, 56, came to northern California from Spanish Fork, UT—just outside of Provo—in 1979. After graduating from Utah Valley Technical College, Money decided to start his own shop and later hired two of his classmates to work for him. It was called Money’s Body & Paint and before long the shop was doing well. But Kurt was not ready to own and operate his own business at that point in his life. “The business was fine, but I was more into having a good time, playing a lot of golf, bowling and not paying attention to the shop. I was playing when I should have been working and pretty soon I ran it into the ground. It was a useful lesson and what I learned was, I don’t want to own my own shop!”

After working briefly for a Chevy dealership’s collision center in Provo, UT and supervising a crew of nine, Money decided to go west. “I loaded my tools in my van and headed to California,” Money said. “I was actually going to San Diego, but my voltage regulator failed and caused my vehicle to break down in Santa Rosa. I took it to a dealership and they told me that the van made it all the way from Utah on the charge that was left in the battery, which was very surprising.”

After working for a decade as a body tech at a Cadillac dealership in Santa Rosa, Money got a job at Larkfield Body and Paint in 1990, where he still works today. “It’s a third-generation shop and they treat all of us like family,” he explained. “Dave Hartman is the owner and he’s an exceptional individual. He’s the best boss I’ve ever had, because he cares about us and doesn’t treat us like employees.”

In 1985, Money started taking I-CAR classes, to learn as much as he could about his profession and improve his skills, he said. “When I first found out about I-CAR, some of the older guys told me that I didn’t need to take those classes. But, I found out that I-CAR was offering information I couldn’t find anywhere else. Back then, they had approximately 16 classes and I took them all. My instructor was a guy named Bob Puckett and he’s retired now. When I saw him in action, I thought to myself, I can do this.”

His I-CAR teaching career started over a gentleman’s bet, Money said. “I told one of my fellow techs that I was thinking of becoming an instructor for I-CAR. But he said, ‘You can’t talk in front of two people, how are you going to get up there and talk to a group?’ So, we made a bet and it actually provided me with additional motivation. I jumped in there and started teaching and I’ve been doing it now for 20 years.”

To see what he could do, I-CAR sent Money to Orange County to meet with Lead Instructor Ronnie Swaggert. “I admit, it was a little intimidating,” Money said. “I had to make a presentation in front of him and it wasn’t easy. I learned a lot from that and now I integrate it into my teaching. I use humor and I try to present the information in a way that the students can absorb easily. I’m hands-on and I like to teach visually. My approach is I teach the way I would want to be taught. I come up with scenarios that the techs can relate to and that way they get involved and retain the information.”

By using his proven techniques, a wide range of people within the collision industry have grown to know and respect Money for his uncanny ability to connect with his students. One of these is Dan Welsh, the owner of Crockett’s Premier Auto Body in Pinole, CA and a former I-CAR instructor who currently sits on the organization’s board. “All I can say is Kurt Money is a special individual,” Welsh said. “I keep waiting to run into his twin, because the man gets so much done there must be two of them. He’s very methodical and exceedingly fair and in everything he does, he puts other people first. He never takes credit and makes himself accessible to all his students, by giving them his cell phone number and even his home phone number.”

Peter Lock, the head instructor at Contra Costa College’s auto tech department has been working with Kurt Money since day one. Money periodically teaches Lock’s students welding classes and uses the Contra Costa College’s classroom to teach I-CAR classes on Saturdays, he said. “When I first met Kurt, I was expecting someone completely different. He pulled up on his Harley with the long hair and he had a Harley T-shirt on (he owns 86 HD T-shirts). I thought, what is going on with this guy? But after spending a day with him, I realized he’s pretty amazing. He’s a special person and he lives to teach. Kurt gives his time freely and has helped us in so many ways.”

Jim Boyle, the owner of Regal Collision in Vallejo, CA, also goes way back with Money and like everyone else, has nothing but good things to say about the man. “He is a unique individual and the one thing I can say is that his passion for teaching and helping people really stands out,” Boyle said. “When he gets up there in front of a class, you want to listen to him. I most appreciate his sense of humor and his attention for detail. He inspires people to be better, and that’s what teaching is all about.”

Gene Lopez, a regional manager for I-CAR is yet another Money fan, for several reasons. “Kurt is a tech, so he can deliver the information in a way that other techs can relate to,” Lopez said. “With 20 years of teaching experience at I-CAR, he is an integral part of the Santa Rosa market. He is a self-starter and works wells with other people, including Maria Reynaga, our chairman in that region. For him, it’s his life, not just a profession and that’s why we value him so greatly at I-CAR.”

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