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A Breath of Fresh Air

Collision and Classics, Inc., has enjoyed the reduction of harmful VOCs in its shop environment thanks to converting to waterborne basecoats. But that’s not the only benefit they like about the switch.

Gerald Condon, like many body shop owners,was propelled into the collision repair world by his hobby: restoring old cars. In fact, this hobby inspired the name of his shop, Collision and Classics, Inc., in Beaumont, Texas.“In the early days, we were restoring old cars while simultaneously taking in minor collision repair work for family and friends,”

Condon says. “We saw there was a greater need for collision repair work in our area of Texas.”Located just off Interstate 10, his shop is passed by 130,000 cars per day, which provides high visibility.


Condon also operates a commercial real estate firm, Gerald CondonProperties, LTD, which leases properties to banks, car dealers and other high-line tenants.It’s clear he understands the first three rules of operating a successful business: location,location, location.


DRP INVOLVEMENT


Collision and Classics is a 28,000-square-foot facility that employs 18 people and has 50 working bays. Being a true business person and not one to dance with the devil any more than he has to in these trying economic conditions, Condon restricts his shop’s involvement to just a select few DRPs. “We have to watch each of our direct repair operations closely so we don’t jeopardize our goals of fixing cars to pre-collision condition,” he says.

As with any waterborne product, rigorous and thorough prep procedures are necessary to ensure the highest quality refinish job

Condon says he makes no concessions regarding discounts on labor or parts and charges the prevailing rate of $50 per hour for body and paint operations. Condon says his shop will occasionally concede to some insurers with respect to their prescription for non-OEM parts usage. However, based on his size, he has been able to get his OEM suppliers to match aftermarket prices.

PAINT CONVERSION

Condon was able to convert his paint operation to a waterborne basecoat system with relative ease. Prior to the conversion, his shop was using the Glasurit 55 Line solvent basecoat system for several years. His shop had been partners with BASF for years, working with them to design the best layout for the paint department. Plus, all of Condon’s painters received training at the BASF Dallas training center. “I was interested in moving the company to the next step, so we went with our local paint supplier (Kinsel Auto Paint) and inquired about the conversion to a waterborne basecoat color system,” Condon says. Condon also credits his BASF rep, Jerry “Dale” Nelson, with the overall success of the switch to the new product. Not only did Nelson explain the business side of the conversion, he was technically proficient enough to get Condon’s paint shop employees on board with the switch to the BASF 90-Line and explain its application and handling. “His many meetings with our staff in our shop really led to the successful adoption of the product,” Condon says, adding that Nelson also introduced new clearcoat products, 923-255 (glamour clear) and 923-550 (production clear) to his paint shop.

Unlike some other clearcoats that have a yellowish tinge when applied, these ones were crystal clear when used over the waterborne basecoat. According to Condon, they allowed for fast production and high gloss retention. The 923-255 allows for one-coat application on vertical panels unreduced and comes in a 5-liter container at a 3.5-liter price. Also, it allows for only one hardener instead of two, saving Condon time and money.

MARKETING

In terms of marketing, Condon maintains the requisite website (www.collisionandclassics.com) and Facebook pages and is currently updating both. The shop sends out notices to customers on its mailing lists on topics regarding car care,deicing, weather conditions, etc. Condon’s community involvement runs deep. In addition to his involvement with the local Chamber of Commerce, he’s a past board member of the local Better Business Bureau, past board member of Boy Scouts and a past president of the Rotary Club. His social activities extend to the local university and church,and he can be found barbecuing and mixing it up with the locals at tailgate functions. He’s also the current president of the Southeast Texas Collision Group, which focuses on emerging technology, laws and regulations which affect the body shop business.

MATERIAL SAVINGS

In making the transition to waterborne, Condon reports a substantial material cost savings as well as a decrease in his employees’ exposure to VOCs. In fact, Condon says his material cost has been reduced by $24,000. Regarding the decrease in VOCs in the shop’s ambient air and elimination of the one solvent-based gun washer, he says, “You and I could now walk though the paint department and not smell the solvent.” Prior to the conversion, Condon held meetings with his paint staff, sent them on tours of other larger Texas shops (100,000 square feet) and did his best to alleviate any apprehension on the part of his paint department in adopting the Glasurit 90-Line.

“We are seeing savings every month – hard dollar, true money,net savings of just over$2,000 per month.” - 
Gerald Condon,
Owner,
Collision and Classics
DRYING

With regard to the task of drying the new waterborne product, Collision and Classics added new refrigerant dryers to the compressed air supply, which benefited overall paint quality. They installed air movers in the spraybooth that are magnetically attached to walls, as well as ones on tripod carts that you can direct at the painted surfaces.With this drying equipment and the waterborne itself, cycle time has actually improved significantly, according to Condon. Solvent popping, which can plague users of solvent-based color coats, is a thing of the past, Condon reports. Once the 90-Line is flashed off, you can apply the clearcoat. The waterborne product contains some alcohol, which prevents it from freezing and aids in the evaporation and drying process.

OPEN HOUSE

Collision and Classics held a huge open house to introduce the public, insurance agents, adjusters and claims staff to the Glasurit 90 Line. “Everyone from our local business owners,fleet customers and insurance agents were invited.It was a huge turnout,” says Condon.“Rather than have a new paint product that we quietly adopted into our business, we showcased the 90-Line.” Customers will typically make assumptions regarding color match in a body shop operation performing collision repairs. What’s the problem,one might ask? “No matter how difficult the task appears to be on the collision side, the customer always expects it’s just natural [to match a color],” says Condon. “Now, with this 90-Line color, we can match the color easily, the way the customer expects it should be.” Condon claims the first and foremost benefit of the conversion was the performance of the 90-Line. “Our customers absolutely love the results and the finishes we produce,” he said.What has turned out to be truly remarkable and unexpected was the overall cost savings in paint and material for Collision and Classics with their conversion to the waterborne materials.

“With this 90-Line color, we can match the color easily, the way the customer expects it should be.” – Gerald Condon

“We are seeing savings every month – hard dollar, true money, net savings of just over $2,000 per month,” says Condon. “When you have a paint department that doesn’t have any complaints with respect to a new paint line,and when you net the cash in your pocket back to the business owner, then you have a very happy customer.” An added benefit is the brand recognition of BASF, made even stronger by the fact that there’s BASF plant in Beaumont. While that facility doesn’t manufacture automotive coatings, it’s a major economic force in Condon’s community. “It’s well received, and they have an excellent safety record,” Condon says. When asked if he would ever go back to the solvent-based product, Condon said, “You could put $100,000 on my desk and I wouldn’t do it. It truly has been a great advantage for my company within the past year. My customers are very happy with the color match on their vehicles’ repairs. I’m happy with the operating cost savings, reduction in hazardous waste, emissions and reduced air pollutants within the refinishing department. Last but not least, the refinishing department found the conversion from solvent paints simple and successful! It can’t get any better than that.” Condon said he was looking forward to the elimination of all solvent and VOC-based products from the body shop. When that day comes, the entire industry will take a deep breath.