AirPro Diagnostics: Growing Your Auto Body Shop
When Dave Ludwig was asked to sponsor a booth at “Bras Across the River,” a breast cancer awareness event in his town of Manchester, New Hampshire, he turned it down. He wanted to support the event, but not with a piddly booth. Instead, he put his skills as a body technician and painter to good use and constructed a 9-foot-tall aluminum ribbon painted with pink pearl.
“I like to be creative,” said Ludwig.
And how. The ribbon is constructed of two-inch aluminum channel welded together to make a frame. The outside panels were cut out of aluminum and adhered to the frame. Body filler was used to straighten the panels, then the whole thing was primed and blocked several times, then painted the shimmering pink. The base was a separate bolt-on piece with a side-access door that was painted candy apple purple with lilac purple over that.
Breast cancer survivors signed the sculpture, which will now make the rounds around town at other breast cancer awareness events.
“It was pretty emotional to see those women signing it,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig, 50, owns Prestige Auto Body, a $4 million shop with 24 employees. He has been in the collision repair industry for 27 years and is proud of the skills he has learned doing all facets of collision repair work.
“Body techs are artists at heart,” he said. “They can paint and have a good eye for color. It requires a lot of skills to be a bodyman. I’m tired of people talking about them like they’re guys who couldn’t do anything else and that’s why they’re doing this.”
The event organizers originally suggested that Ludwig buy a booth and park a crashed car there. But Ludwig had the itch to be unique, so he turned that down. He then heard that organizers wanted to have a big book or a quilt which survivors could sign, and that’s when the idea hit him for a sculpture.
“I liked the idea that a sculpture is hardier and more permanent and may have longer life,” he said.
All told, it took Ludwig six weeks to complete the ribbon, and even then he was sanding and buffing it the night before the event. He said if it had been a commissioned piece, it would probably have gone for $5,000 to $6,000. But in the end, it was worth 100 times that in his heart.