By Paul Matthei
The cost of buying new trucks cannot always be justified in today’s tight economic climate. As such, some operators are realising the merit in giving their existing units a second life. Diesel Workshop recently spent some time at ReCoat Smash Repairs, a company that specialises in rejuvenating tired, old vehicles.
In the modern business world, where ‘near enough is good enough’ seems to be an all-too-common ethos in the quest to make the most capital return from minimal input, it’s refreshing to discover a company that has been built on the foundation of providing its customers first-rate results with no shortcuts.
ReCoat Smash Repairs was established in 2001 by Tony and Anita Valta, with the business originally operating from their home near Wodonga on the NSW/Victoria border. A 30 plus year veteran in the smash-repair industry, having commenced a panel beating and spray painting apprenticeship at the age of 16, Tony says his motivation for starting the business came from a passion for classic cars and trucks that had its origins back in his childhood. He could see there was a growing demand for this type of work and wanted to use the skills he’d gleaned from 15 years in the industry to fill this need.
“The smash repair industry has changed a lot over the last few decades,” he says. “In the earlier days, panel beating was something of an artform and you’d have time to do the job properly. These days, with insurance companies on your back to get the work done as quickly as possible, there’s not the same time available. It’s a matter of getting the job done and out the door, pronto.
“But people who restore older vehicles generally appreciate the old-fashioned service and don’t mind if it takes a bit longer, as long as the end result is first rate.”
It stands to reason that anyone putting up the considerable amount of time, effort and dollars required to restore a vehicle would want nothing but the best from the business chosen to do the work.
Tony and Anita’s fledgling business steadily grew as the word got out, with more and more customers flocking to their door. By the end of the first decade it was becoming clear that much larger, purpose-built premises were desperately needed. There was also the small matter of the local council becoming increasingly uneasy with the Valta’s booming business being run in a suburban backyard.
Therefore, the decision was made to take the business to the next level – or two or three – with a large block of land purchased at Baranduda, an industrial suburb on the southern outskirts of Wodonga.
The year was 2012 and now the business finally had the space it needed – a 1,200sqm building was duly erected incorporating an expansive workshop, a truck spray booth measuring nine metres long, five metres high and five metres wide, a car spray booth and a chassis cleaning area/wash bay, with generous office space and amenities rooms at the front.
While all of this was being constructed, Tony was busy finding out about the best equipment and practices to incorporate into the business to produce optimum results for customers. For instance, he was convinced that using dipping tanks for immersing vehicle bodies and panels to remove all traces of paint, body filler, sound deadener and surface rust was the best way to prepare these components for a rebuild. As he explains, bead or soda blasting can only remove material that is external and accessible whereas with chemical dipping the solution permeates every nook and cranny to produce a completely stripped bare–metal result inside and out.
Contrary to what many believe, the solution is not acidic but alkaline, and utmost care is taken to ensure every trace is flushed from the components by high-pressure water blasting, followed by a stint in the ‘warm room’, which evaporates all the moisture away to prevent corrosion. Then, surfaces are buffed before the parts are coated with a clear etch primer to keep them pristine until the main primer is applied.
In total, three dipping tanks were installed, with each holding a different chemical solution for various stages of the stripping process, catering to both steel and aluminium components. At the other end of the procedure, ReCoat uses PPG Deltron paint and refinishing products, a company widely regarded as a global leader in this field.
Relating specifically to the truck side of the business, the company has a selection of equipment including scaffolding and scissor lifts to ensure employees can safely and comfortably work at the lofty heights required when working on trucks such as the Dawson’s Haulage K104 Aerodyne featured in this story.
Speaking of employees, ReCoat currently has a staff of 10, including two taking care of administrative duties and the remainder comprising highly skilled and qualified panel beaters and spray painters, able to turn their hands to any type of vehicle from the largest prime mover to the smallest car. Critically, they are also well versed in repairs to fibreglass and plastic components, which are often found on modern vehicles, including trucks.
As some of the finishing touches such as customised sign writing and vinyl wrapping, chrome plating and stainless steel decoration need to be outsourced, ReCoat relies on a network of like-minded local subcontractors who specialise in these fields and come highly recommended. It goes without saying that these finishing touches are an integral part of the exceptionally high standard of workmanship that goes into every job.
The list of clients who have used ReCoat’s services includes Twin City Trucks, Hartwigs Trucks, Dawson’s Haulage, Churchill Transport, Green Freight and Bolts Engineering.
Asked about his take on the future of the business, Tony is typically upbeat, saying he expects the workload to steadily increase as more people realise the value in the quality restoration of older vehicles both for business and private use.
“We have the know-how and facility here to grow with the market as time goes on,” he explains. “With the support of our team of dedicated staff, I’m confident we’ll be ready and able to handle whatever work comes our way in the future.”