Why do you like working at JMW?
I designed this shop based on more than 20 years of determining what the best ergonomic shop design could be. After 10 years of working in this shop, I’ve concluded that I rang the bell with the design. And now that I’ve surrounded myself with the best and brightest team…well as the T shirt says, “life is good!”
What is your favorite work story?
In the years since I started full time auto repair in 1977, there have been many from mild to wild. The first that got my attention was when I was an apprentice and attempted to explain to a service advisor at the Datsun dealership where I was working that I felt a car was too rusted out to safely put up on a lift. South Fla has its own version of road salt and corrosion. He told me I wasn’t experienced enough to make this call and since the shop foreman was not available to just “put it up”. The Rusted Datsun 1200 got about 8 inches off of the floor, when the 4 points of the lift just kept on going up (right through the car!) and the car was impaled on the lift. I didn’t have to let him know that he was wrong and had a customer to do some explaining to.
What’s the best part about your job?
Not having to commute to work! In S. Fla. No commute was short, quick or easy. I’ve cut my commute from a 45 mile drive to Duluth to a 5 minute walk just a few blocks away! I arrive to a coffee pot brewing and a team of the best people I’ve ever been blessed with to work with. It’s very seldom that I have to be “the boss” They all know what is expected of them and do it well.
What motivates you?
The wolf at the door. Seriously, striving to build a better life for my family and providing a great work environment for my team along with a stable career. Having satisfied customers is as natural to me as breathing, so I don’t need any motivation there.
What is your experience?
I was the 3rd of 3 boys. Mini bikes, go carts and outboard motors surrounded me in my pre-teens. They were always not working by the time they go to me. I was an entrepreneur at age 10 with my own paper route which earned me the money to buy stuff. I had many of my own tools and was fixing the hand- me- down fun stuff. At age 11 or 12 I was into gas powered model airplanes. Since I couldn’t actually ride in any of these, I moved on. At age 13 I’d built an 8 foot long 3 point hydro-plane racing boat. It weighed about 55 pounds without the 25 horsepower engine and went about 65 MPH. I’d convinced my mom that it was safer than a dirt bike. I was also building and repairing fiberglass surfboards at the time. At 14, I bought a Honda 125cc street bike. In Fla I was legal to ride a bike less than 175cc at age 14. At 15, I got a job pushing a broom and polishing chrome at a motorcycle shop. I begged the owner to allow me to actually work on something, so he pointed me to a bathtub full of nuts and bolts. It was at this time in my life where I received the best education possible regarding metric, SAE, and British Standard identification of what we now call “fasteners” The metric nuts and bolts have a different wrench size from the European fasteners when compared to the Japanese fasteners. The SAE (aka society of automotive engineers) fasteners are different from the UK to the USA -e.g. Harley Davidson compared to Triumph or BSA. And I had to separate a bathtub full of various lengths, diameters and thread pitch fasteners! At age 16, I graduated high school and was planning to attend Fl. State U and my graduation gift was a non-running 1967 Datsun Roadster. That car was beautiful! I spent the summer and fall of 1976 restoring that car and then went away to the frozen tundra of Tallahassee in the winter of 1977. College didn’t seem to agree with me, so in the summer of 1977, I took a full time job at Datsun Palm Beach. After 6 weeks on the job, I was told that “you’re no apprentice, you’re as good as half the guys here” by J.D. Ross, the service manager of Datsun Palm Beach. I was then advanced, sent to some of the earliest factory training schools and given a raise- all in a few weeks! I talked to my dad about taking a year off of school to make some money and see if I really liked fixing cars as much as I then thought. After thirty five years, I can honestly say I made the absolutely correct choice!
In 1979, I opened Haughton Motor Works on Georgia Ave. in West Palm Beach. I had neighbors and mentoring on that 1 mile strip of high end mechanical, race shops, machine shops, the Rolls Royce/Aston Martin/ Bentley paint and body shop and other places of higher education; unlike anything I could have dreamed of! Svend Ibsen took me under his wing, so to speak, and taught me so very much. Svend owned the first BMW/ Porsche/ Mercedes franchise in the SE USA from the early ‘60’s to the mid ‘80’s, and his shop was just 2 doors down. It was at this time when Svend introduced me to many other shop owners and we would have a network style lunch 3 times a month. Svend built engines which powered cars to class and overall wins at Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans! He was also the crew chief for Mercedes in the ‘50’s. I miss him a lot! He left me his Dunhill pipe.
In 1985, I saw my first “check engine light”… and it was on. So, I checked under the hood, saw nothing wrong and made some phone calls to my mentors and friends. A cold reality was told to me that day. Computers were here to stay and if I didn’t’ learn how they worked, I was going to be as necessary as the typewriter repair man. I spent the next 2 years attempting to figure this out, but in 1987, I realized that going back to the dealer environment and their proprietary training would be my only recourse. Between 1987 and 1991, I worked for and was trained to master technician level by Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Acura. In 1988 I achieved ASE Master Technician Status and I moved to Athens. I sought and was rewarded with the job of shop foreman at Ronnie Nichols Acura. In that year, Acura was developing the first true high performance sports car from Japan, the Acura NSX. I was the 35th NSX master technician in the world for a period of a month. Others followed. I then took a job at Acura Carland in 1990 until I opened Japanese Motor Works in November of 1992. Since then, Internet and aftermarket training have kept me current on emerging technologies. I’ll never have a repeat of 1985!
Do you have any special certifications or other designations?
I am trained to master technician level by Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Acura. I took my first ASE (Automobile Service Association) test series (there are 8 in total) in 1979 and passed all except for two. In 1988 I achieved ASE Master Technician Status. In 1999 I was tested and passed the ASE advanced automotive test, formally known as L1. All ASE tests are voluntary and not to be confused as a license. Recertification of these tests is called for every 4 years. I’m also certified as a mobile refrigeration technician by MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society)
I was also presented a lifesaving award by the sheriff of Palm Beach County in 1983 for saving 4 boaters severely injured in the Boynton Inlet on an outgoing tide. All survived.
What do you consider “A job well done?”
I have a constant goal of the “3 legs of the stool” philosophy. That is this: Fixed fast, Fixed right, and 3rd, fixed at the right price. I have the data to show that we do this darn near every time! We always under promise and over deliver. We do this because we all know exactly how to perform every aspect of the tasks which we are responsible for from the moment a request comes in (email, phone, etc.) to the point of delivering the car to the customer.
Most complicated repair you completed to the customer’s delight?
There are many, but here are two:
A 1977 280Z Datsun which I’ve been working on since 1993. The replacement parts are becoming more difficult to acquire by the day. All of the HVAC parts are now made of unobtanium ( a rare or extinct metal). I fabricated all of the heater and ventilation components from other makes and models which allowed the system to work with its original controls and didn’t change the appearance of the car or systems.
The second is an early 2000’s Mitsubishi Eclipse which has a unique alternator control system. The engine computer (ECM) is used to turn the alternator “on”. The ECM is pricey, and fails often in direct proportion to the price. Moreover, the ECM has to communicate with the antitheft computer; again, pricey. Both need to be replaced as a pair. Double pricey!
I fitted an outwardly identical alternator to the car from a 1993 Diamante. The only difference is the Diamante needs no “on” command from the ECM and is “dumb” and turns itself on when the engine is started. The reason the engineers added an “on” command, you ask? To help get their EPA mandated CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) ratings up. It seems that if the ECM decides the alternator is not needed just this minute, fuel can be saved if it is turned off for a few seconds. This would perhaps get the fuel economy up by 1 or 2%. When it breaks, it can cost a couple of thousand dollars to fix it. The car, at the time had a FMV (fair market value) of about $1500, so the customer was real happy with just an alternator!
What are you passionate about?
I love to be at the lake in our pontoon boat with Cherry and the dogs on a nice sunny day. In the cooler times of the year, fall festivals are great with the camper on a mountain top and a campfire going.
What do you do best?
Analyze the what, why, how and all of the other possibilities of why a system failed. Once I have this answer, I can fix the problem. As I tell every one who says, ”I’ve had many experts look at this problem and no one can fix it.” My response is simply, “if you can demonstrate the problem to me, I can fix it!” …and I do!
Proudest moment at work?
When Cherry and I made the decision to start the business again in Athens after what I had learned from my 8 years in business in West Palm Beach. Getting the new business license in 1992 was a very proud moment.
What do you think about the team?
I am totally blessed to be surrounded by the best and brightest. We can joke, eat, talk, and be totally business minded with each other at work and at play. We all build each other up and can be totally honest with one another when required.
What are your hobbies?
I love to be at the lake in our pontoon boat with Cherry the dogs on a nice sunny day. In the cooler times of the year, fall festivals are great with the camper on a mountain top and a campfire going. I still love sports car races, fishing, scuba or snorkel diving in the Fla Keys or the Caribbean. I’ve read thgousands oif books in my life.
I truly love to read! These days it’s for pleasure that I read, and I read 1 to 2 books a week. Any thing by Louis L’Amour, Leon Uris, James Clavell, Michner, John Lescroart, Nelson DeMille, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Michael Connelly and a host of others.