CHINCHILLA – The long building with the high ceiling at 126 Northern Blvd. has always been associated with the automotive industry. It was built in the early 1950s as a place for washing the carrier trucks and trailers which brought cars to the area from the East Coast assembly plants of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
Since 1958, the building, which is painted flat white, has been the only home of the Abington Body Shop. The proprietors – there have only been four, two brothers and then two spouses – have made a business from pulling out dents, replacing sheet metal that was crumpled by a crash or corroded by age, and repainting and restoring cars and trucks to a condition similar to when they were new.
“This place has been here 60 years,” said Todd Chambers as he worked in the shop alone on a recent Saturday afternoon. He and his wife, Kathi, purchased Abington Body Shop in August 2017. “We felt we needed to keep it running. Keep it open.”
On a frame rack behind todd, raised off the floor, was a 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne. It was rammed at an intersection and had damage to the passenger door. The car is too new to have been trucked to the area on a carrier that was washed in this building, but old enough that Chambers had to find a used door from a specialty supply house in Massachusetts.
All makes and model years are serviced at this body shop.
In front of the old Chevy was a 2015 Nissan NV cargo truck with a high roof. It had just been repainted in the paint bay at the back of the shop, and wore a brighter shade of white than the color on the outside of the building. A generator company had retained Abington Body Shop to fix some dents and repaint the truck.
“We do anything from a small fender repair up to a major collision,” Todd said.
In 1958, Robert “Buzzy” Jackson and his brother James went into business together and opened a body shop on busy, pre-Interstate 81 Northern Blvd. For the next 42 years, they worked on a forgotten number of cars and trucks that had been towed, dragged, flat-bedded or driven to their garage.
“The body shop business is pretty steady,” Todd said. “It gets a little busy at times. It gets a little slow at times. But generally it’s steady.”
Buzzy Jackson was the father of Kathi Chambers. He died in 2000. James Jackson, her uncle, died last year. When James passed, Kathi and Todd discussed ways of keeping the shop a going concern and having it remain in the family.
Abington Body Shop had long been a central fixture in their lives. They were married in 1992, a few years after Todd began hanging about the premises and learning how to do body work.
“I’ve been around this since 1986, really,” he said.
Once they decided to purchase Abington Body Shop, Todd wound down his business, Abington Excavating, also based in Chinchilla. The spouses bought the body shop, including the building and the land on which it sits, 13 months ago.
Vehicle towing remains an important part of the business. Tow monies sometimes enhance the sales from repairs, and other times they can be the only revenues earned from an accident. Cars are pulled to the Chinchilla shop for repair but also taken to dealerships and other repair facilities.
There are seven trucks in the towing fleet, and Robert and Buzzy Jackson would recognize two of them immediately.
A 1989 Ford F-350 and a 1987 Chevrolet Scottsdale 30 remain in service. The Jackson brothers always took care of their property, and the new owners have a similar approach to caring for their assets.
“We kept up on them. We maintained them and they still run good,” Todd said. “The cost of new trucks is expensive so we try to keep the old stuff moving.”
The most modern parts of the shop are in a small room in back, near the paint booth. Kathi Chambers takes care of the bookwork in this office, which she shares with cans of paint and two computers. One of the computers is used to determine the amounts of base coats and reducers needed to match paint colors.
“This formula is for silver streak metallic,” Todd said, pointing at a touch-screen monitor. To make eight ounces of the paint required eight ingredients, including 129.9 grams of medium aluminum base coat and just 3.1 grams of blue-black base coat.
Todd and Kathi have two daughters. One is a university student and the other graduated from school as a welder.
“She has helped me here with some welding,” Todd said. “She may want to take this over someday, hopefully.”
Story and photos from Charles Erickson – email 1 of 2
Photos, taken by Charles Erickson, for use in his story about Abington Body Shop in Chinchilla:
Todd 1 and Todd 2
Old Chevy 1
Body Shop 1 and Body Shop 2
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