Sidebar by Terence Corrigan
Restoring old cars – April 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
Headed for Oklahoma
Dennis Francis grew up with old cars, helping his uncle Stan around the shop in Howard.
Although he tried truck driving for 13 years, he eventually decided to return full-time to the antique car and truck body restoration business. “I have always come back to this because I enjoy fabricating parts and working on old cars,” he said.
When Stan decided to retire, Dennis Francis and Mike Davis, Stan’s son-in-law, bought the business.
They didn’t plan to change much about the business other than the name — from Vintage Car Bodies to Wheels of the Past. But after a fruitless search for an affordable property in the Upper Arkansas Valley, Dennis was forced to buy out Mike’s share and move the operation to Oklahoma, where he was able to find a home for the business and his family for a fraction of the prices here.
“He gave up on Colorado,” said Stan.
“I’m going to miss the mountains,” Dennis said, “but I just can’t afford anything here. I guess I should have bought something here about 10 years ago” when property prices were lower.
Dennis estimated that a house and business in the Upper Arkansas would cost him nearly a half-million dollars. “Down there [in Cushing, Oklahoma, near Stillwater] I got both for $100,000,” he said.
Moving the antique coach-work business out of state, however, doesn’t entail much risk, Dennis said. “I’ve already got two years’ work when I get out there.”
Nor does Dennis seem inclined to alter the formula for success that Stan established — hard work and long hours. Dennis maintains a work schedule of 10 to 12 hours a day.
“You need to try and get as much done as you can,” he said. “The work backs up too much if you don’t work the long hours.”
Probably the hardest part of the move will be the 300 or so trips in the pickup truck and trailer to Oklahoma, Dennis concludes. In addition to the tools, he’ll be bringing a few vehicles that he still has to work on.
The one significant change Dennis has made in the business is deciding to work on newer vehicles. The newest vehicles Stan would work on were 1932″s, “more or less. These guys upped it a little bit to ’37,” Stan said. “But work’s work.”