Larry Fechter is not a wealthy wine connoisseur, but he’s concocted a tasty hobby shop on a beer barrel pocketbook. That’s another way of saying Larry built built a first-class collector car building, next to his home, on a hobby budget.“There’s some money sticking into it,” he admits. “No doubt about it, but I do a lot of my own work. If I was the type who hated to give up a golf game to work here, then I’d have a problem, but I prefer being here to golfing. You can’t waste money by investing in something you love!”
Larry’s shop was created in two stages. Six years ago, he had a builder rough finish a 34 x 78-ft. “stick” building. After that, he did 95 percent of the finishing work himself. Larry put a pre-World War II automobile dealership façade on the front and trimmed out the interior in an unbelievably clean and well-organized fashion. Later, he built a 34′ x 28′ addition and separated the two sections with façade that replicates a ’60s-’70s car dealership.
“Most visitors say, “You can eat off the floor!” Larry says his building’s extreme neatness relates to his background and beliefs. “I feel a good restoration doesn’t start with the cars,” he says. “It starts with the facility, which has to reflect what the car is going to be like when I’m done. As I re-assemble or restore a car, I need to have it clean and spotless. That makes my projects go better.”
“I don’t do bodywork,” Fechter emphasized. “I send that out to my body person. And my engine work, I also send that out to another shop. But I have my own lifting equipment, I have my own powder coating equipment and I have my own media blasting cabinets.”
Larry works on cars like a ’65 Impala SS big-block convertible in his new addition, which he calls the “dirty room” even though it’s not dirty. There are no signs, no posters, no gas pumps, no A arms and no greasy old gears or gadgets. You see red ramps, blue toolboxes, aluminum workstations, white pegboard, green or gray lockers and red overhead cabinets. The cabinets are part of a “tagging and bagging” system that Larry developed to stay organized.
“Basically, you take a card and on that card it says: 1) Parts to be ordered; 2) Parts to be refinished; 3) Parts to be sent out. So, you can categorize the parts, walk away from the job and go right back to it a month later” says Larry. “If you’re going to restore a car, you need to take the time to organize things right as you’re taking the car apart. Otherwise, you’ll have a mess and lose interest.”
Larry says he spends as much time in his building as Rhonda allows him to and as much time as needed to do the restoration work. “Actually, to me it’s not really work,” he feels. “I’d be lying if I tell you that I might not run into some frustrations in there, but it’s like a golfer shooting a bad 18 holes; you’re not doing as well as you’d like to that day, but you’re still doing what you love.”