Race to the (re)finish
Photo: It’s truly a family business at County Line Customs. Ray Lynch (left to right), his wife Becky, sons Remington, Riley and Reece (with the family dog, Jenny) and uncle Tim Miller on the right. Photo by John DiDonna
MP custom body shop shows dedication with Corvair restoration
by Cheryl Borrowdale
MAPLE PARK—If you noticed that the lights were still burning at 2 a.m. at County Line Customs in Maple Park this week, it’s because owner Ray Lynch promised a customer that her father’s 1964 Chevy Corvair would be ready for its surprise unveiling at a picnic hosted by the Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts at the Kendall County Fairgrounds this Sunday.
Lynch and his crew have been pulling late nights for three weeks on a full body restoration of the Corvair, which the client had originally taken to another body shop.
“We’ve been pulling together a lot of late nights trying not to let her down,” Lynch said. “She was distraught when this other body shop said they could do the job, then told her at the last minute they couldn’t get it done. So we took the job, and we promised her. We’re going to keep that promise. If we told you it’ll be done, it’ll be done.”
It was no small promise for a body shop with a staff of just four—two of them part-timers—and commitments to several other clients already. The car had to be media blasted at Mackenzie Works in Maple Park, which took the car back down to its bare metal finish, and then has been painstakingly smoothed with custom plastic and body work by Lynch and two other employees, then hand-sprayed with new paint in the shop’s new, state-of-the-art spray booth.
“Doing custom work like this, you’re an artist; you’re a sculptor,” Lynch said. “There’s not a square inch of this car that our hands haven’t been over a dozen times. It’s going to be perfect.”
Though County Line Customs does plenty of custom paint jobs, ranging from full-body restorations to simply adding stripes or flames to cars and motorcycles, the shop also specializes in collision work. The shop, which has been open since January and is fully licensed and insured, does about 50 percent of its business on collisions, working with clients and their insurance companies.
Lynch has restored cars for more than two decades, starting out at Gerald Oldsmobile in Naperville, Ill., as a custom body painter in 1989 and learning the trade by working at various custom body shops, but he decided it was time to strike out on his own last October. The economy had made good-paying body work and construction jobs hard to come by, but with three children, Lynch said his family was his primary motivation.
“You know, I’ve got a family to feed, and I decided it was time to make it happen,” he said. “We’re here late. It’s very strenuous, and you have to have an eye for finish. A lot of guys don’t want to work that hard for the money.”
He’s made it a point to hire other locals with families to support, taking on his brother-in-law full-time as well as two part-time employees as business has grown. As a 17-year resident of Maple Park, he’s also made it a point to support other businesses in the community, sending his blasting jobs to Mackenzie Works, recommending that customers who need mechanical work try Dennis Lexa at Honest Automotive just down the road, and partnering with several Maple Park businesses to put up new signs along Route 38 and County Line Road to let cars driving by know what’s in town.
“We’re all helping each other,” Lynch said. “Dennis at Honest Automotive, I send my wife’s car and my friends over there because I know he’s an honest mechanic and does good work. He sends his customers who need collision work done over to me because he knows I do good work. Maple Park’s a community, and we want the money to stay in the community. We want it to be a good place to live. You come over to my shop, and me and my guys are going to spend that money in town.”
Tim Miller, his brother-in-law, has been with him since the beginning. Though Miller’s background is in martial arts—he worked as a martial arts instructor for Chuck Norris’ non-profit in Texas and also worked as Norris’ occasional bodyguard—he moved back to Kane County to be near his family.
Miller and Lynch restored the building, located at 411 S. County Line Road, starting in October.
“It was practically condemned,” Lynch said. “The drywall was falling down, there was no heat or running water, no power. We painted the place, repaired the roof, did the outside of the building and resealed the driveway. We built the spray booth ourselves.”
Miller has been a quick study, working full time under Lynch’s direction.
“I’ve been learning a lot real fast,” Miller said. “I’m working on putting a new bumper and headlights on a car that hit a deer; I’m learning to do more custom work with Ray. Some cars have a very strict deadline, so we’ll be here late nights. We’re family. We’re going to make it work.”
Lynch said that there were advantages to training his own workers.
“There’s a big benefit to teaching someone. I’m taking in guys who are out of work and teaching them the trade. They don’t have bad habits that they’ve learned at other body shops; they’ll do things my way and be loyal to me,” he said.
Lynch describes himself as a perfectionist who can sometimes be difficult to work for.
“I pride myself on our quality workmanship,” he said. “We use quality materials, and in a nutshell, I’m extremely picky. I’m my own worst critic. I’ll break down anything we do here and try to find anything wrong with it before it leaves. I drive my guys nuts, but we 360 a vehicle before it leaves. If we do collision work on one side of a vehicle, we’ll buff and wax the other side. We want both sides of the vehicle looking good. We’re going back to the old-fashioned ways of doing things; we’re doing the extras. A car should look like it had a facelift while it was here.”
Despite the attention to detail, Lynch said, the shop’s rates are competitive with other area body shops. Summer is a slow season for body shops, he said, because people drive their custom cars during the summer and often have restorations done in the winter, and better weather means that there are fewer collisions.
“You’re going to get the best price (on work) in the summer,” he said. “The busiest season at most body shops is in the winter.”
County Line Customs also offers discounts on labor on custom jobs for members of the military and police officers, he said.
“We like to help them out. We discount their bills because we appreciate their service,” he said. “It’s all about the community for us.”