By outside contributor

The people of Sheridan will never forget the massive storm that swept over our town on June 13, 2013, dropping heavy sheets of rain, and unfortunately, a barrage of hailstones that measured almost two inches across. Within moments of the storm’s passing, hail-battered vehicles began arriving at Jack’s Auto Body Specialists on the north end of town, where the storm was most devastating.

“We had cars lined up on the street outside the shop, with upset people waiting for hail estimates on their cars,” said Marian Eccles, who has co-owned the body shop with her husband, Jack, since 2002. “Jack did 70 hail estimates that day in about four hours. Plus, for the next three months, we probably did another 25 a day. We were booked for a year and a half. Everyone at the shop celebrated when we finished the last hail job in April 2015.”

At the time, Jack’s Auto Body had just one booth that is used for the delicate procedure of painting the repaired vehicles. However, the shop has recently doubled its booth space by adding a new, state of the art double-sized booth, and though she hopes Sheridan doesn’t have another storm like that, Marian said Jack’s Auto Body is ready if it does.

“We’ve always put out quality work as quickly and efficiently as possible, but now, because of the new paint booth which is twice the size of the previous one, we are able to complete repairs in a shorter time,” said Eccles.  “The way the new booth is set up, the shop works more efficiently and work flows better. The wait time is much shorter, and that makes customers happy.  Insurance companies are happier because they are often paying for a rental car while repair work is being done.  And sometimes, when an insurance company doesn’t provide a rental car, a customer is paying out of his pocket for a rental. Faster is better for everyone involved.”

The new booth, made by Blowtherm, shipped in large pieces from the company’s home base in Italy, and a local company representative from Cheyenne oversaw construction. The booth can hold two vehicles at a time for paint work.

In addition to new space, the body shop is using new techniques as well.

For years, the shop has used a solvent-based paint, made by the German company Sikkens, for paint jobs. Though it was a quality product, its chemical composition required stringent safety equipment for workers including gloves, face shields, and respirators. Wanting a safer product for their employees to handle, and one that is better for the environment, the shop switched to another Sikkens paint that is water-based.

“The quality is as high as the solvent-based paint,” said Jack Eccles. “And we are able to match the color better. I’ve had a couple of customers ask about adhesion, and it is as good or better than the solvent-based paint.  It’s way less toxic now that we’ve gone green.”

Jack, a lifetime Sheridan native, graduated from the Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie in 1987.  He was the first employee when the business opened as a body shop in 1989, and he has been in the automotive repair business ever since. In fact, between Jack and the other employees, the group has almost 200 years of experience in the industry.  At one time the shop’s manager, Jack is excited to be using his new equipment as lead painter.

Along with five technicians who prepare vehicles for painting, they also have a local paintless dent repair technician.

Brian Songer and Denise Stussi, the office manager and Marian’s sister, have assisted Jack and Marian in running the business since they purchased it. Stussi is well-known to customers as the friendly and capable office manager, scheduling repair appointments, estimating, providing customer care, and submitting claims to a customer’s insurance company.  Songer, formerly the city fire marshal, is known locally for his interest in auto restoration.  He brought his interest and experience to Jack’s Auto Body as shop manager, estimator and customer care provider.  Brian and Denise are the smiling faces you see as you enter the office in your time of despair.

The final new addition to the shop is a specialized camera that takes closeup photos of a vehicle’s paint, which allows Jack and his staff to mix the precise paint to match the existing color.

“The new camera helps Jack create a better paint formula,” said Marian Eccles. “Color matching is a stressful issue in this line of work, and it has made it easier for Jack to get a factory match. Of course, the new water-based paint still comes with a lifetime warranty, and we stand behind our work.”

“Auto body repair isn’t only about the cosmetic appearance,” Jack said.  “To achieve the pre-accident form, fit and function of the automobile, we utilize a computerized laser measuring system with our frame straightening equipment to return the vehicle to factory specifications.”

Whether your car is damaged by a severe hailstorm, you’ve joined the many who hunt for deer with your automobile, or you’ve suffered an unfortunate collision or simple fender bender, Jack’s Auto Body is fully equipped and ready to take care of your auto body repair needs.