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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Faces of Black Forest
  Passion for cars jump-starts auto business
  By Bill Radford

   Colin Schmeisser, it seems, was practically born with a wrench in his hands.
   
   Schmeisser is the owner of CRS Auto Repair and Restoration in Black Forest. He has been working on cars for nearly a half-century, since he was a kid growing up with an older brother who was always tinkering with his own cars.
   
   Schmeisser grew up in California and served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. During his time in the service, he continued to work on his own cars as well as helping friends.
   
   "Then I was at Space Command in the '80s and had someone come to me, 'Hey, a dealer wants $300 to change my water pump.' That's crazy, I thought, I could do that for $50. So I made a little bit of money, and thought I could do this as a sideline business."
   
   He followed the Air Force with 18 years in government contracting, but he continued to repair and restore cars on the side. He decided to make that his full-time job in 2013. He has three employees, including mechanic Chris Burt –- "an old gearhead like me," Schmeisser said, along with Stephanie Gorden, who specializes in body repair and painting, and a young part-timer who helps with repairs and cleanup.
   
   Schmeisser doesn't have to go far to report to work; his shop is next to his house. "It's a tough 70 feet from the front door," he said, with a laugh. "When the wind is blowing and the snow is falling, I go, gosh, I hate this commute." He can turn on the heater in the shop with a remote control in the house, though, so it is toasty when he starts work.
   
   The work is divided about evenly between repair and restoration. "We usually try to keep two restoration projects going at once," he said. On a recent Wednesday, the projects included a 1966 Ford Mustang coupe that had already undergone an interior restoration but was still in need of body work and a paint job, a 1968 Mustang needing new floorboards and a 1936 Ford pickup. “Then, I have daily drivers coming in for brakes and timing belts and shock absorbers and electrical problems and so on,” Schmeisser said.
   
   Restorations can cost several thousand dollars. "As you can imagine, it's very labor intensive,” he said. ... “A lot of it will have to do with how much rust it has and how much has to be cut apart and new pieces welded in.”
   
   But it is worth it for the people who have a treasured car they want brought back to life. It might be a car that has been in the family for generations. Other times, Schmeisser said, "It's been a car they always lusted after or wanted and got to the point where they bought it but hadn't had the time or money to put into it and are now like, OK, let's finally get this thing nice."
   
   The oldest cars can pose the biggest challenges. "When you get really, really old stuff; it's like start from scratch, because everything you touch is going to fall apart or be rusted or has to be replaced,” Schmeisser said. “You touch wiring in a 1930s car and it just sort of crumbles."
   
   On the other hand, the cars of yesterday were a lot simpler than today’s cars. "With a volt meter, you can completely troubleshoot this car's electrical system," he said, referring to one car in the shop.
   
   Still, what is simple to one person is not necessarily simple to another. "What I'm finding is that people who have '50s, '60s cars, classic cars, they go to one of the local places and these kids, they don't know what a carburetor is,” Schmeisser said. “If they can't plug it into the computer, they don't know how to deal with it. So people come to me."
   
   With the older cars, it can be tough tracking down parts. But Schmeisser is aided by "a pretty good culture of old car businesses out there." Hemmings Motor News produces "the 'bible' of the collector car hobby," with classic cars and parts for sale.
   
   "A lot of times you can get new old stock parts, which are the original parts that have been sitting on the shelf for 50 years, but those can be expensive," Schmeisser said. With some popular old cars, he said, “There are companies that make repro-parts for them, that's their business. And those can be pretty price competitive."
   
   As for repairs, he acknowledges it can be tough for people to find a place they trust. He talked about one woman who came in for a second opinion after being told she needed $1,500 of work done on her car. He checked it out, and determined it didn't need a thing.
   
   "She walked away very happy,” Schmeisser said. “I want people to know they can trust Colin."
   
   At the end of the day, there is that short stroll home. Schmeisser has lived in Black Forest since 2000, starting with a home on the north end of the Forest before downsizing and moving to his current home, which is deeper in the woods.
   
   "I love it," he said. "It's peaceful, it’s tranquil, it's not far to the city. My neighbors have several dozen deer that wander through the lot every day. I've got wild turkeys in the back in the trees. It's perfect."
   
   (To learn more about CRS Auto Repair and Restoration, go to http://crsautorestoration.com.)
   
   
  
People trust their beloved classic cars to Colin Schmeisser and his CRS Auto Repair and Restoration business.
 
Colin Schmeisser typically has two restoration projects going on at any given time at his CRS Auto Repair and Restoration.
 
Colin Schmeisser is standing next to a 1930s Ford pickup in need of restoration work. Photos by Bill Radford
 
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