My name is Charlie Vigiani, I was born in New York City (Manhattan) because that’s where my mom was on June 15 1957. I was born with disabilities, I couldn’t speak, I could hardly see, I couldn’t walk; all I knew how to do was eat and cry a lot!! I thought……hmmm…….we all have something in common after all?
I am the past president of the Feather River Chapter of the California Auto Body Association; this organization represents all of the organized body shops from Nicolas at the south to Orland in the North. The local chapter reports to the state level of CAA.
The organization includes state level committees, each with different tasks examples include:
The CAA also has a lobbyist, Jack Maladonoff who is in charge of overseeing new legislation that comes down the isle which may have consequences to the industry. Jack has been our advocate for over a decade, his dad owned a body shop in San Jose. Jack has a front row seat to issues surrounding the industry like no other.
The CAA as we come to know it has a website that helps to bind our efforts so that if you are a member of the CAA you can access information online without having to wait for a quarterly meeting for updates. The website is the lifeline for the members of the association.
The association has within its efforts many facets, and forever works in progress. The topic that is near and dear to me is education. I wish I had the education available today back when I started. I messed up plenty of cars when I started.
It wasn’t until 1976 when I attended CTEK in San Jose. They taught us fundamentals, although we really didn’t have a lot of projects to work hands on. We sat at a desk a lot and from time to time put our hands on a car. But I had worked on cars well before schooling.
I remember body guys not wanting to share what they knew in fear of competition. I am glad that is no longer a fear, in fact the evolution of auto body has been incredibly generous with the sharing of information, and now you know why I am here.
We now look at each other, not as competition but as colleges in the trade.
You need to know up front that this trade carries inherent challenges: Client satisfaction, insurance companies, employees, legislative input, city, state and local laws etc…
Customer satisfaction starts with training, you need to become students not just of how cars are repaired but of how the industry trends are moving, electric cars, ABS brakes, Four wheel steering etc… did you know that a good trained body man has more to do than a car mechanic? :
a. Structural and Non structural repairs
c. Panel straightening
d. Structural Bonding
e. Suspension control points
f. Replacement panels
g. Welding , Brazing
h. Alignment of panels
i. Understanding work orders
j. Computer Modules
The industry has evolved into systematic meticulous labor operations that you can be either proud of the results or ashamed depending on what your outlook is.
I remember when I started I was a shoe shine boy in the Bronx. I was walking by a car repair place when a guy almost ran me over with his car backing out, at the time I didn’t have any idea of what kind of car it was. In retrospect I realized it was a Corvette that belonged to the shop owner who liked to punch the car like a bat out of hell. Well, the next time I was around that shop, I stopped in to see if the owner had any shoes to have shined; well he did have 5 pairs inside a very clean closet with a very clean repair shop. So I got the shoe shine job.
As I sat there shining away, I noticed that this guy worked alone but he took calculated steps with everything he did, it was like looking at a symphony. I really enjoyed watching what he was doing; curiosity led me to watching with interest.
After the shoe shine he asked if I wanted to sweep his shop, I enthusiastically agreed, he offered $5.00 which I thought to be a great deal for me. The shop owner watched how I did what he asked of me and then after I told him I was done he called me over to where I missed a bunch of floor. He instructed me to re-sweep the floor only this time he said to pull away garbage cans and pick things off the floor, move the floor jack and things that after he instructed me, appeared to become common sense. In little time he was asking me to come to the shop after school; which ended my shoe shining career.
It was at nights and some weekends that I went to work for the body shop.
He was an awesome guy and I was doing work under his instruction. After some time the guy sold or closed his shop so he didn’t need me anymore.
I then went to work at a restaurant as a busboy, where I would bus tables for tips and wash dishes sometimes. I learned a little about cooking too. Well after work I had a visit from a neighbor who knew I had worked for the body shop and asked me to do a little something on his car, that opened the door for other people who saw me working on cars. I didn’t paint cars, just change parts or straighten and general help with the cars. It wasn’t soon there after that It dawned on me that it was a job I could make some money with.
I got smart and got a job at a body shop. When I got hired the guy asked me if I was a body man. I didn’t even know what he was asking but I said yes!
Now I knew what the job doer was called. Since then I’ve gone to school; my first was C-Tec
Center for Employment Training. After that I-Car, Chief Frame School, ASE master technician, Dawn enterprises Management School, 3M materials usage, PPG refinishing school, Mitchell estimating, Pathways estimating, and ADP estimating schools and many more.
It is important to mention that in this industry we never stop learning. This is a continuing education industry and when you stop learning you stop growing. You need to learn all you can, you need to become involved in your industry as much as possible.
Auto Body work for us is not hard work we see it as a lot to do but far from difficult. Our shop continues to add services to the menu of items we do.
Recently we have started a Face Book Page that enables folks to get a glimpse of the cars we work on. It has been a great move for us to come to our current location. We thank all the people that have helped us get to where we are. Let us know how we can make your car look wonderful …..