Auto Restoration Is A Family Tradition


Bob Willig repairs crushed fenders and auto body panels for a living, so what does he do in his free time -- he goes home and climbs under cars and trucks that he restores with his children.

He has restored vehicles for all of his four children.


Bob Willig opens the hood of the 1968 El Camino he and his 17-year-old daughter Mickey have spent a year restoring. The father-daughter team began the restoration last year and expect to finish the truck within a couple of months.

Auto restoration seems to have become a family tradition as the second generation of Willigs now take on the mantle of automotive artisan, like their father.

One of his daughters, 22-year-old Stacy, followed in her dad's footsteps when she and a friend did the bulk of the work restoring a truck.

Stacy and her friend, Chelsea Wells, took apart a one half-ton 1975 Chevrolet four-wheel-drive pickup truck Stacy purchased off the Internet from Phoenix Auto Auction for $2,300.

The truck itself wasn't in bad shape, said Willig.

"It had a new engine, radiator, air conditioning unit, transmission, tires and wheels," he said.

"It was a recovered stolen vehicle that someone apparently just wanted to get rid of and Stacy was the one who lucked out and got a really good deal on it," said Willig.

After Willig and Stacy did all the necessary restoration and repairs, they painted his daughter's new pride and joy pearl-white with pink pearl flames.

He said that the pearl-white, pink-flamed truck became well-known in Payson after Stacy started driving it around town.

"Any one who reads this will undoubtedly remember that truck by its description," Willig said.

Willig owns and operates Payson Auto Body with his wife Liz and his helper, Blake Rowland.

Payson Auto Body is not an auto restoration business, they do collision repair exclusively. Willig restores autos solely for the pleasure of his family.

While he has yet to give himself the gift of a fully restored classic car or truck, he has completed three for his four children so far and is nearly done with a fourth for his youngest offspring, 17-year-old daughter, Mickey.

Willig and Mickey have been restoring a 1968 Chevrolet El Camino truck (Mickey insists it is a truck--not a car) since last year.

He still must finish some upholstery and interior work on the fire-engine red classic, which sports a 310 horsepower small block 350cid engine.

The straight lines along the body panels and the narrow gaps around doors and the hood clearly showcase his meticulous attention.

"It gives me a sense of security, knowing my kids are driving vehicles that I personally know are as safe as they can be," said Willig.

"Any time I'm restoring a vehicle, I'll replace things like front drum brakes for disc brakes, simply because they are so much safer and reliable," he said.

All of the cars and trucks Willig and his kids have done have been ground-up restorations.

That means removing every part of a vehicle down to the bare frame, repairing or replacing anything that is necessary, such as brake lines, seals, cables, and even nuts and bolts, re-painting every part, then putting the whole thing back together.

Before working on Stacy's truck however, Willig and his son, 24-year-old Chris, a framer in the construction industry in Payson, restored a 1972 Blazer originally intended for Chris' mother Liz, and a 1970 Ford pickup for 22-year-old Rocky.


Bob Willig's helper, Blake Rowland (left) helped Willig and his 17-year-old daughter Mickey restore a classic 1968 El Camino.

Rocky asked her father what color she could paint the truck once they completed the restoration, and her answer was an emphatic -- "RED!"

Next Willig moved on to the restoration of Mickey's 1968 El Camino that she purchased off of eBay for the obscene sum of just $500.

Willig said the next project he will probably take on would be restoring his wife Liz's 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.

"She's had that thing longer than we've been married," said Willig. "We've been together 25 years and she's had the car for 27 years."

He said all he needs to do to the Camaro is to repair or replace the transmission and finish some basic cleaning up.

As far as doing one for himself, Willig has had his father's 1962 Chevrolet half-ton pickup sitting in the lot at his business without a bed for years now, but said he doubts he will be able to get to it anytime soon.

"The shoemaker doesn't make his own shoes," quipped Willig.

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