Flatliner Rod Shop owner transforms father’s hobby into a business

Brighton, Colo.—When Nick Pfannenstiel decided to turn his father’s hobby into a business, he left behind a job in an aviation parts department in Jefferson County.  Pfannenstiel, who now owns and operates Flatliner Rod Shop, admits he knew nothing about cars back in 2006.

What he banked on was the reputation his father, Bill Pfannenstiel, had built in the Denver market, restoring cars as a hobby while he worked full time as a painter in a Front Range collision repair shop.  When his dad began turning restoration business away, the younger Pfannenstiel saw a business opportunity.

The learning curve was steep, but “nothing teaches you faster than having to redo all the mistakes that are pointed out to you at the end of the day,” he said. “For me, it wasn’t so much the mechanical skill set as it was learning how to deal with people. You can be the best craftsman, but if you’re a jerk, nobody will want to do business with you.”

His shop is known primarily for paint and bodywork, Pfannenstiel said, but it also performs fabrication and is getting into more design work.  Currently, he said, he’s working on a complete build, a modified 1966 Chevelle.    

When it comes to paint, the shop will use whatever the customer wants, he said. 

“We typically use Sherwin-Williams, PPG, or Axalta (DuPont) on high-end cars,” he said.  “As for clear coats, the harder the better.  Harder clears are better for show cars,” he said, noting that they resist swirls from polish and buffing. 

Since the shop works on a variety of cars, it’s hard to use any single parts supplier, he said.  “Many customers will do the research and bring in their own parts,” he said. 

In many cases, other shops “will do mechanical and build the car, then bring it to us for body and paint,” he said, adding that good relationships with other shops makes working together much easier.

Whether doing work for a customer or another shop, Pfannenstiel said that Flatliner places an emphasis on value.

“We try to give the customer more than what they pay for,” he said, which in some cases involves straightening out things that the customer isn’t aware of or doesn’t ask for. “Sometimes it puts us in a pinch financially, but that’s how we gain customers and recognition.”

 

National recognition

The small, home-based shop has been recognized nationally for several of its cars.

The one that got the business off the ground was a ’32 Ford Roadster that Pfannenstiel built for himself and later sold to a hot-rod broker.  That car, he said, eventually landed him on the cover of Hotrod & Restoration magazine in 2010.  Other attention-getter cars that Flatliner worked on were a ’69 Camaro, which was featured in Camaro Performers magazine, a ’32 Ford five-window coupe in Street Rod Builder, and a ’59 Chevy Nomad in Chevy Classics and the Nomad Post publications.    

A current restoration project that has gained attention is a Hatz-Bantam airplane, Pfannenstiel said. The build, featured on the shop’s website, flatlinerrodshop.com, draws quite a bit of traffic because Hatz-Bantam is a name that aviation enthusiasts recognize.

Currently in the works, he said, is a custom bush plane designed for camping in Colorado.  If the concept works, he says, he plans to market and sell the plane throughout the western U.S.

 

Colorado car culture

Because of its climate and geographic location, Colorado “is right behind California when it comes to hot rods,” Pfannenstiel said, whose grandfather Chuck Pfannenstiel began racing hotrods in Colorado back in the ’50s.

Flatliner connects with customers and prospects through its Facebook page, an annual barbeque, and exhibits at GoodGuys in Loveland and NSRA Rocky Mountain Street Rod Nationals in Pueblo.

Pfannenstiel went out of his way to laud SEMA, whose legislative efforts, he said, are much appreciated by shop owners. “Any large association that puts itself between you and government regulation is worth the money,” he said. “Education is the answer, not regulation

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.