One for all, all for one
Seattle—Several years ago Parts & People visited a totally nondescript building in Seattle’s SODO District that is nestled amongst a variety of industrial buildings. With just 30 Horton St. above the door, few would know what really occupies the inside space — a combination of three unique independent businesses all involved in vehicle restoration.
While each business has their own name, the entity at which they operate is commonly known as Horton Restorations. Parts & People’s purpose for the visit was to determine if the vehicle restoration business was as brisk as it was a few years back and its determination was that it is alive and well, at least at Horton.
It all began in 1982 when Greg Soter opened Phantom Restorations at the site, a company that provided a wide array of restoration services, said Randall Fehr, owner of Randall Fehr Restorations at the Horton Street location.
Brian Nordby, who owns The Metal Man at Horton, said he joined Phantom in 1985 with diverse metal fabrication experience garnered in Montana. “I performed metal work at Phantom and learned panel restoration,” he said.
Fehr, a Lotus specialist, joined Phantom in 1993 having restored cars as a hobby. “I took a car to Phantom for painting and was invited to work at the firm,” he said. His first restoration was a 1966 Lotus.
The third individual that comprises Horton Restorations is Stephen Clapsaddle, who arrived at Phantom in 1999 after graduating from WyoTech’s collision and paint program. “It was my first job and now I operate Liquid Reflections in conjunction with Randall and Brian’s businesses.”
Some 13 years ago, the three took over Phantom from Soter but decided to operate their respective segments of the business. Over the years, each entity has had employees but the trio said they have such a remarkable work environment they did not want to compromise the high-quality restoration services they provide to clients.
While the trio each performs singular projects based on customer need and desire, they often work on specific vehicles that come to Horton from around the globe that require mechanical restoration, metal and/or fabrication work, and painting, Fehr said. “Often it’s a collaborative effort to get a project completed.”
“Anything can be restored,” Fehr said. “It may involve each of us doing our part of the process, securing parts from a variety of sources, and taking the time to perform each segment of restoration.” The trio said some smaller projects may take just a week or two, while others may be up to three years to complete.
A variety of vehicles were at Horton during Parts & People’s most recent visit ranging from a 1938 Buick to a 1970 Lotus, a 1935 Chrysler Imperial Air Flow to a 1960 Porsche roadster.
Clapsaddle, who said color matching is a vital part of his efforts when painting older vehicles, uses Glasurit solvent paints for most of his projects, purchased from Wesco. “It’s high quality paint and works well for most of my projects. The goal is that once the project is complete you can’t see any color difference.” Plentiful prep time and proper tinting are important segments of that process, he said.
“Stephen’s standards are very high, and his paint work is very well known,” Fehr said.
Nordby, who works on all automotive body parts, often has to fabricate parts that have been damaged or cannot be repaired. Current projects include straightening the top of a 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL with body and hard top damage, as well as fabricating a new hood for a mid-engine car. He was also fabricating parts and doing metal work on the Porsche that is a several month, complete restoration project for the trio.
While an automotive specialist, Nordby provides his services to a variety of other fields, including aeronautical restoration projects, as well as metal work on swords that knights used centuries ago. “I love to work on metal, regardless of its application,” he said.
A mixture of equipment in Nordby’s machine shop includes multiple size drill presses, milling equipment, plus a recently purchased Rockford lathe manufactured decades ago, and an Erco shrinker/stretcher machine from World War II.
While the Horton group does virtually no advertising, they do host car club meetings for Lotus, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and other groups, Fehr said. “All of our business is by referral, from clients and others that know our work.”
While some 10 project cars were present during Parts People’s visit, Fehr said about 50 cars a year roll through the 4,500-square-foot Horton operation, ranging from relatively small restoration, paint, or metal projects to full scale restorations.