I had to continually purchase equipment to keep up with the technology as the service work was beginning to change due the intrusion of the government. The cars of the late ‘70’s and
early ‘80’s were horrible and the enthusiasts were beginning to look for alternatives. The restoration business took off in the ‘80’s and soon became “the new car business”. This ruined
it for a lot of people who had been in the business for a long time. Overnight there were
“Specialists” everywhere. I’ve never seen so many cars destroyed by so many hacks. Anyhow, now for those of us who didn’t sell our souls, we are very busy undoing the horrors and making real drivers again. Also the real car business finally got its act together and started making some real cars again. This era eliminated a lot of small manufacturers and tuners, so trying to find and save the jewels has become a real challenging. The business settled down with the advent of onboard computers, so we again had to change course to learn this new technology. Now, we mechanics are technicians. The business has again changed, now the engines and drivelines are very reliable and all we need are technicians who can take care of the software side of the car, and lots of body people, because we still don’t know how to drive.
One of the many interesting problems I’ve had in my journey is learning the business side. It has taken all of the years to continually educate myself about all of the changes involved in not only the day to day side but the development of short and long term goals. I’ve pared down Autosport to just doing restoration and service work only on the cars we work on.
Now that the new millennium is here, I’ve seen another decade of changes not only in how the restoration business has matured, but how manufacturers have gotten involved in supplying parts and sponsoring events around the globe. Hopefully this trend of enthusiasm by the owners will keep up and we will be here for along time.
We now fast forward to 2009 where the entire climate of the planet has changed. We’ve been made aware of global warming and are in the middle of a global financial crisis. In a way we are in sad shape everywhere, both of these problems crossing all bounds of humanity. The one bright spot is the election of a new president in the U.S. Hopefully President Barack Obama will be able to get us back together as a country that we like to remember.
In almost the decade since I’ve updated the history of Autosport, Inc. the automobile industry has also gone through enormous changes. The car collector industry has grown to a huge world wide industry. Automobiles from all era’s and countries are being found, saved and restored. Auctions on TV have unfortunately driven the prices of cars out of control.
I’ve seen collections and museum pieces that will firm this. As to Autosport, Inc, we’ve moved to new head quarters in Dolan, IN. about 7 miles north of where we spent the first 30 years in Bloomington. In 1999 I lost my right hand man Rick VanFechtmann who had worked for me for almost 20 years. He and my office manager left to start his entry again into the service repair business working on nothing but Volvos. This was quite a shock for me after all those years and it left a sour taste in my mouth for a year or so, like the nasty divorce. Fortunately with the help of friends we made up and I was able to celebrate his 50
birthday and 25
wedding anniversary. I’m so glad I did because in less than a year he passed away due to cancer, which left a big void in the community.
In the following years I had an impossible number of poor employees partly due to being seriously over worked and making poor decisions which was one reason for me to consider moving. I realized that I had to go smaller and have complete control over my career destiny. I informed my landlord that I was going to leave, which was a shock to him after 30 years being the only tenant he had. After finding the new shop, there was a brief period of time in which we renovating the new shop, working at both shops, paying the mortgage at the new shop, rent at the old shop, and continually cleaning and moving most of what we needed to work. It seemed to drag on until one day I got a call from my former landlord saying I had 2 months to get everything out, as he had sold the building!
elieve it or not that was just what I needed to get the change done in a short time. My wife said that she would pay for a vacation in Florida if I could get the time off. So I called in all the favors I could find and with the help of friends, family, and customers we moved literally tons of heavy metal, cars and the rest of the equipment in one week. I thought that after I had given the keys back to the landlord, locked the doors for the last time that I would shed a tear or two thinking about all those wonderful years, but I never looked back and have never been happier having closed that chapter of my life. There can be something good about change.
We’re now involved in vintage racing with the VSCDA and SVRA groups. These moves have allowed for the acquisition of new shop equipment and personal.
With my daughter Erika having worked for me for 9 years, she now has a good grasp of the cars we work on, the owners and what it takes to run a successful business. And I can trust her. In the shop department, I have a great young lad, Karl Irvine working with me. He’s been with us for a couple of years now and now has a season of racing under his belt, so he now can make quick informed decisions.
We’ve now been in the new shop for a couple of years and it’s so much nicer, cleaner and manageable. We have great new customers that have blended well with our old patrons. The area we’re in is so quiet with no taxis, police, ambulances, school and city busses. We now look at red tailed hawks, blue jays and blue birds, finches, robins, and life so much more sane.
As we move into the end of the first decade of the new millennium, life as know it has changed, with less free time for the individual, but a renewed look at the future. We have to keep working smart and hard.
History of Autosport, Inc.
I started Autosport, Inc. in 1976 as another part of the “Big Dream”. Having had earlier Partnerships, I finally had enough confidence to go it alone. With 2 employees, our hand tools, a couple of in-house designed & built wooden benches, which we still use, a small Sears air compressor, bench grinder, a couple of 2 ton floor jacks and an assortment of safety stands, a good set of oxy/ acetylene torches, business cards, an adding machine, and receipt book, we were on our way. Wrong. Life
was a lot simpler in those days.
Winter 1976 Autosport, Inc. 2110 Vernal pike
At that time most of the jobs we did were on English and European cars, as the Japanese invasion of the mid-west hadn't occurred yet, except for Honda. Having been schooled and employed in the New York City area in the '60's at the best service and race shops, I left on my quest to California in 1972, only to be sidelined in Indiana for the next 30 years. With the exception a brief sojourn to Oklahoma in the mid 70's, to run a race car team for an eccentric millionaire, I now call the Hoosier State my home.
After returning to Indiana, I got back into racing almost immediately, maintaining, crewing, and setting up a 1972 Datsun 510 for a local businessman. This led to a deal to prepare the car for the IMSA Daytona 24 hr. race in 1978. By the time I got done in '83 I had worked with some wonderfully talented drivers, very experienced crew chiefs and a cast of thousands in the early years of IMSA. Again I was in the right place at the right time. It was like going back to graduate school to get my doctorate. In 1981 we won the Daytona 24 Hr., 12 hrs of Sebring, and ultimately the IMSA GTU championship, setting lap records everywhere. Somehow or another I managed to keep Autosport open through all of this with the help of an enthusiastic staff. Occasionally I would take part of my shop racing with me and then I would lose one or two to racing. Unfortunately it is one of the most addictive habits I know and now consider myself a recovering addict. During this same time I had a daughter and the travel was taking its toll. This is also the time when one realizes a home cooked meal is one of the greatest joys in the world.
Setting up work benches we still use today!
Servicing & Repairing MG, Triumph, Austin Healey, Jaguar, Morgan, Morris, Sunbeam, Alfa Romeo
and other pre '80's European cars
Keeping British Cars alive in the Midwest
Erika A. Madawick
Autosport, Inc. 2020