‘Bang for the Buck’ from a Little Old Truck
His advertising budget is basically nil, but that doesn’t mean that Gary D’Alessandro isn’t getting the word out on Quality Auto Body. Without so much as a Yellow Pages ad, the Holliston, Mass., repairer instead used a truckload of experience and his passionate creativity to turn an old Ford Explorer GT into a curious, moving, marketing machine.
His shop truck is painted in a striking red-and-black color scheme, but the eye-catching qualities don’t end there. The design on the passenger side of the truck is comprised of dozens of dancing flames, stretched from front to back as if contorted by sheer speed. The design on the driver’s side is a pattern that’s also sometimes called flames, but also referred to as “shreds,” “shredded” or “clouds,” D’Alessandro says.
On the wood frame atop the truck-bed sides is painted “Quality Auto Body, Holliston, Mass.”
D’Alessandro picked up the old vehicle in a trade more than 15 years ago.
“A customer came in and he said, ‘I have two vehicles in my driveway and they’re both smashed. Would you accept one vehicle as payment for repairing the other one?’ I said yes,” D’Alessandro recalls. “I had it as my personal vehicle for many years, drove it, pulled the fishing boat around. It kind of got beat up and then it sat for a long time.”
Not one to hoard junk, D’Alessandro’s not one to scrap a vehicle while it’s still good, either. He decided the little truck had a second (or third) life left and took it into the shop. With help from his staff, as well as some muscle from his yearly high-school interns, the shop rebuilt some of the ripe old mechanical components—back to stock, nothing fancy. That was reserved for the outside.
Quality Auto Body didn’t have a dedicated vehicle before this one, so the little Ford Explorer GT became the inaugural canvas for a paint job that would let the collision repair shop show off even more of what it could do.
“We do some restoration and some custom building of hot rods, so I wanted to get the most bang for the buck,” D’Alessandro says. “And I’m also easily bored, I guess. ...”
He also knew that it could be difficult for customers to visualize something different for their personal vehicles or for their showpieces, so he designed the truck with a goal of giving it to them in living color.
“I think that if you want people to take a chance on this kind of stuff, they’ve got to be able to look at it,” says D’Alessandro. “You can do some drawings on a piece of paper or whatever, but if you bring out something with a finished product on it, people can look at it and touch it and such. It’s way better.”
When the Massachusetts weather is good, D’Alessandro uses the vehicle to go to the bank, to get lunch or to pick up parts. “And then I also show it,” he says. “I take it to cruise nights and occasionally to shows, not so much to be judged, but to participate and to get the name of the business around.”
He doesn’t spend any money on advertising and hasn’t for a long time. “I don’t know if that’s wise, but I think these things are better,” D’Alessandro says. “These things, I believe, work better for me—sponsoring Little League teams, football and hockey … Yellow Pages, I’m sure they had their place, but where I’m located, the next town to my east is in another county, the next town to my south is in another county, so they’re different phone books. You’d go broke.”
With his marketing-on-wheels, however, he can drive the truck across town lines and to baseball games with teams and spectators from all of the neighboring towns.
IT’S FUN, TOO
Like most places, D’Alessandro says, garage keeper’s liability in Massachusetts costs a tremendous amount of money, but you can run a vehicle on your repair plate legally if it is lettered in a certain way.
“So we kind of get some of the money back by not having to pay additional insurances on that because it’s got the name and the address of the company on it,” D’Alessandro says. “That’s what’s done here in Massachusetts.”
Not only does it get good gas mileage, but the vehicle also is a colorful showcase of what the talented staff at the autobody shop can do.
“People want stuff done to their car, but the automotive hobby is very expensive, and these cars become very dear with people,”
D’Alessandro says. “Most people don’t have car after car after car; they maybe get one or two, and the decision to do something with it is pretty important.”
The shop owner says that the truck continues to meet a lot of needs for the shop. He also will be the first to tell you that autobody and creative painting like the two-faced design of the truck isn’t really work—in fact, despite how time-consuming the tasks involved can be, it’s a plain old good time.
“It’s like I get to justify having a lot of fun by saying it’s part of my business,” D’Alessandro adds. “It’s fun to do this.”