In the late ’80s and early ’90s, my dad used to take me to Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn., to watch NHRA drag racing.
It’s a pilgrimage that I’ve turned into an annual tradition as an adult, but back then I was just getting introduced to a sport that no doubt helped shape my passion for all things automotive. Watching the fastest and loudest cars on the planet barrel down the quarter mile with more G force than the space shuttle, then wandering the pits to see the vehicles and the madmen who drove them up close, is an experience no kid will forget.
Interestingly, I would end up working with one of those madmen two decades later. The years he spent earning a living a quarter mile at a time were a blip in his long career and if you’ve ever met Darrell Amberson, you’d hardly characterize him as mad. But from 1988–1989, Amberson, now the president of operations at LaMettry’s Collision in the Twin Cities, piloted a nitro-fueled funny car against legends such as John Force, while my dad and I looked on from the stands.
Amberson joins FenderBender as a monthly columnist in this issue, the latest move in his long journey through the automotive realm, most of it spent in collision repair leadership positions. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the publication, not to mention a passion for advancing and improving the industry. Find his first column, discussing the need to embrace the onslaught of in-vehicle technology impacting repairers.
Technology is also the focus of this month’s main feature, “Digital Industry”. In it, associate editor Bryce Evans explores the way diagnostics, telematics, and other emerging technologies are changing how shops repair vehicles. As Amberson says in his column, change isn’t quickly embraced in collision repair, which is why many technologies, in-car or out, present challenges.
Patience is a virtue Amberson had to acquire in Funny Car, but he also knows when to get on the gas, and that time is now for shops. The auto evolutions impacting this industry won’t wait for anyone to catch up.
Jake Weyer, editor