Ten miles due south of Buffalo, NY on the eastern tip of Lake Erie sits CARSTAR Northeast Collision, one of three shops owned by Jay Fisher and his family. Matt Pangborn is the head painter—the only painter—at the shop, and that’s by design. He works hard, he prefers to work alone and that keeps things simple for his trio of colleague technicians and staff.
“Matt came highly recommended and he’s done just a fabulous job,” says Tom Fisher, brother of Jay and operations manager of the three family shops.
“He does like to work alone and he handles all the paint hours we generate out of that booth. I can’t say enough about him—his work ethic, quality of work and attention to detail make him an outstanding painter. He’s a quiet leader type, and he goes about his business with no drama. He gets the cars in, paints them, and gets them out the door—it’s a very smooth process.”
The business of refinish is a lot of things; complicated doesn’t have to be one of them.
Sitting astride his 2017 Harley-Davidson Nightride, Pangborn reflects on his style and outlook. "I'll paint anything," he says. "This will be my 22nd year in the business and you run into so many attitudes and egos, but I’m just here to paint cars, make the shop money, and go home happy. I want to be a good steward of the shop and the industry. You experience more cooperation by taking a holistic approach.”
Pangborn began painting when he was 15 and never looked back. “I walked into a small mom and pop shop and said, ‘I love working on cars. Will you give me a chance?’ Others said no but they said yes. They told me I’d start at the bottom and wouldn’t move up until I had a firm grasp of each step. Two years later I became their full-time painter.”
In the booth, Pangborn prefers SATA products. “I’ve made my career with SATA,” he says. “I use the RPS cups on all my SATA spray guns. I’m a fast-movement painter and the RP matches my speed. I’ll try anything, but I haven’t quite found another company with gear that matches how quickly I move. The RPS cups are phenomenal; they save a ton of material and the gun sprays very well with them. I’m not limiting myself to any brand, but I use what works. SATA works for me.”
Pangborn is the sole painter and prepper at his CARSTAR shop outside Buffalo, New York, and that suits him just fine. “I was lucky enough to get a job here and it’s been great for me,” he says. “They gave me the option and I said I could do it all and that I work well by myself. I have a good grasp of everything—if I get overwhelmed, I’ll happily let you know. Three years later I’m still holding my own here. I mostly do collision refinish but would love to do a little more custom work.”
“It’s a small/big shop,” Pangborn says. “I used to have a five-bay prep deck with the booth on top of it. Last year they put in a global booth, so now I have a booth and prep area nearby. I share another bay with the tear-down guys; we’re a small shop with three master technicians and me, and we’re able to keep up pretty well.”