Hermiston Herald secret to success

Hermiston Herald

Friday, March 18, 2005

The secret of their success

By Karen Hutcheson-Talaski of the Hermiston Herald

Above: Bill and Marcy Holton, owners of Holton Secret Lab, restore vehicles to their former luster or create hot rods to fulfill any person's dream. The 1946 Ford Street Rod has custom flames by Bill. The 1966 GTO is being prepared for renovation.  Below: Bill Holton specializes in restoring cars and trucks and customizing street rods. This 1954 Ford F100 street rod is being restored piece by piece to its former glory.

HELIX - Holton Secret Lab may be far away, but it is worth the trip. Bill and Marcy Holton have carved a niche for themselves in the custom paint, design, fabrication and restoration automobile business in the hills outside of Helix.

Bill has been working in the auto body business since he was a boy of 15, working alongside his dad Herb in his auto body shop in Vale. Dad started Vale Auto Body in 1945 after returning from World War II.

"My earliest memories are of being in a body shop," Bill said. Bill does the restoration work, Marcy does the books. The couple have been married since 1976 and live in the farmhouse Marcy's grandfather built for her great grandmother. The Holtons farmed for many years before turning to auto body work full-time since 1992.

And Bill knows what he is doing when it comes to restoring cars.

Besides his years of working with his dad, and with a degree in Automotive Instrumentation from the Oregon Institute of Technology, Bill is ASE Certified Master Technician in Paint and Body, Collision Repair, and Refinishing Technician.

Holton Secret Lab is a 6,500 square foot building chock full of every body shop worker's dream equipment.

"My earliest memories are of being in a body shop."

- Bill Holton

A rotisserie to spin a car around so Bill can get to every nook and cranny of a vehicle; an English wheel to iron dents or shape metal parts; a Media Blasting machine which uses tiny plastic pieces to strip paint from a vehicle rather than sand to protect the its metal; a paint mixing room; four different types of welding machines; a clean room for painting; and a five bay garage to hold the cars and trucks while they are waiting to have some Holton magic rubbed on them. That doesn't count the old tools Bill has accumulated over the years, a number of which he inherited from his dad. "I pick up tools at flea markets," Bill said.

From Media Blasting to custom paint, custom flame art and detailing, to full frame-off restoration to street rod production, Holton Secret Lab offers services to fit anyone's needs or desires.

"I can mix any paint from 1928 to now," Bill said of his paint mixing software. He uses only DuPont Paints to paint the cars and trucks he restores.

The business has a trailer that is able to haul a vehicle easily to and from a client's home. Bill says he has clients from Portland, Bend, Boise, Idaho, and beyond.

"There's a guy from Washington, D. C. who is considering shipping his Mustang over here," Bill said. "My prices are a lot cheaper than back east."

Once a vehicle arrives at Holton Secret Lab, depending on what kind of work needs to be done, Bill will strips to the bare metal, set the car on his rotisserie to check over every inch of the car, then do what it takes to turn that old rusty hunk of junk into a work of art.

It may cost between $25,000 to $30,000 to restore a vehicle to its former glory, Bill says.

He works, on average, about 400 to 500 hours on a standard restoration. Right now, Bill is working on a 1966 GTO, a 1969 Super Bee, a 46 Ford Street Rod, 1953 Willy's Street Rod, a 1965 Mustang, a rare 1967 Firebird convertible, and 1954 F100 Street Rod.

Now the secret is out. For more information about Holton Secret Lab, visit their website at www.holtonsecretlab.com or call 1-866-FLAME IT (1-866-352-6348).

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