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  • Writer's picturePeople Operations

A secret way to bring everyone together

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

A rusty old car sat on the corner of the roof of Pacific BMW. It was rarely (if ever) moved and most were doubtful if it could even move. This rusty old car, however, belonged to the Ho family, and it has belonged to the family ever since it was purchased new and driven across the country. More specifically, this car is a 1972 Saab Sonett III.

Earlier this Spring, Alicia, the Director of Administration, had a crazy idea to try and restore this rusty old car on the roof as a birthday surprise for David, CEO of Pacific BMW. This would of course require assistance, so she approached Director of After-Sales Sal, Workshop Manager Pasquale, Bodyshop Manager Andrew, and others who would be involved with her idea. Together, they went to the roof to assess the state of the car to see if Alicia’s plan was even possible. At first, Sal did not think it would ever be feasible to restore this car and Andrew had never even seen the vehicle before, he just knew it was David’s car. While it took some effort to convince everyone that this project could be done, eventually everyone was ready to start work on the car. The catch? All of this was going to be done as a birthday surprise for David, so all the work was to be completed without him finding out.

The first step was to bring down the car to the technicians so that they could determine all that needed to be done. It was here that Jason, Shop Foreman, discovered that the breaks no longer worked, so to say this was a treacherous task is an understatement. He parked the car in the shop corner for almost half a year, miraculously unbeknownst to David. This was unbelievable considering how difficult it is to hide things from David as he is always walking around to know everything that is going on, regardless of the department. Once the car was successfully in the shop, technicians filled the tires with air and they held, which showed positive signs for the project at hand. However, Andrew remarks the feeling of continuing to examine the car and realizing the “monumental” amount of work to be done if the team wanted to deliver a finished product they were proud of. This project was already daunting, and it was made even more difficult by two things: 1. how to keep costs down without sacrificing quality, and 2. how to do this when restoring such an old car with only ~8,300 models of it produced.

If this project was to be completed, everyone would need to come together, and that they did. Everyone worked on the car to undergo a full mechanical restoration, which included completely rebuilding engine and breaks. From Pasquale, Jason, and Art, our Senior Shop Foreman to all the technicians needed for the repairs, to even interns, everyone wanted to assist in this special surprise for David. Art specially focused on the interior of the car, handcrafting almost everything needed. After copious trips to Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, and even Joann’s, he found the perfect fabric and hand-stitched it to ensure it was perfect, replaced the door panels, and redid the carpet, just to name a few of his contributions.

After the team in the shop was done with their initial repairs, the car made its way to the body shop. Andrew says that his biggest challenge was to find replacement parts for such a unique vehicle, down to every screw that had rusted that he needed to measure and order. The team at the body shop found parts from the one person in the country that sells them, and combined their knowledge to repair the rest of the parts that could not be found. They even found the original paint color code that would have been used on the car in 1972 and used that original color to restore the vehicle. In addition, the team at the body shop refinished the wheels, repaired all the fiberglass, and continued to work on the car.

The car was more difficult to hide from David in the Body Shop. David noticed that his car was missing from the roof, and when asked about it, Chi, the Property Manager, had joked that Sales Director Sevak had sold it or auctioned it off or something else he couldn’t remember. However, since David loves being involved in his business, the team at the body shop constantly had to hide the vehicle from David whenever he came to check in. He is so involved that most people just assumed he knew about the restoration! Thankfully, they were successful in their last-minute attempts to throw sheets over the car and distract David so they could keep the surprise.

Three days before the car was to be unveiled at Pacific BMW's Holiday Party, the Saab was taken back to the shop for finishing touches. Many including Sal, Art, Pasquale and Edgar, our Service Manager stayed late and everyone came together to make sure this surprise would be done it time. Sal said this project, especially the last few days, “was a team effort like I’ve never seen before.” The team had pulled together a project in about six months that should have taken two years, all to pull of an incredible surprise for David. There is still some work to be done on what used to be that rusty old car on the roof, but the team plans for it to be ready for David to take on another cross-country trip once they’re done!

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