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Born in 1957, Jim Snell was raised in the twin cities of Lafayette-West Lafayette Indiana. His family lived on the edge of the Purdue University campus. Jim began gravitating toward a career in auto repair at an early age. Jim’s grandfather, Sylvester Snell was a locksmith and bicycle repairman. Jim grew up watching his grandfather repair intricate devices, and learned his attention to detail. Jim’s grandfather worked at Mulhaupt’s Schwinn. Mulhaupt’s is one of the oldest Schwinn dealers in the USA, and is still in business today. Mulhaupt’s was a 1000 club dealer. This meant that they sold more than 1000 bicycles per year! Jim’s grandfather was so proud of the Schwinn bicycles. When he assembled one, he would carefully align the bolt heads of the mounting screws, and every spoke was tightened to perfection. He went so far as to solder the cable ends to prevent them from fraying, and wound the excess cable into a loop for a nice appearance. At the age of seven, Jim was already a skilled bicycle repairman. At Christmas time, Jim would help his grandfather assemble the hundreds of new Schwinns for delivery in the week prior to the holiday. Jim and his grandfather would drive around the Lafayette Indiana area in the days prior to Christmas delivering new Schwinns to the designated secret hiding places at the homes of Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, friends and neighbors. An intricate plan to prevent children from finding out that a new Schwinn awaited them on Christmas morning.

Jim’s uncle is a model railroad enthusiast, and had a large train layout. Jim was exposed to these craftsmen and they were his influences. Jim began building scale models at the age of six. Jim’s scale models won local competitions in the Lafayette area. At the age of ten, Jim was constructing award winning 1/35th scale realistic WWII dioramas of military vehicles. In the late 1960s, and early 1970s Jim constructed a large collection of highly detailed 1/25th-scale models of Nascar automobiles. Intricate details Included spark plug wires fuel lines etc. Jim has kept these to this day.

Jim's Auto Body History

Jim’s auto body inclination began at the age of 14 when a friend’s mom crashed her 1965 Buick Electra 225. The insurance company declared it a total loss, and was offering to pay her a small amount and they were going to take the car away. Jim and his friend Richard convinced her to let them try to replace the front sheet metal and make the car run again. She agreed, and drove them to Indianapolis to purchase the front “doghouse” from a salvage yard. This began a long relationship with “WRECKS INCORPORATED” that continues to this day. Jim and Richard changed the front sheet metal in one day and had the car running. Richard’s mom was ecstatic. Jim realized that this was something not much different than a scale model. To this day, Jim refers to salvage rebuildable autos as “1/1th scale model kits.” In his high school years, Jim’s grandfather’s garage was always buzzing with activity as Jim and his friends changed engines, and modified their cars. Jim’s Corvette powered Red 1959 Chevrolet ElCamino was a fixture at Lafayette Jefferson High School, and often seen cruising the hot spots on Friday and Saturday nights. Jim and his friends were gear-heads, and had cars that now days are highly sought after collectors items.

Jim is a 1976 Ivy Tech graduate of the first class of Auto body Technology. This was a 40 hour per week, one year long course. Jim received a bachelors of science degree, won the Dean’s award, and graduated second in his class. In addition, Jim is a graduate of the Bee-Line frame repair school, the Moog suspension school, Sherwin-Williams paint college, and has an Ivy Tech welding certification degree. At one time, Jim was a licensed Indiana motor vehicle inspector.
In 1977 Jim began his career in auto body repair as an apprentice to master craftsman Raymond Finfrock. Ray was the heavy damage man at DeFouw Chevrolet in Lafayette Indiana. DeFouw immediately sent Jim to the bee-line Frame College in Bettendorf Iowa to learn how to operate the bee-line brand frame repair racks at the dealership. In 1977 and 1978 Ray, and Jim repaired many heavily damaged late model autos as a two-man team. Completing these projects in record time with very high levels of quality. Ray taught Jim multi-tasking repair time management, the use of "lead" solder filler, and refined his skills at torch brazing, and fabricating.

Jim’s Auto Body is Formed

Jim left DeFouw Chevrolet in the fall of 1978, and formed his own company known as Jim’s Auto Body. Jim’s shop was located on Canal Road in Lafayette Indiana for nine years. In 1987, Jim moved his operation to Earl Park Indiana where it remains to this day. Jim obtained the necessary licenses to buy autos from the insurance salvage auctions and for many years, Jim operated the largest Toyota truck specific salvage yard in the area. During the 1980s, and early 1990s, Jim rebuilt more than 400 salvage motor vehicles. Returning them to road use, and selling them to customers, friends, neighbors, and family. Jim always revealed the history of every rebuilt auto he sold. Jim is proud of the fact that he operated a rebuilding business for many years, with a clientele who knew the true nature of his business. Every one of Jim's rebuilt autos reflected his attention to detail and craftsmanship. Jim took detailed photos of every rebuild project, and these photos were available for every purchaser to view. Many of Jim’s rebuilt autos were sold before they were finished, and many local customers would stop in daily to view the progress of their next automobile. A customer once said, “Jim, you can fix anything.” In 1988, the name of Jim’s company was changed to reflect the focus on Japanese autos. From then on, Jim’s company has been known as Rising Sun Imports Inc. In 2003, Jim celebrated 25 years in business.

Jim's Other Business

Since 1973, Jim’s hobby was riding off road motorcycles. He became fascinated with the popular European sport of Observed Trials. Jim has had a successful amateur racing career winning numerous local, and state championships, as well as being the 1993 USA national Observed Trials champion in the SR35 class. In 1991, Jim was given the opportunity to become involved with the import and distribution of the popular GASGAS brand trial machines. These motorcycles are made in Girona Spain. Jim’s company is the original and only USA distribution center for the spare parts for these machines. See Jim’s company web site at this link: http://www.trialspartsusa.com/

The Evolution of Jim’s Business

By 1993, the motorcycle business had grown tremendously. At the same time, state and federal government regulation of the salvage industry was becoming unbearable, and impossible to appease. Jim made the decision to leave the salvage yard, auto body repair, and used car field to concentrate his efforts on building his motorcycle business. In the summer of 1994, Jim’s company called in the crushers, and held an auction. So ended the era of the salvage, and auto body business. Jim kept his personal tools, and didn’t think much about his past life for almost ten years.

Jim’s Return to the Auto Body Business

In 1999, Jim purchased a 1969 Cadillac from an Estate. In 2001, Jim purchased a 1959 Chevrolet Impala from another estate. The yearnings to return to the days of auto repair were too much to resist. In 2004, Jim began to restore, and expand his personal auto collection. You may view the Snell family antique auto collection at this link. http://www.jims59.com/jimsprojects.htm
Jim's 1959 Chevy Impala
Trials Bike Parts
GasGas Museum
Electric RC Helicopters
Nintendo Forums
Marty's Gourd Art
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