John Jones: If it ain’t Volkswagen, forget about it
Portrait 2011 — Volume 2: Hot Right Now
John Jones loves his 1957 Volkswagen Bus so much he would rather drive it than his wife’s comfortable Suburban. Ever since he owned his first one, he’s had a fascination with Volkswagens. That fascination has turned into an obsession.
“It’s character,” Jones said. “I hate new cars. They have no soul. My wife has a big, ol’ Suburban with heated seats and leather. I hate driving it. I would rather freeze to death and drive up to Powderhorn in my VW bus. Everyone sees me in my Volkswagen Bus.”
Jones, 38, never had any formal automotive training, but he has turned a hobby of restoring Volkswagens into a specialized thriving business. Kustom Coach Werks, 801 Kimball Ave., opened in June 2001 and now draws business from around the world.
“It wasn’t even a year, I got more and more work,” he said. The building was divided into three shops. The tenant on the end moved out and Jones rented it.
Jones was told by the city of Grand Junction that he had to have a paint area for his shop, so he looked into buying the building on the corner.
“I couldn’t afford to buy it at the time, so my father-in-law bought the building,” he said.
Jones bought the middle building from Gene Valley Auto Glass 1½ years later.
“I risked everything in my life to make this happen,” he said. “I financed my house three times over, I maxed out every credit card. I was determined it was going to make it or I was going down hard.
“I’ve had good friends help me out. I had a friend when I was in a super tight spot give me a $50,000 loan. It made all the difference.”
It’s finally starting to work out.
“Our claim to fame is our turnaround time,” Jones said. “Back in ’06, things were rough. I thought I’d have to shut the doors. I came up with this gimmick of building a car within 45 days. I called it the 45-day wonder. I did it in 26 days. That’s when my business completely turned around.”
He posted his work online and within a day or two he started receiving phone calls from people all over the country.
“People realized it doesn’t take forever to build a car,” Jones said. “A regular body shop has insurance work. Ever since then, I’m the get-it-done guy.
“I never claim to be the best at anything, but I promise to get it done. If they come in and say they have $10,000 to spend, we’ll spend $10,000.”
Depending on what work is done to a car it can take up to six months.
Jones has restored VWs for people across the United States and the world. He restored a VW for owners in Canada and England.
Customers can follow the progress of their car on the business website, http://www.kustomcoachwerks.com.
“The website has been tremendous,” Jones said. “It’s got to be 50 percent of why I’ve stayed in business.”
He set up a camera in the “dirty shop,” where body work is done, and the “clean shop,” where restoration is complete, for customers to watch work being done on their VW.
There is a separate shop for sanding and for painting.
Jones posts several pictures of the vehicles in the shop and forums for people to comment on the work or ask questions.
His restoration work often is featured in car magazines, including Hot VWs.
Jones is one of just a few people in the world with a VW restoration shop.
“I just stack them up,” he said. “Before the recession hit, I bet I had seven or eight waiting all the time. I’m fortunate enough, as I finish one, another shows up.”
Jones usually has three VWs in the shop at one time. If more job requests come in, he tells them when he will be able to get started on it.
In the last year or two, he started doing work for people in Grand Junction.
“It’s great for me because I’m an older guy,” said 57-year-old customer Bill Crain. “It’s great to see the younger generation take that on. I was so thrilled what he did.”
Jones built a Volkswagen hot rod with a VW Beetle and received the Hot Rod of the Year award in July 2008.
“Most people have a Volkswagen story,” Jones said. “Most people had one or their buddy in high school had one. They made tons of cars. These buses are like a symbol of peace. I swear I get a peace sign every day driving my bus.”
He built a motorcycle with Volkswagen parts and even used a VW logo.
Jones and his crew, Kevin McCain and Franz Muhr, do everything, including build the motor, transmission and brakes.
McCain and Muhr own Volkswagens as well.
“Volkswagens make people smile,” Jones said. “It brings up stories.”