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Your feel-good Illinois story of the day: Nichols Paint and Fab

Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018

* I was flipping channels the other night and settled on Velocity for a bit. The show that happened to be on at the time featured some big, tattooed, bearded guys building a hot rod and I couldn’t stop watching. They just seemed so genuine. Hard-working people who loved what they were doing and who thoroughly enjoyed working with each other. No fake “reality” drama, no contrived “plot” twists, no awful “acting” like you get with most of those goofy shows.

And then they cut to a shot of the Midwestern prairie town where their business was based and an image of this water tower appeared on my screen…

Holy moly, I thought. I have a bunch of family in that town. No wonder those folks seemed so oddly familiar to me. I binge-watched every episode over the weekend.

* The show is called “Wrench’d,” a title which I’ll bet was contrived by some suit at corporate headquarters since they don’t do a whole lot of wrenching. It’s about the men and one woman who work at Nichols Paint and Fab. Justin Nichols owns the shop, following in his late father’s footsteps.

They started production last year, and focused their first two episodes on a build for the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas

Built by Justin Nichols and the crew at Nichols Paint and Fab in Watseka, Illinois, this bright-green Chevy is one of the most radical performance truck builds we’ve seen yet. To prove it is head and shoulders above other “performance” C10 builds, Nichols will take the truck to compete in the demanding Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It takes a lot to stand up to those no-barrier hairpin turns and staggering elevation changes; it’s a good thing this truck is made for it.

Nichols Paint and Fab has been around for 11 years, and the company has lent its talents to everything from custom choppers and hot rods to award-winning show trucks. But Justin says he’s always been especially inspired by race cars that have the function to back up their looks.

More on that insane truck is here.

* The Iroquois County Times-Republic featured Justin Nichols and his crew back in January

The film crew is at the shop four to five days a week, while the Nichols crew works on the many custom car and bike orders they have. The filming takes place from 8:30 a.m. and can last until 1 or 2 in the morning.

“We are building a car for a guy in Florida,” Nichols said. “The show is about trying to communicate and build the relationships with about 10 different people on this project.”

* Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) represents Watseka, so he headed over to the shop to have a look-see. From his Facebook page

Had a chance to stop by to visit with family business owner Justin Nichols of Nichols Paint & Fab in Watseka. Amazing place. They custom make hot rods and motorcycles. Beautiful work. Justin is a hometown guy and loves what he does. From the several magazines he has been in and the TV shows he has been on, he does this very very well.

Thank you Justin. Creative young man! Take a look at his website. Lot going on. More TV coming this January. Look for it.

Rep. Bennett also took a photo with the crew…

The gentle giant pictured on the far right above is Nick, and I became a devoted fan when he taste-tested some motor oil as it was drained from an old engine. “Tastes fine,” he deadpanned with an ever-so-slight smile. I about died laughing.

I gotta meet these people.

* Justin Nichols grew up in Watseka and is fiercely loyal to his hometown roots, even though he could live just about anywhere because he sells to customers throughout the country. He’s an entrepreneur, a design artist and a regular, blue-collar dude who’s been working on cars since he was 7 years old. One of the episodes features him working with some kids at the local high school shop class, and he seemed determined to pass his knowledge along to future generations.

I’m totally hooked on this program, not just because these are interesting characters living out their version of the American dream, but because they’re working their tails off to make an out-of-the-way “Rust Belt” Downstate town best known to the outside world for its chronic flooding problems a better place to live.

The show also features Justin’s girlfriend Maegan, who is a talented welder/fabricator and appears to have a lot of respect from the men around her. Some of these cable programs use women as eye candy or comic relief. Maegan is the real deal and, unlike on so many other reality car shows, she’s treated as an equal. It’s subtly done, but definitely refreshing.

Hopefully, corporate headquarters will keep its hands off this show and allow the people to just be themselves. They’re fiercely proud of their work, of course, and they seem at ease in front of the cameras, but they’re not obnoxious, spendthrift braggarts like some other clowns on my teevee.

* Rep. Bennett talked to me yesterday afternoon about maybe doing something to recognize Nichols and his crew in Springfield. This state could use some working class heroes during these trying times. I’m all for it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - perry noya - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:21 am:

    I grew up in a town like Watseka, though in another state. Just want to note how much I appreciate this post and the folks it features.

  2. - A guy - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:22 am:


  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:25 am:

    I watch. What they did to that Saab was awesome.

  4. - Hon. John Fritchey - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:35 am:

    That guy Nick looks like he could be Todd V. dressed up for an episode of Undercover Boss.

  5. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:36 am:

    Nick seems to sample whatever comes his way

  6. - Horizontal Man - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:52 am:

    Need more like this. Great image for IL

  7. - Blago's Hare - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    Great story. I can’t help but think how much opportunity is out there for folks who do work like this. There is a place called the “Twisted Spoke” in a neighboring town that reminds me of this shop. They are creative and skilled and have more work than the can keep up with.

  8. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:57 am:

    Under a spreading chestnut tree
    The village mechanic stands;
    The Dude, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
    Are strong as iron bands.

    His hair is crisp, his beard is long,
    His face is like the tan;
    His brow is wet with honest sweat,
    He earns whate’er he can
    And looks the whole world in the face
    For he owes not any man.

    Week in, week out, from morn till night,
    You can hear his airjack go;
    You can hear his country radio swing,
    With Dolly, Willie and Joe,
    Like a hymn playing in the village church.
    When the evening sun is low.

    And children coming home from school
    Look in at the open door;
    Jumping on the driveway hose,
    With their sneaker covered feet
    And search for quarters on the ground
    To buy an ice cold liquid treat.

    Onward through life he goes;
    Each morning sees some task begin,
    Each evening sees it close;
    Something attempted, something done,
    Has earned a night’s repose.

    Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend
    For the lesson thou hast taught!
    Thus at the revving pistons of life
    Our fortunes must be wrought;
    Thus across the auto hoods with
    Each burning deed and thought!

  9. - City Zen - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 9:59 am:

    Velocity is a consistent go-to channel for me. The original Wheeler Dealers was extremely entertaining and Chasing Classic Cars with Wayne Carini is always interesting. Wayne was up in Evanston a couple of years ago trying to extract a Lamborghini Miura from some family. I don’t think he got it.

  10. - Just A Dude - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 10:48 am:

    Great shows on Velocity. Good variety to keep any motor head entertained. Broadcast the entire 24 hours of Lemans live this year. Best coverage for that particular race that I have seen.

  11. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 11:03 am:

    Rich: Thanks for highlighting Nichols Paint and Fab and Justin Nichols

    Is there still time to invite Justin to bring some of his craftsmanship to the State Fair in Springfield ?

  12. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 11:33 am:

    Recognition? Absolutely, as long as it isnt rauner riding up on his harley in that vest.

  13. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 11:55 am:

    Rich, sorry to politicize this positive story, but this feels like a good example of another Rauner/BTIA fail.

    Rauner has been putting on his leather jacket and riding his motorcycle around the state for four years.

    Rauner should have brought his motorcycle to Justin Nichols and asked him to paint and rebuild it to celebrate Illinois.

    Rauner should have featured this finished motorcycle at Governor’s Day at the State Fair.

    Rauner should have then auctioned the bike to raise money for the Lincoln Library.

    However what would have happened ?

    Rauner and the BTIA would have asked Justin Nichols to paint “Madigan Sux” on the bike and he’d ride it around.

  14. - Fan of Cap Fax - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 1:59 pm:

    Great to give those folks praise and recognition for a great show. Just please don’t ruin a good thing by introducing it to its distant black sheep cuz, Illinois Politics.

  15. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jul 17, 18 @ 2:07 pm:

    Love Velocity. Haven’t caught this, but will now.

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