Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2000   by Rob Tanner

Top Gun

Derek Noble of Noble's Auto Remanufacturing keeps busy with Whitlock Motorsports

Derek Noble was like a lot of kids growing up in Sarnia, ON – he loved cars! The fact that Detroit was just across the river and the home of “street racing” didn’t slow down the love affair. When he was 20 years old he started working as a machinist and three years later opened his own business, Noble’s Auto Remanufacturing in 1984. The love affair continues.

Six years ago a customer introduced Derek to Dave Whitlock, who was looking for someone to paint his race cars. The meeting blossomed into a relationship that now has Noble painting all three of Whitlock’s team cars and working on the pit crew on race weekends.

“It’s really neat to work on a car in your shop and then see it perform on the race track,” said Noble. “Later you see it on TV and knowing you had a part in the team gives you a special feeling.” When Derek isn’t painting Whitlock’s cars – the team runs the Quality Care Ford for Whitlock plus the NTN Bearings car of Mark Dilley and the Speedy Muffler car of Dave Jacombs – he is driving the big rig to and from the races: he has an AZ license. At the races he becomes an active part of the pit crew. He is the crew chief on Whitlock’s #98 car and changes the front tires on pit stops. Noble’s wife, Nina, is also very involved, making it a family affair. Noble’s first love in motorsports was drag racing. For years he went to the NHRA Indy Nationals as a spectator. “NHRA really puts on a show.” says Noble, “and Indy is the grand daddy of them all.”

Noble’s Auto Remanufacturing has evolved into a one stop shopping place for customers. The body and paint shop is obviously one element and mechanical work is undertaken on all types of cars. Antique and classic car restoration is also another element of the business. “We did a total restoration on a 1964 Austin Healy Sprite that took seven months that turned out really well,” said Noble. “One customer found a 1957 Chevy four-door wagon in a field and after three years of hard, painstaking work, its one of the best pieces we have done.”

“The cross-over between the shop and the racing is valuable,” said Noble.” I pride myself in having good customer service and have learned to deal effectively with people. Good communications are important. The same skills apply to the race team. As crew chief on Dave’s car we have to be able to communicate so that he gets the set-up he wants. I also have to deal with the other crew members so that the job gets done in a timely way within an atmosphere of good community. Motor racing is definitely a team sport and we need everyone working to the same goal in order to accomplish it.”

The racing atmosphere spills over into the shop. Noble shares garage space with a Sarnia taxi company. “When one of the taxis needs new brakes we have it down now so that from the time the car drives in the doors, the pads are changed and the car has a test drive, the time is 12 minutes,” smiles Noble. “The challenge, just like racing, has become to see how fast the job can be done, right.” Racing is fun and it has added to the notoriety of Noble’s business. Whitlock’s success on the track combined with customers seeing the race cars in Noble’s shop have given the shop a good reputation. But is not without a lot of hard work.” I work in my shop from nine to six then I work on the race cars from six to midnight,” says Noble. “Keeping the shop running smoothly is another challenge. In July, I was only there three days, the rest of the time I was traveling with the race team. My wife works in the shop and she is a big help in organizing our days so that we can keep our customers satisfied.” Racing has taught Derek other things that he has applied to his business. Through the association with CASCAR he has learned of new products that he has used successfully in his own shop. As most stock car fans, Derek tries to use products that are involved with racing. The loyalty factor is particularly high with stock car enthusiasts. “Busy is good,” says Noble. It better be or Whitlock Motorsports wouldn’t have great looking cars and Noble Remanufacturing might not be around very long. “We’ve been fortunate to be successful and totally enjoy our work.”

The recipe for success. SSGM

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