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Fine Line Frame takes drastic steps to repair vehicles

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

In his spare time, Rick Lawrence enjoys drag racing his 1971 Plymouth Barracuda Funny Car he calls “The Minnesota Maniac.”

Editor’s Note; This is the third and final installment in a three-part series on new businesses located in one building on North Main Street in Blue Earth. This week’s story features Rick Lawrence and ‘Fine Line Frame.’

“We do the most drastic stuff to vehicles,” says Rick Lawrence of his framework shop located in the former L&M Motors building on North Main.

Since 1991, Rick, wife Vickie and their three children lived in New Prague where they had a repair shop. This past spring, they moved their family business, ‘Fine Line Frame,’ to Blue Earth, opening their doors to local customers in mid-June.

“I have known Paul Vossen (owner of the Blue Earth building) for over 20 years,” says Lawrence. “He drew us here, but another plus has been the affordability of everything in Blue Earth compared to New Prague.”

Lawrence began doing body work for a local dealership near his hometown when he was just out of high school. Before he knew it, he says, he was doing framework instead and has been doing it steadily for the past 22 years. Since 1993, Lawrence has been in business on his own.

“My dad taught me to weld. He was a large equipment operator and had to do a lot of his own welding and repair work,” recalls Lawrence. “While I was growing up, he would say of a job, “You can’t do that?” He knew I liked a challenge and was always up for trying to fix about anything.”

And fix anything and everything he does. In fact, he says he repaired a front and end clip on a vehicle using only about three feet of the original car. He also has had to cut vehicles in half, the long way, and rebuild them.

“I like to test my limits and abilities and yet make a safe car,” admits Lawrence. “If I see a job that is a ‘kill,’ I salivate over the challenge.”

One of the biggest challenges he ever faced was in repairing a Dodge Dakota that had been used as a crash test vehicle. He says the front was totally pushed-in upon impact and due to inertia, the rear end folded right up.

“Minnesota is one of just a few states that let a crumpled car be repaired,” says Vickie who serves as the bookkeeper for her husband, Rick.

“If you can imagine it being done to a frame, we can do it. It must involve metal or steel though,” qualifies Lawrence.

After a major collision, most people acquire a different vehicle upon the suggestion of their insurance carrier. This is not necessary if a car is put together properly says Lawrence.

“I think everyone has heard the commercials that say ‘I can’t believe I’d put my daughter in a salvaged vehicle,'” says Lawrence. “My entire family has driven salvaged vehicles at one time or another. I wouldn’t put my family members in them if I didn’t think they were safe. Besides, it is usually much cheaper to have framework and body work done than to buy a different vehicle.”

Lawrence says he has managed to bring a lot of work with him from the Jordan area. He adds his framework is just the groundwork for body work, so his skills should not take business away from the local auto body shops, rather it should give them more vehicles on which to work.

No job is too big or too small either for Lawrence. “If there’s a piece you need, whether it is a bracket for a tractor, a welding repair to a mower deck or a lawn ornament, we can do it. If you don’t want to replace it, we can probably fix it or rebuild it,” says a confident Lawrence who specializes in mig, tig and gas welding.

Lawrence can also do some portable welding repair on downed field equipment. He can work on steel up to one-half inch thick with his truck-mounted wire feed welder and generator, but cannot do any cast iron work in the field. These more complex jobs can be done in his shop. Through the years, he has fixed everything from cast iron bell housings to repairing a broken steering shaft on a John Deere tractor.

He also suggests if a street rodder has a more sophisticated body need, contact him. He has chopped tops on street rods and built a front end and chopped the top on an Opel GT to completely alter the looks of the car.

Helping Rick Lawrence in his Blue Earth business is his son, Eric, who has been doing framework for the past four years.

“Eric started learning the trade when he was about four,” adds Lawrence.

Other family members include Megan, who will be a senior at the Blue Earth Area High School and Erin, a sixth grader.

Lawrence enjoys custom painting, but only does it for himself. Another interest he has is drag racing.

“I first bought the car when it was half annihilated,” he says of his drag racer. “I bought it cheap because it was so smashed. I front-halved it and put this on a Barracuda frame. I had to totally refit the car, but it is the same height and length as a Cuda.”

The Lawrences recently built a trailer to haul two cars, so in addition to their framework, welding and free estimates, they also provide pick-up and delivery service.

“Whether it is a five minute welding job or cutting a vehicle in half then putting it back together, all repairables are welcome,” says Lawrence who invites people to stop in his shop Monday through Friday. Otherwise, he may be contacted by calling (612) 270-5116.

“We’re operating at part throttle right now,” says Lawrence who is also busy remodeling the former L&M showroom. “Usually we’re banging out a job a day.”

Three new businesses and the entrepreneurs who manage them are a pleasant sight on Blue Earth’s north main.

As Kevin Guilliatt, proprietor of the ‘Blue Earth General Store’ says, “We’re going to make this community a better place.”