As we delved into the history of Auto Art we discovered that our body shop has 40+ years of history behind it. Brent Moore of Annacis Terminals tells us that the shop was started by his father, Herb, in 1972 at 700 Derwent Way in response to the need by Nissan Canada for mini truck conversions and customized vans (that’s the 70s for ya!). Annacis Terminals bought the business in 1977 and it was painter and body man Ernie Pashon who subsequently purchased it in 1979 and named it “Auto Art”. Brent offers that Ernie was an artist at heart and considered all his work to be art.
Auto Art changed hands a couple more times before Dan & Helen bought it in early 1995 and moved the shop to 654 Derwent Way, to a location twice the size of the original. Also being artists at heart, they were partial to the name and decided to keep it.
These past 20 years we have endeavored to serve the businesses and fleets on Annacis Island and its environs, as well as our residential customers in the Lower Mainland. A great big “Thank You!” to all our loyal customers who have brought your insurance claims and private body and paint jobs to Auto Art. It’s our express intent to continue to serve you with the utmost in quality and care in the years to come!
Daniel Gardener was never without vision or ambition to achieve. At ten years old he had three paper routes simultaneously and what little spare time he had left was taken up reading the hot rod magazines that celebrated the custom car culture of the sixties. He idolized George Barris, a custom car builder from California who among many other unusual vehicles was responsible for TV’s Batmobile and Munster Coach. Determined to follow in Barris’ footsteps Dan started working full time in the bodywork business at age thirteen, soaking up everything he could learn about the industry. By the age of fifteen he was working as a journeyman auto refinisher. Like many young people of the time, Dan had the urge to travel and visited Europe. Using his skills while on the road to support himself, he painted cars in Germany, Holland and Gibraltar. There he learned gravity spray gun technology and it wasn’t until fifteen years later that it was considered a state of the art phenomenon in North America. After returning to Canada, Dan continued his education with undergraduate studies at UBC in English and philosophy, psychology, and cultural anthropology. But he couldn’t get cars out of his system. He worked part time at Vancouver’s Plimley Dodge and Gordon’s Auto Body.
While he was working as a painter at a body shop in the early eighties, a management shuffle threatened his job. He decided to leave the shop floor and became part of the management himself. He found a niche in floor space planning and production management for several of the larger shops in Vancouver, and with his industry background and university training, Dan was sought after to teach the business to newcomers and train technicians whose skills needed upgrading and certification. He was also approached by insurance companies to teach and train estimators in a more balanced view of the industry.
In 1995, Dan heard of a collision shop on Annacis Island that was on the verge of bankruptcy. Taking the opportunity and applying his usual hard work and focus, he steered it from nowhere to a position of high esteem in the marketplace in only five years. Knowing that the best businessmen surround themselves with the best, Dan brought in developers, accountants, lawyers, automotive economists and his own suppliers. They set up a joint council to brainstorm. As a result, the shop has become a phenomenal success: Auto Art Complete Collision and Painting Services.
Helen Gardener was born in Ontario and spoke Finnish as a first language. She grew up in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. Helen attended UBC, studied Home Economics and Fine Arts and graduated with a Bachelor of Secondary Education. She has taught at UBC as well as in Vancouver Private Schools, and during the 90’s she ran her own fashion design distribution business called “Big City Fashions”. Helen and Dan have two sons: Micah, who is involved in the film industry, and Dan Jr, a talented tattoo artist.
Daniel and Helen ran Auto Art for 18 years together until the family business suffered a tremendous loss with the sudden passing of Daniel Gardener in 2013. After 37 years of marriage and partnership Helen was now faced with a challenge – to sell Auto Art and move on, or continue running the business on her own? Not one to back down in the face of adversity, Helen hired a skilled body shop manager and now runs the business along with our team of competent and fully qualified painters, collision technicians, detailers and support staff.