TOP FANTOM NEWS
On Friday the 26th of August, the following article written by Larry Printz appeared in the “Drive Time” section of the Virginia Pilot.
Online Version below
Straight-talking auto shop owner may be reality-TV-worthy
The Virginian Pilot
Daniel Short is the owner of DRS FantomWorks in Norfolk. He is sitting in a restored 1938 “Standard.” (Bill Tiernan | The Virginian-Pilot)
© August 27, 2011
Ninety seconds could change Daniel Short’s life.
That’s the length of a typical promo reel that producers put together when shopping around a reality show TV pilot. One such reel was being shot at Short’s shop two weeks ago. If it’s sold to a network, it would cap a year of change.
Short’s five-year-old automotive restoration business, DRS FantomWorks, moved from an obscure spot in an industrial park near Princess Anne and Azalea Garden roads, to a prime spot along Hampton Boulevard in an industrial building that once housed National Linen Co.
“If you owned a restaurant in North Carolina, Virginia or Maryland, all of the linens for hotels and restaurants were brought to this facility, laundered and sent back,” Short said as he walked through the facility that he’s owned since March. It’s obviously still a work in progress, but Short needed the space.
“It was more than just a space issue. Just like you don’t want a kitchen and a bathroom within the same four walls – for obvious reasons – you don’t want your paint bay, your sanding area and your grease room all in one big room, which is what we had. So here we have it all divided up and it works real well.”
DRS FantomWorks is intended to be a one-stop shop for car restoration. “I don’t care what you want,” Short said. “We do it all here.”
He even tackles cars that few shops will handle: those from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as long as it makes sense. When it doesn’t, he doesn’t hesitate to make it clear. Such was the case with a client who came in with a 1983 BMW 3-Series.
“Do you know how much plastic is on a 1983 BMW? Lots and lots and lots. Do you know how much of that plastic is reproduced now?” He asks.
“None. You have to explain to someone, OK, are you aware that you are potentially going to look at putting $50,000 to $70,000 in a car that’s going to be worth $5,000 when you’re finished?”
“I restored my first car 30 years ago, although I was active military at the time. It was a 1967 Camaro, and I still own it to this day. I will never get rid of that car.”
His intense devotion to the car is well-matched to his former career.
Short comes by it rightly.
His father was in the military; Short followed in his footsteps, joining the military at 17. His last assignment was in Norfolk. His wife, Melissa, is a commander at Little Creek.
“I was very fortunate that in the military, I was in special operations the whole time. I was a program manager and ran a $2 billion aircraft design- and-build program. When you work at that level, you want and expect people to work at that level.”
As he spoke, his intensity was palpable as he accentuated his points by hitting the table. “It wasn’t until I retired from the military that I opened up the doors.”
His intensity has earned him a reputation, both good and bad, he said.
“I have people who bring me some of the dumbest cars in the world to restore, or they have a really good car and they want to do really dumb things to it. And I have been known to take the sledgehammer out and hit them right between the eyes.”
He estimates that probably 10 percent of people who come in get mad and walk out.
“The other 90 percent instantly give me their trust.”
The intensity can also lead to a changing staff.
“We just hired a guy yesterday and we got rid of him today,” he said unapologetically. “If you’ve got skills and you won’t do a darn thing with it… I don’t need you.”
Short’s personality captured the attention of Nicolas Valcour, CEO and COO of New Dominion Pictures in Suffolk. Valcour was looking for a shop to restore his 1957 Heinkel bubble car.
“I probably spent an hour and a half talking to him,” Short said. “Through my conversation with him, he was rather captivated by my passion for cars.”
Fast forward to earlier this month, when New Dominion’s crew spent almost three days filming in an effort to capture the perfect 90 seconds.
“Most television shows that are about car restoration are about customizing cars,” said Peter Rees, New Dominion’s vice president for development and creator of the show “Mythbusters.”
“A lot of the projects he has are about bringing cars back to life. What I like about it is that every car has a story.”
But it’s more than metal that makes for riveting reality TV.
“He doesn’t self-edit, which always makes for good television,” Rees said. “Dan’s very comfortable and natural on camera. A lot of people have trouble ignoring the camera.”
No one is expecting overnight success. “My own experience is with ‘MythBusters,’ which took seven years to air from the time I first met them.” Still, Rees is positive he can sell the show. “The big thing on TV at the moment is Americana, so any network that deals in Americana is a target for us.”
Even if the program never airs, Short still has his business. “When someone comes up to you with a Heinkel bubble car and it’s the first one you’ve seen in your shop, and it’s been torn apart for 25 or 30 years, and he says, ‘Can you make this look brand new like it did in 1957?’, of course, that’s very exciting.”
That intensity, that excitement is what has convinced Rees that New Dominion has a winner in Daniel Short and DRS FantomWorks.
“I like his intensity. We are hoping his personality and the subject matter will make a winning formula to sell to a television network.”
02 Feb 2012: Today we illuminated the front of our building along Hampton Blvd with 12 porcelain barn shades. The lights not only add a bright spot along the currently dark corridor of Hampton Blvd between the rail road tracks and 35th street but they also add a measure of security to assist in safeguarding the vehicles.
14 Jan 2012: Today we attended the Freedom Lincoln auction and purchased 7 additional lifts, a headlight aiming machine, and a Hunter Alignment system. With the lifts and alignment system, we will be able to significantly increase our maintenance capabilities.
28 Dec 2011: Spoke to C. Novelli in Richmond VA. Our historic restoration program packet was approved and we can submit the part 3 of Phase Iwhenever we’re ready. This was a major milestone that took about 8 months to achieve.
Dec 23 2011: Today we submitted the final packet for our historic restoration program.
21 June, 2011: Our showroom is starting to take the shape of a show room. There is will updated pictures posted by the end of the day today.
14 June, 2011: Check out our new page, “Cars For Sale.” Also check out our facilities page, as we will be adding more photos of the ongoing restoration.
3 June, 2011: Our showroom cieling is almost done being painted!
27 May 2011: check out our new Facilities page. It is still under construction, but you can view what we have right now.
24 May 2011: Continuing restoration goes on here at FantomWorks. Today, we are painting some more of the show room, hope to finish relatively soon.
20 May 2011: Today here at FantomWorks we continue restoration on the facility as well as many current projects. We will also be changing out facility page to add more info. Should be up by the end of the day today. Check it out! Also if most of you havnt noticed that your comments were not being approved, we have fixed that problem and it should take no more than three days for the comments to be approved. Leave some comments!
17 May 2011: Today at FantomWorks we are continuing our ongoing restoration of the facility. We also just added three new members to the Fantom team to help make work go a little smoother. This will benefit everyone involved with FantomWorks,
12 May 2011: Sorry we haven’t been updating this, we will be updating it a lot more now. Today we are open for business in our new location on hampton blvd. Come drive by and check out the cars we have sitting outside. You might even see a plane sitting outside.
1 March 2011: Today, we closed on the building and now own it! Major construction on the way including the installation of two paint booths, one paint mixing booth and one media blast booth. Stop by and see the historically correct renovations of the building as we transform this stunning example of pre-war architecture into a world-class restoration facility.
26 February 2011: Not a fun day. We spent the day disassembling the down-draft paint bay from FAC I. If we never have to disassemble another paint booth it will be too soon. We discovered that when the entire roof plenum (24′ long) comes down in one piece; it weighs a lot! We’ll pack it up and ship it to the new facility and prepare to build it up at the new facility.
25 February 2011: The DuPont/Pro-Finishes southeastern representative came by today to discuss our future with the company. Great things are happening and we expect to stay with DuPont for the rest of our days.
15 February 2011: We were informed today that the environmental inspection was clean and we are now final for going to closing on 1 March 11.
11 January 2011: More great news; the city counsel overwhelmingly approved DRS FantomWorks requests to re-zone the new facility into an industrial facility approved to conduct car restorations. Additionally, we were approved to become an antique car dealership and to rent and lease classic cars. We are well on our way to becoming Virginia’s largest and best car restoration facility!
14 Dec 2010: Great news today!!! We received a phone call from the bank, our loan was approved for the new facility and we are only waiting on the appraisal and EPA Phase I inspection to go to closing which is tentatively scheduled for late January. Additionally, Mike W got even more lights up and running at the new facility and now the entire maintenance section is bright! Place is looking great.
8 Dec 2010: Unfortunately the city council meeting did not complete the agenda items as originally planned and the public hearing was postponed until 11 Jan 2011.
7 Dec 2010: Lights! We now have lights. The newest FantomWorks part time employee started working on the building today. He’s the guy that has been working for the former owner of the Thermal Spray and Machine for approximaely 7 years keeping the electrical system, heat and cooling systems, and roof in great shape. He’s now in the process of converting our lighting system from a 277 volt system back to a 115 volt system so we can use it.
6 Dec 2010: Tomorrow is a huge day for FantomWorks. We have been working to rezone our new facilities at 2400 Hampton Blvd in Norfolk and on getting special exceptions to use that site for car restoration, painting and now as we grow, we are adding Classic Vehicle Sales, Leasing, and Rentals to our capabilities. The city council meeting is tomorrow afternoon and we’ll provide updates with the outcome!
2 Dec 2010: The Blogging Links were added to FantomWorks NEWS link.
7 Sep 10: FantomWorks Has been growing and thriving. We recently went to numerous car shows, where we did receive a few trophies. This site may be crazy for a few days due to it being brought back to life.
3 Jan 10: We meet with roofing contractors to look at FAC II to determine a cost/schedule of putting a new membrane roof on the Monticello Facility.
31 Dec 09: FantomWorks will close at Noon on New Years Eve and will re-open at 0800 4 January 2010
24 Dec 09: FantomWorks will close early today and will re-open Monday 28 Dec 09
6 Oct 09: Documents are signed: FantomWorks is expanding to a second facility in the down town Norfolk area. We are going to begin the move in January when the new facilities are re-roofed and the electric system is upgraded. We expect to have the move completed in August with the addition of 4 lifts, a paint booth, a show room, office, decorative lighting, 220′ of windows added to the lower floor, 3 bathrooms, a paint storage room, and a series of workshops including a full wood shop for the pre-war cars, interior shop, metal shop, paint/body shop, and mechanical shop.