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The 13th Annual Mobile Tech Expo


     Just as the rest of the country was being buried under several feet of snow during the second week of January, nearly a hundred exhibitors and over 2,000 attendees flocked to the 13th Annual International Mobile Tech Auto Recon Expo 2014 & Detailers Forum at the Caribe Royale Convention Center in sunny yes, even muggy Orlando, Florida!

   In its 13th year, the Expo is three parts trade show, exhibition, and shopping extravaganza; two parts sporting competition and educational retreat; and one helluva networking event. For the families of the attendees and exhibitors, Orlando adds a bonus slice of Disney vacation, with Epcot Center less than a mile from the luxurious Caribe Royale Resort.

       Designed as an opportunity for companies in the mobile tech and detailing industries to come together for the purpose of highlighting and demonstrating new products, services, and technology, the Mobile Tech Expo is the perfect platform for suppliers, trainers, manufacturers, resellers, and distributors, to put their wares in the hands of professionals from all corners of the industry. If there is one unifying principle among the diverse group of PDR techs and hail chasers, interior repair specialists, detailers, and automotive reconditioning experts, it is passion.

     The show officially opened on Thursday, January 9 with Education Day. Packed with seminars starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 6:15 p.m., attendees could learn anything they wanted about the mobile tech industry. From repair techniques in leather, plastic, glass, etc.; to marketing; utilizing technology and software; estimating jobs; and learning how to earn a certification in any aspect of the industry.

     The doors opened to the “floor” Expo on Friday morning January 10 at 10:00 a.m. Let the Games Begin! Throughout Friday and Saturday, there were a number of industry competitions including the Best Work Vehicle Contest; a Leather Restoration Contest; the Glue Pull Competition; and the infamous Dent Olympics.

      Andrew Kinsey of Jacksonville’s Indent used a pressurized air gun to inflict hundreds of dents into otherwise flawless vehicles! John Willis of National Dent Works in Raleigh, and Tommy Clayton of Tommy’s Dent Service in Greensboro, NC began assigning and timing challengers in the Open Dent Olympics. “The competition has grown to over 60 competitors,” Clayton explains. “Some of the younger techs have never competed before and they feel they are at a disadvantage against the older, more experienced techs who have won multiple times over the years. This year, we decided to even the playing field by having a Grand Championship competition for the more experienced techs.”

      Carrossier Express’ formidable two-time 1st Place Gold winner Simon Noel (2008 and 2011) brought back 1st Place Gold this year for his flawless repair in the Glue-Pull competition, one of two meticulous techniques for removing small automotive dents where the paint is not disturbed, using glue handles to pull the dent out from the outside of the exterior panel. Noel also won the Gold trophy in the Grand Champion category of the Dent Olympics. Trained by his boss and mentor, Joel Valois, who has won the competition multiple times over the past 13 years, keeping the trophy in the Carrossier family was very satisfying.

      Full-time Long Island police officer, Ivan Sklaruk, who is also a full time PDR technician at Dent-X, won first place in the traditional Dent Olympics competition in which technicians use metal rods and body picks to push the dents out from the underside of the body panel. “A dent is like a puzzle that has to solved,” he says. “You have to be focused and since I pretty much work alone out in the field, it is great to earn a recognition like this. I feel that I am good at it, but I have competed two or three times before and seventh was my best finish. This is very exciting for me.”

     Randy Coffey of Detail Authority in Fairfax, VA won the Best Work Vehicle Contest. Snowed in and unable to make it to the show, Coffey submitted pictures of the vehicle he designed inside and out, a valid way to enter the contest. “I was very surprised I won, although I think my unit is pretty sharp. I have been in the business 28 years and the trophy is fun to show.”

     Rounding out the competitions is Devon Collins who won in the Leather Restoration competition.

     Other recognitions awarded this year by the Mobile Tech committee are: Jim Goguen of Jim’s Auto in Ipswich, MA for Detailing Person of the Year (for the second year in a row); Jean Jaques Brunie of ExelTools for Accessories Person of the Year; and Mark Watson of Vinyl Pro for Person of the Year in Interior Restoration. Darnell Burch of Dents By Dar in Wheeling, WV won PDR Person of the Year; Brad Berry won for Paint Restoration Person of the Year; and Mike Sewald of Gateway Dent Training Center in Robertsville, MO is PDR Mentor of the Year. Sal Giuiano of Dent Gear won PDR Tools Person of the Year; David Casey of SuperGlass Windshield Repair in Atlanta, GA is Windshield/windscreen Person of the Year; and Dean Keith of Precision Coachworks in Southern California won as Wheel Restoration Person of the Year. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Todd Ford; and Kurt Lammon of Urethane Supply Company won the Nat Danas Memorial Award.

     From the smallest one-person shop to large franchises MTE is like visiting a big Tools’RUs! Going back to the early days of PDR, for instance, technicians were so fanatical about creating the perfect tool to help them repair dents that they forged their own from spare automotive parts. Today, there are so many tools available thanks to show exhibitors like Bad Dog, Dentcraft, Dent-Gear, Druz Toolz, Master Tech, PDR Gear, and PDR Finesse, that some techs are scared to fess up to their spouses when they get home!

      “Another tool? Don’t you have that one already?” or “How much did that one cost?” are all popular refrains. One hail dent technician who asked to remain anonymous admits he has a problem, “I have this one tool that is my favorite, but when I go to the MTE, I see all these new designs so I buy them. I get home and use it a couple of times and go right back to my oldie but goldie. I have dozens of new tools hanging in my shop I never use, but I can’t stop myself from buying them when I see them!”

      Lighting is imperative to precision dent removal and the technology has exploded in the past few years. Companies like Dent Specialists International, Ultra Dent, Pro PDR Solutions, ExelTools, Elim A Dent, and Dent Lite benefit from showing off their LED lighting technology and dozens of clamp mechanisms and mobile lighting stands.

     One of the unique aspects of the MTE is the presence of many hobbyists who are either frustrated by their current employment situation, or are considering leaving a current job in order to follow their dreams. There are plenty of choices in instruction and training programs from Gateway Dent Training, Know How Systems International (KhS Global), Lumisi, Recon Master School of Dents, Dent Zone, and Vale Training Solutions.

     The show also saw TV celebrities like Larry Kosilla of Ammo Autocare, host of Drive Clean on the Drive Channel; and Mike Phillips of AutoGeek. Also in attendance and an exhibitor was the legendary Natalio Balderrama of Miami Dents, known as the grandfather of PDR for bringing the industry to the US from Argentina in the 1980s.

     MTE even drew several international companies like HBC System from Denmark who exhibited their global smart repair equipment; Buy4MeUK out of Chester UK introduced their International package forwarding services; and Rupes out of Milan, Italy showcased their worldwide “Made in Italy” "Big Foot" buffer and tool manufacturing, Exeltools PDR Int'l displayed the latest PDR tools from France..

    Paint products and kits by 3M, Apollo, ColorBond, Colors on Parade, Dr. Colorchip, Future Cure, R.M. Andress & Associates, Trans-Mate, and SEM Products give scratch and chip repair technicians many options. From paint systems designed for the mobile tech who needs to quickly match and mix manufacturer’s colors remotely, to a more flexible, complex color system for the fixed shop owner with more space and time.

     Fast Shelter provided inflatable workstations and SpeedoKote presented their line of clearcoats, primers and coatings. There was also a large display of sprayers like those made by SprayMax.

     Technology is at the heart of the show. AutoMobile Technologies, PDR-Software by Web-Est, Sullivan’s PDR Estimator, $uper Tech, and Zenware all provide cutting-edge software to help with a variety of processes from business management, to filing insurance claims, to ordering product, and estimating job costs on the spot. Companies like Dingstinger and Dent Matrix provide smart phone and tablet applications.

     Hail chasers, famous for their nomadic lifestyles and internal compass for sniffing out hail events found a selection of catastrophe management companies like Advanced Dent Technology, Hi-Tech PDR, Catastrophe Solutions International, Hail360 Catastrophe Services, and Holcomb’s Hail Repair.

     Large product distributors like Blackplague / Dent Dial/ Jackham-mer, DVELUP, H&S Auto Shot, KECO, and Superior Restoration Products, joined the likes of Meguiar’s, Dent Wizard, and Steck Manufacturing with their lockout tools and autobody repair tools, to demonstrate a whole slew of products and equipment that kept technicians salivating over the latest and greatest. Glue Pull specialists like Dent Fix, Dent Glue, and Master Tech showed off their glue pots and glue pulling products.

    Viper Products, Vinyl Pro, and Urethane Supply represent the interior repair industry, while glass repair professionals flocked to the Glass Mechanix booth. Other interior products like Auto Mats & Accessories, and Control Button Re Nu are exciting for their innovation and exceptional quality.

     Ancillary services that are popular among both detailers and mobile techs alike are headlight repair, trim, and wheel enhancement. Companies like GlasWeld, Chrome-It Super Polish, Coast to Coast International, Delta Kits, Custom Upfits, and Liquid Resins/ADT, offer the newest products in these areas.

Signage, website design, and the marketing aspects played a large part in the show as well. CyberComm Marketing, DaSign Broads, DragonsLair Design, Pluk A Card, Traffix Graphix, and of course SunKing Publishing had booths to shed light on the business aspects sometimes referred to as What they Don’t Teach You in Dent School!

Nonprofit support groups like the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, the National Alliance of Paintless Dent Technicians (NAPDRT), and PDR Nation rounded out the very diverse mobile tech exhibitors.

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To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.  ~Thomas Watson, Sr.

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