Don’t tell Steve Hale ‘it can’t be done’

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FRANKFORT — Clinton native Steve Hale has made a lifetime habit of accomplishing what others have told him is impossible. After 16 years of ups and down, he’s now taking that attitude right to YouTube to share his experiences with others.

Steve Hale’s “A Wild Ride: New Glory” Episode 1 posted to YouTube on July 28 and as the host describes, it’s a series detailing the wild ride of his lifetime achievements in the face of insurmountable odds.

The ride for Hale began when he was just 15 years old, said the now 34-year-old custom car, truck and motorcycle fabricator/restoration specialist who owns Steve’s Restoration and Hot Rods in Frankfort.

His family owned an excavation company and the natural expectation was Hale would either go to college or join the family business after graduating from Clinton Central School in 2004. But an old junk Mercury caught his eye in a field one day, and it changed his path forever.

“I was riding through this field with my uncle where there were a bunch of old rotted out cars,” Hale said. “I thought I’d really like to have one of these to restore, and he said sure take that one.”

Initially, Hale had a lot of ‘naysayers’ who told him it was going to be too hard to restore this old wreck, especially his older brother John Dreimiller, who Hale admits was his boyhood idol growing up. Instead of letting that negativity beat him down, it inspired him to do the best job he could with no experience.

Hale said he realized later his brother only wanted what was best for him, but the way he taught life-lessons was old school.

“He’d inspire me to be my very best against him competitively,” he said. “But then he’d kick the stuffing out of me just to show me no one gives you anything, you have to rely on yourself. I decided right then and there I was going to become the best auto body and paint man I could just to show my brother I could do it. In fact, I believe it was my brother John pushing me the way he did that gave me the confidence and ability to succeed.”

Hale said the funny thing is most car restoration guys are older and they, along with other people, told me I was too young also, except for one family member.”

“My brother-in-law, Anthony Manfredo, he’s an amazing auto body repair man, and he did all the bodywork on the Mercury,” Hale explained. “He was instrumental in shaping me into the auto body and painter I became. Also, one of my brother John’s friends, named Bill Battle was an ace mechanic and he got the car running again. He was a big influence on me when I was just starting out.”

Hale said the Mercury came out decent, but he knew in his heart he could do better. He had a lot of friends who saw the car and started asking him to work on their cars, which he did in his parents’ garage on Kirkland Avenue. Eventually, he moved down to his parents’ barn and worked out of it.

His next vehicle was a late model Jaguar he bought for $600 and together with the help of Battle, Manfredo, another friend named Rick Spinella, and his brother John, they restored the vehicle to showroom condition. In fact, he entered the vehicle in the 2004 Clinton Alumni Car Show and won first place in the restoration category.

“The hardship with this vehicle was the difference between foreign and domestic cars,” Hale said. “Also, the intricacies of the engines and differences in tools, so I learned something new there.”

After that business took off at his parents’ garage, his friends’ parents asked him to do their vehicles and before long he decided this was going to be his college. He was doing what he loved, and he was really very satisfied.

In 2006, a client asked him to paint a car another shop was taking too long to complete. The customer was tired of waiting. It had been two years since he first took the car in. And while Hale said sure, and painted the car, he didn’t see what was coming next. The customer reported the original shop to New York state auto inspectors and when they made a visit to Hale’s barn to see the vehicle. It was discovered Hale didn’t possess a business license, insurance or a tax ID number.

“The inspector said he was going to shut me down and it would cost me $10,000 a day in fines until I got my license,” Hale said. “Well, my uncle, Norm Deep Sr., helped me out with the inspectors convincing them to drop the fines if I got a shop right away and owner of Clinton Collision, Joe Lamonto allowed me to use space at his business so I’d have a valid business address.”

“We’ve known Steve a long time,” said Laura Lamanto-Bailey, manager at Clinton Collision. “My dad helped him get started in his business and years later Steve took over restoration of a 1940 GMC tow-truck that my father and uncle worked on previously for about 10 years.”

After Lamonto helped Hale, he got serious and developed a business plan with help of SUNY College of Technology. He began to look for property and met with town boards, only to find they were less than cooperative.

“Again, I became very discouraged,” Hale said. “But I just pressed on refusing to quit.”

Finally he found a shop in Marcy, where he spent the next four years doing restorations to classic muscle cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Now was the time Hale said he wanted to prove his ability to design and restore a vehicle that would prove he was in the same league as those he saw on TV.

Hale and his crew came up with a theme vehicle for the “green” community. A 1956 Ford F-100 pickup, named “The Green Machine” customized with trimmed copper, a recycled material, as opposed to chrome, by Tim Broadbent, all the copper donated from Revere Copper in Rome. Next they developed a 600 horsepower big block liquid propane fueled engine that emitted nearly zero emissions. Next the paint came from PPG, (formerly Pittsburgh Paint and Glass) who just came out with its environment friendly waterborne base line. Hale said his long-time friend and fellow restoration specialist Ken Hodinger was instrumental in not only this project, but so many that came before.

The truck was such a success, the PPG reps offered Hale a job.

Because the Envirobase line of paint was brand new (2009), PPG donated all the paint to Hale, who as it turns out was the first shop to spray this new paint line.

“The truck came out so nice they asked me to travel the country to promote it,” Hale said. “From 2009 to 2012 I traveled to Las Vegas three times, Nashville, Knoxville, Florida and Detroit and other cities. As a young man of only 23, I took great comfort in travelling with my old high school shop teacher Keith Williams who really looked out for me and watched my back. His life experience was a tremendous help to me.

Eventually Hale did a show in Tennessee where they offered him a spot on Spike TV’s Power Block with Courtney Hansen. Hale said after the show he was approached by producers and offered a host position on Power Block. Despite how generous an offer it was, Hale turned it down because his desire was to build his own brand.

Little did he know at that time- things were going to get rough again.

“Regardless of my new success, I was broke,” Hale said. “Everything I made went back into the business and we were staying afloat but there wasn’t any profit. Around 2010, everything came to head I had to move out of the shop. I figured I lost the business.”

Hale said he moved all his tools into one of his brother’s empty trailer trucks and he was going to wash his hands of the whole business, despite his limited success.

What Hale didn’t count on was people were still looking for him to do work on their cars. So with the help of his father who bought a building from the bank, he restored his present location and started doing jobs again with the help of friends and family.

And then the phone rang and this time it wasn’t a new client, it was the producers from the reality TV show “American Restoration.”

The show was revamping its content and wanted Hale to do several episodes.

“It was great,” Hale said. “I finally felt like I was on my way to having my own show, which I always believed I could do. I saw a lot of other fabricators on TV and was feeling left out, so this was my opportunity. Along with key employees, Pete Wilcox, Marty Comstock, Alec Voce, Joey Stasaowski, and Frank Frazzitta, along with several others, we were able to get two years worth of work done in three months.”

During the process of filming the shows, Hale paid attention. He learned more about production than he ever expected. He learned how to write, produce, and found people to edit and do the audio. When his contract with the History Channel ran its course, he began to develop his own show on YouTube.

“With YouTube I can control the content,” he said. “Content that includes lessons from “75 Hard Program” a self-discipline program that includes strict diet, two physical workouts each day, drink a gallon of water each day, read ten pages of a self-help book each day and take a progress picture each day.

“I want to make videos that teach people how to become the best versions of themselves,” Hale said.

“My episodes are going to include my success here at the shop, but also topics on music, arm wrestling (which Hale is a competitor in), physical fitness and how to improve your mind. Perhaps if we all restore ourselves, perhaps as a team we can come together to make our country the best version of itself.”

You can catch Hale’s videos, podcasts and feature video clips by logging on to his Facebook page www.facebook.com/steve.hale.58 or go straight to YouTube and subscribe to see all his upcoming episodes.

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