Published: July 13th, 2012
“My dad was a body man, my grandfather was a body man, and I did it growing up,” Gary McKenzie said of his experience in vehicle repairs. “And then I kind of got away from it a little, branched out and did some different things. I lost my dad when I was young, so that kind of steered me away from it.” He did just that. Gary worked as a cattleman on a ranch and operated heavy machinery in the mines. When the mining industry began to have economic issues, Gary went back to what was coursing through his veins: Body work.
In 1988 he moved to Polk County in pursuits of a career in the Bartow Ford Body Shop. Since the dealership was not hiring at the time, he instead took a position doing body repairs for semis for Florida Truck and Trailer. He continued with this position for 3 years gaining a surplus of experience and knowledge when he finally got the call to work at the dealership. Hired in 1990, Gary has now been at Bartow Ford Company for an astonishing 23 years.
Benny Robles Sr., the President and owner of Bartow Ford, recently spent a day working in the Body Shop with Gary and his assistant Dave. “They showed me how good they are at their craft,” Benny explained. “They are so meticulous, determined to be the very best at what they do, and proud of their job.”
Every employee in Bartow Ford’s Body Shop participates in I-Car Collision Repair classes to keep up with the latest technology and different ways to repair vehicles. Gary is Platinum Certified through the I-Car program and will begin teaching his own I-Car classes at Bartow Ford this year. “It is like college for technicians,” said Gary. “It keeps us up to date.”
When Gary is not popping out dents and troubleshooting electrical complications in vehicles, he enjoys fishing, hunting, and spending time with his family. He has formed a closed relationship with Bartow Ford’s New Car Manager, Michael Bedenbaugh Jr., over their passion for fishing. “Not only is Gary a great fisherman, he is a great person,” Mike explained of Gary’s character. “He is a valuable asset here at Bartow Ford and people like him make Bartow Ford what we are today.”