My Texas Trip with Bobby Part 3

My Texas Trip with Bobby
Part Three – Mastercraft Bodyworks


The first leg of our trip had been made. We safely arrived in Dallas, ate a huge meal, and settled in to relax a bit. Tomorrow would be another interesting day. Not only would we pick up Bobby’s Healey, we would take a tour of the sprawling body shops encompassing Mastercraft Bodyworks restoration and customization business. I have been in a few restoration shops, some pretty impressive, others not so much. This one I was looking for- ward to.

Here’s why. Those cars we saw on day one, many were painted here. Some were actually hand built here – from pictures or models to replicate historic cars of the past. Per Bobby, these guys would show us around the shops and how they do things – to a point.

The next morning we drove to Ovilla, Texas and parked Bobby’s rig in front of the shops. A Ferrari on the roof and one in the lot told me this was not the run of the mill body shop. Ray- mond Chovanetz, the founder in 1975, immediately came out and welcomed Bobby back. They were preparing the Healey for transport and in the meantime we were welcome to look around. Since he is retired (he says that only means he comes in a little later now), he became our guide.

There are several shops within the shop. A fabrication area where body panels are repaired or made, a body shop, an uphol- stery shop, and of course a paint area. A separate warehouse stores special cars in waiting. Mr. Chovanetz is very proud of what he and his sons have accomplished. Having seen Gene Ponder’s cars, we were shown their beginnings.

Measurements were taken from photos or models. Jigs were made. Life-size photo blowups of the original cars were laid out on the floor. Wire mockups were made. Then hand formed aluminum bodies were made. The re- sults are amazing.

The shop is now run by Erik Chovanetz who took over management in 1995. Specializing in custom body
work, custom paint and color matching, etc. As Erik and Raymond told us, cars like Gene Ponder’s build a reputation, but it is the custom work for the hot rodders and pick ups along with restoration work that pays the bills. Erik showed us many of the exotic cars and custom award winners whose work had been done here.

Time to pick up the Healey arrives too soon. Several employees lift the aluminum body from their dolly and place it on Bobby’s. The two tone 100S replica is awesome in the sunlight. She is pushed into the trailer and tethered down. Decision time. Our plan was to stay two nights and relax a bit. A friend of mine had passed away. Bobby, the kind of person he is, recognized I needed to get home and agreed to head out. Another hefty meal and we hit the highways again for Montgomery. What a long drive it seemed to be. We arrived safe & sound @ 3:00 AM Tuesday morning. My sweet wife got me up at 6:30 with the – get to work, you need to save this vacation time – admonition. I did and at 2:30 we headed to Tallahassee.

I was whipped, and imagined Bobby was even more so. I kept calling and got no answer. I was beginning to worry. Maybe he was ill from the trip. Finally he picked up – all bubbly and happy as a kid at Christmas. While I was whipped, he’d been out working on the Healey, putting suspension pieces on his new baby.