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story.lead_photo.caption Tim Herron turned his 1977 Ford truck that drove him to and from high school into a mega truck. Herron, who has owned and operated Herron Custom Paint since 2004, mainly restores classic cars for drivers both in the local area and even around the country. Photo by Liz Morales / California Democrat.

Tim Herron faced a lot of different career paths when he graduated from high school.

Little did the Moniteau County man know a cherished 1977 Ford truck held the clue to his future career.

Herron, who grew up in Newburg, graduated in 1983 and had a handful of scholarships to use for different colleges and the opportunity to use an ROTC scholarship for the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Navy.

There was also the option to pursue underwater welding.

"I was a scuba diver in high school, so I thought about underwater welding," he said. "That would have been me working on offshore oil rigs, and those guys are gone about six months out of the year, then you have six months off. It's huge money, but it's an extremely dangerous job. I think they said the life expectancy with that is 35 years old."

Having not felt right about either of his options, Herron took a full-time position working at a saw mill after graduation. But he didn't stay there too long.

"I had a buddy who painted cars in his family's garage, so I'd go out and help him," Herron said. "And I thought, 'Oh, this is cool!"

This notion led him to apply and accept a seat at Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie to study custom painting and auto collision repair. This decision fared well, as Herron has been working in the field for 35 years.

"My first job was at Independent Auto Body in Rolla," he said. "Then I worked at Unique Auto in St. James, but that place isn't there anymore."

After painting and fixing up shop at Unique Auto for a couple of years, Herron heard from Fred Bremmerkamp, who owned Body Magic in Jefferson City.

"I applied for the job right after I got back from Laramie, but I hadn't heard anything back for a while," Herron said. "Fred told me he never hired anyone right out of tech school. He said he wanted them to have a couple years' experience before he signed them on."

This ideology fit Herron's narrative, so he learned all he could from Bremmerkamp.

"He was a great guy," Herron said. "I learned a lot from him, probably more than I could have from anyone else."

For four years, Herron worked under Bremmerkamp at Body Magic. After working for another company for 14 years, Herron started doing his own side projects.

"It just got busier and busier out here, so in 2004 I built this shop," he said of Herron Custom Paint, located off Highway K near California. "In 2005, I was full time out here."

"I've done it all for 35 years," he added, "all the paint work, polishing, sanding and assembly."

He has always kept the collision repair and painting projects separate from one another because "collision is nasty work."

While the restorative projects come from different parts of the country and more locally, he tends to like one part of restoring the best.

"Dealing with a person and their car is what I like," he said.

The classic cars may not be the easiest t0 manage, but he still carries on.

"The collision work will always come first," Herron said. "A person relies on their car to get to and from work, so I get back to work so the driver can."

But then he has an opportunity to be creative with the painting.

"Everybody's different, and they want a little something different," he said. "I've done tie-dye, a whole lot of fire, skulls, demon heads. I airbrush it all. It's all drawn on with chalk and airbrushed over. Then you wipe it off with a wet rag and go to town."

Cars have been his main forte, as "people have real sentimental attachments to cars," but he's also painted "fire on everything" including mailboxes, toolboxes and even a gun.

He's even done a little work in Columbia.

"You know the Mizzou Arena?" Herron said. "Yeah, I did that."

Herron painted tiger stripes on the outer edge of the Mizzou Arena basketball court as well as the University of Missouri's Hearnes Center volleyball court.

Friday afternoon, a truck near and dear to Herron's heart was sitting in his garage waiting for the weekend to arrive. That was a 1977 Ford truck, and it happened to be the first truck he ever painted.

"I painted it in 1987, but I drove it back and forth to high school before that," he said. "It even went to Wyoming with me. I showed this in the late '80s and early '90s at car shows, but now I just play in the mud with it."

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