Doctor Who, Dr. John, Dr. Kildare, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Doolittle…to name but a few. However with all due respect, those dudes were all fictional, as in not real people. You may even have heard of the Rug Doctor, but that’s just a California company that doesn’t even trace its own roots back to an actual person, you know, like a doctor.
Which brings us to Dr. Dent, “Kansas City’s Premiere Paintless Dent Repair Shop.”
Hey, I always figured like the other phony “doctors,” there was no actual Dr. Dent. It was probably just another clever name for a local company specializing in repairing dings and dents in cars using special tools that sidestep the need to pay exorbitant body shop bills.
I can’t remember when I first heard about Doctor Dent. I guess it must have been in the early 1990s. I don’t even remember what I was driving – maybe a Volkswagen Corrado – and I’d suffered one of those annoying parking lot dings that was just enough to be irksome but not worthy of a several hundred or a thousand dollar body shop repair.
That’s when I stumbled onto some dude on Shawnee Mission Parkway in O.P. (who later did slam time for bilking Uncle Sam) to get my car de-dented. I remember the experience quite well.
A guy came to where I worked and set up a little top secret tent around the part of the car being repaired. That’s because the then new process was TOP SECRET. Like they didn’t want me to see how he did it and then go into business and become a competitor.
That was then, ladies and gentlemen.
Quite recently my Fiat Abarth suffered another egregious parking lot wrong.
A large, ungainly (and unsightly) dent on my driver’s side front wheel arch. Nasty looking indeed, but it didn’t break the paint. Body shop guy Dave at Carriage & Motor Works on Southwest Boulevard was too busy to fix it right away and suggested Dr. Dent. Ah yes, Dr. Dent.
In the meantime another body shop said, no way it could be fixed paintlessly. It would require actual body work and repainting to the tune of around $1,500 or more.
A few cellphone calls later there I stood, face-to-face in a Lawrence parking lot with an unassuming Dr. Dent dude named Delton Griffee. That’s right, Delton.
Turns out Griffee was and is the one and only, actual Dr. Dent, the man.
There may not be a Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy or Rug Doctor, but there darn sure is a Dr. Dent, and there before my very eyes he stood in all his blue collar glory – just a regular Joe.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” Griffee said of his entry into the paintless repair biz. “I started in 1989. I went to school in Springfield, Missouri and it cost me $100,000 to learn how to do it. The process was originally developed by Mercedes. There are a lot of schools now that only cost $10,000, but you don’t get what you pay for.”
The biz took off locally when the Dr. was called on by area car dealers to tackle the until-then, insanely expensive job of repairing cars pock mark damaged by hail.
“I look forward to spring when it hails a little bit,” Griffee muses. “I’m one of the only ones that does – me and the roofers.”
Prior to Griffee and his brethren, car dealers, insurance companies and individuals with hail damage paid through the teeth to get cars repaired.
“When I started, it was all body shop stuff,” Griffee says. “And it could run $15,000 for one car. But I’d do it for three grand and the insurance companies loved it.
“These days it actually runs off a matrix system that the insurance companies developed,” he continues. “It usually runs about $1,000 per vehicle and it’s still the same process, but they’re not paying body shop prices anymore. They go directly to us.”
And while Griffee loves what he does and has paid for his paintless dent diploma a zillion times over, it does get a little old after a quarter of a century of running all over creation and fixing dents. In a perfect world, he’d find a partner who was a little younger to run the day to day operations and allow the good doctor to relax a bit more and enjoy life.
Griffee’s more than ready for that.
“I had a dream the other night that I’d died and gone to heaven,” he says. “And I looked over and there were my (effing) Dr. Dent tools and I realized that I was at the other place. That’s how ready I am to quit this job.”