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Nine Individuals Who Made History in the Collision Repair Industry in Manitoba

Check out the stories of these nine incredible individuals who have left a lasting impact on Manitoba's collision repair industry. Their outstanding contributions have earned them a well-deserved induction into the ATA Hall of Fame.

text and photos courtesy of the Automotive Trades Association of Manitoba (ATA)

The Automotive Trades Association of Manitoba (ATA) held its first President’s Ball since 2008 on April 22, 2023. The event brought together shop owners, shop managers, suppliers, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) executives, and representatives from all three political parties in Manitoba.

The evening began with greetings from Hon. Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Justice and Attorney General; MLA Dugald Lamont, Independent Liberal; and Eric Herbalin, president and CEO of  MPI. The highlight of the evening was the induction of the first nine members into the newly created ATA Hall of Fame. The inductees were recognized for their contributions, impact, and influence on the collision repair industry in Manitoba. The first nine inductees are Ray Baptiste, Stu Nicol, Ted Kostynyk, Dave Winter, Doug McComb, Dave Fawcett, Joyce Sobering, Jim Gauthier, and Don Sobering. Don Sobering was also recognized with a Lifetime Achievement award.

The ATA plans to make the President’s Ball an annual event and will continue to recognize members who are actively making a difference in the collision repair industry. 

Jim Gauthier (Jim Gauthier Automotive Group)

Jim was born and raised in Transcona, Manitoba, leaving school in the eighth grade to get into the car business. He worked in collision repair at Russell Motors from 1955 until 1961, ultimately becoming the manager. Later, Jim ventured into sales with his father, Woodward, and eventually gained the Studebaker franchise.

Unfortunately, Studebaker went out of business, and Jim went bankrupt with them, and Jim went to work for his competitor for five years. He was later approached by AMC to take over their dealership on Ellice Avenue, which he turned around before moving on to acquire Transcona Dodge. In 1980 Jim purchased Community Chev Olds, now known as Jim Gauthier Chev Olds.

Despite challenges like high interest rates, Jim thrived by focusing on used cars. He expanded his dealership portfolio, earned numerous awards, and became a respected figure in the industry. His wife, Joyce, was his strongest partner. Their son, Randy, has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become a president of the Gauthier Group.

In 2019, Jim’s philanthropic endeavors and charity engagement earned him the title of Manitoba Philanthropist of the Year.

Ray Baptiste (Craig Dunn Motor City)

Ray grew up in the Island of Grenada in the Caribbean. He traveled abroad in search of opportunities and experiences, and in the 1970s he found himself heading for the prairies with the dream of creating a legacy.

A car enthusiast to the core, Ray’s interest in cars was a natural fit and led him to develop his talent for autobody as a profession. One day he was approached by Bill Gillespie and was offered a position at Gillespie Motors in Portage la Prairie, which kickstarted his career.

In 1992 Ray joined Craig Dunn Motor City, where he transformed the body shop into a successful and reputable business. His legacy is one of patiently teaching and mentoring staff, positively providing for the needs of his clients, and growing the body shop into a highly-productive business that deals with a very high percentage of insurance claims.

Ray was a leader, mentor, and a person full of energy. Sadly, he passed away in 2022 after a fight with cancer. He will always be remembered for his dedication to quality, doing the right thing, and keeping a positive outlook in every situation.

Stu Nicol (Glascow Collision Center)

Stu Nicol was born in Bowsman, Manitoba, in 1932. He left school at 16, and his automotive career began soon after. He learned how to paint, and then (with no experience) he opened an auto body shop, Glasgow Automotive Services.

When diesel engines began to arrive in the late 50s, Stu realized his job would soon become obsolete, so he bought out Riverview Plating and continued to run the business supplying chrome (and eventually plastic bumpers as well) to other auto body shops in the city. Stu also did a lot of chrome plating for classic car enthusiasts. Over the years, he tried his hand at a few other enterprises. He ran a couple of taxi cabs, owned a service station, hotel, and an Italian restaurant. He was always busy and willing to learn new things.

Stu was actively involved in associations like the South Osborne Biz and the Automotive Trade Association (ATA) , where he served as a president. In 2001, a fire destroyed the building on Glasgow Avenue. Stu re-opened the shop a year later at a new location, and called it Glasgow Collision Centre . Stu passed away in July 2022 at the age of 90.

Dave Winter (Winter’s Auto Body)

Dave Winter was born in Neuenburg, Russia, in 1935. His family fled Russia during WWII and would later immigrate to Canada in 1948. They settled in Manitoba and began a new life.

Dave started working at Kruse Auto Body at 15 and founded his own company, Winter’s Auto Body, 10 years later, in 1960. He slowly established a good reputation, and the business began to grow. Dave was good with his hands; he could fix anything. He was professional in his appearance, clean shaven, with never a hair out of place. He carried a briefcase and a lunch kit to work every day.

With his wife Marilyn, they had four children: a daughter, Christine, and three sons, Robert, Frederick and Michael, who would later follow Dave into the business.

A long-time supporter of the ATA, Dave attended the President’s Ball on a regular basis. He was courteous and respectful to other shop owners, a collegial attitude that persists within the ATA today. Dave remained involved at Winter’s well into his retirement years. He never lost the desire to work, always pushing forward.

Doug McCombs (Pembina Dodge Chrysler)

Doug was born in Winnipeg in 1939. He started his career as a CP yards railroader, but unfortunately, his foot was crushed on the locomotive roundtable. Next, he then found his passion as an apprentice plumber, but this was a short-lived vocation. He later became a parts salesman at Century Motors and then moved to Penner Dodge in 1968.

In 1970 Dough started working at Pembina Dodge Chrysler under Ike Vickar, and he stayed there until his retirement in 2004. His natural gift for the gab made salesmanship and selling come easy for him. He was an active member of the ATA and involved in committees such as entertainment and elections.

Doug was a successful salesman, mentor, and friend to many. He received numerous awards and trips from Chrysler, and he represented the dealership and the industry in many ways. He was a true gentleman who made friendships easily, cared for others, and he was fun to be around.

Doug was married to Gerry, and they had two children, Jason and Jodi. In 2004, Douglas retired to Kelowna, B.C., but still visited Winnipeg often. He enjoyed building, RVing/camping and traveling.

Joyce Sobering (Sobering Auto Electric)

Joyce was born in 1942 into a family of car enthusiasts. In 1946 her family purchased Eastern Sales in Beausejour, Manitoba. She learned about the automotive industry from her dad, and she worked with him from the age of 12. Joyce’s dad was her biggest supporter, often telling Joyce that she could do anything.

Joyce biggest challenges occurred while working at the dealership. She had to work twice as hard, given she was the boss’s daughter, and more so because she was a female in a male dominant industry.  Joyce has worked in the industry for over 60 years, and she has contributed to the success of the trade tenfold. Together with her husband Don Sobering, they owned and operated Sobering Auto Electric Ltd; however, Joyce still found the time and energy to volunteer countless hours of service to the community while raising five children.

In 1986/87, Joyce was the recording secretary for the ATA, and together with the executive, they organized a successful annual four-day tradeshow and conference for members. They also developed bylaws.

In keeping with her commitment to the trade, in 2002, Don and Joyce founded the Motor Vehicle Industry of Manitoba (MVIM), helping hundreds of people get their Red Seal certification.

Dave Fawcett (Allen’s Alignment)

Dave was born and raised in Winnipeg. At the age of 12, he struck a deal with his dad for his dad’s broken down 1956 Dodge. If Dave could fix it, the car would be his, and he became the proud owner.

Dave started his automotive career with Allan’s Alignment at the age of 17, and he worked his way up to being manager, eventually buying the shop from its owners.  He was also active in the ATA, first as mechanical secretary, and later as the ATA’s president.

Dave worked with Manitoba Vehicle Standards and set up The Body Integrity Program, which is still in use today. ATA awarded Dave for his service with the President’s Man of the Year Award in 2003-2005.

In 1993 The I-CAR Committee asked Dave to join them as an instructor, and he was voted the Top Canadian Repair Instructor for 1993. He was later awarded Top Steering & Suspension Instructor in 1997. Dave believes his greatest accomplishment as a member of the ATA and I-CAR was in setting up the Frame Estimating and Procedure Program with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI)

Allan’s Alignment become a part of Winter’s Collision Repair in 2017, and Dave stayed on to pass his knowledge and skills on to Mike Winter. After 50 years in the automotive trade business, Dave finally retired.

Ted Kostynyk (Gateway Auto Body)

Ted was born in Arbakka, Manitoba, in 1927. Soon after, Ted and his wife Anne had their first child and moved to Sundown, where Ted worked as a lumberjack. By that time, he has already developed a passion for automobiles and learned how to repair them by working on his own car and observing auto body technicians in Winnipeg.

In 1953, Ted and Anne opened Sundown Auto Body. He taught Anne how to apply automotive paint, and they operated the shop for the seven years while saving up enough money to move to Winnipeg. In Winnipeg, they built a 2,700-square-foot modern facility, Gateway Auto Body. At a time when auto body was still an emerging industry, Ted helped many of Manitoba’s earliest body men and painters learn the trade, and several went on to either start up their own auto body businesses or move onto other careers in the industry. 

Ted died in 2001, leaving a legacy business for the next four generations of Kostynyks. At the heart of Gateway Auto Body are Ted’s core values engrained in each generation—honesty, service distinction, value, continuous improvement, and innovation, along with a strong work ethic. 

Don Sobering (Sobering Auto Electric) • Lifetime Achievement Award

Born in 1938, in Winnipeg, Don was passionate about cars from an early age and could be found disassembling and rebuilding old cars. Since his dad, John, founded Sobering Auto Electric in 1948, Don was almost always there, taking a great pride in cleaning and delivering generators and starters to customers via bicycle.

In 1960 Don obtained his Red Seal certification as an auto repair mechanic and opened his own business, White Rose service station, in 1966.

In 1971, Don and his wife Joyce purchased Sobering Auto Electric and moved the business to its current location at 1575 Dugald Road. In 1986, Don accepted the position of ATA President, and worked tirelessly for the next four years improving and building a stronger ATA. Together with his team, they started negotiations with Autopac, built a strong membership, involved students in their convention program, and finalized a new constitution and bylaws.

In 2002, Don and Joyce created a legacy by founding the Motor Vehicle Industry of Manitoba (MVIM). The industry has benefited from the MVIM’s ongoing scholarship program and Don’s commitment to improving the image of skilled technicians. ■

Cover photo: One of nine inductees into the ATA’s inaugural Hall of Fame, Joyce Sobering, with ATA Past President Johnny Vernaus, and Secretary/Treasurer Renée Sicotte.