Jersey Boys – The Rise of Starlight Restorations
Egg Harbor, New Jersey’s Starlight Restorations is a shop on the rise. While on a recent East Coast road trip, I reached out to Rob Ida before I traveled to ask about some New Jersey shops I should visit and line up some features. When I drove up to Starlight Restorations in South Jersey, I could tell it was going to be a good day.
I was immediately met with open arms, fresh sandwiches for lunch and all four team members offering welcoming handshakes.
Shop owner Doug Ims, 40, spent a decade at Restoration Connection learning the art of restoring classic Corvettes before hanging out his own shingle in 2015. While preparing and painting Corvettes was his specialty, he learned the art of quality craftsmanship along with the business side of this hi-octane industry. Ims is as passionate as anyone I have met in the car restoration business. He told us “This journey has been something I’ve always wanted to do. Nobody in my family was remotely Interested in cars. It was a dream that became a reality though committing to the process.”
Ims, a speed enthusiast since childhood, husband, father and former motocross racer, wanted to step outside the ‘Vette realm and build early hot rods and other muscle cars and classics. That’s exactly what he and his guys have done at Starlight Restorations.
A recent hire of Mike Puggi as Business Development Director and Customer Relations lead has rapidly accelerated the business plan of Starlight Restorations. Puggi, a former President and CEO in the casino business, brings decades of corporate experience to the table as well as a lifelong passion for hot cars. It was a brilliant hire in the sense of defining a direction and mission statement for the new shop. “When you see a Starlight car you know it, Puggi said. “We have developed our own style. We communicate and walk our clients through the entire process methodically so everyone is on the same page. We take all the guess work out of the process through our constant communication.” Looking around the shop, it’s obviously working.
The shop is impressive and clean! A comfortable lobby is the entry point leading to the 3,000 square foot shop space where the tools and machines were humming. Mechanic and fabricator Chris Mazza was busy disassembling a 454 big block powered ’72 Corvette convertible while machinist and CAD specialist Rob Dyer was doing his thing on the fab table. All of the state of the art shop equipment gets used to its fullest extent and Starlight Restorations is well stocked. Upstairs is where you will find parts for just about anything as well as powder coated goodies hanging out to dry.
Walking around the shop, there were five projects under construction, another four projects waiting in the wings. In addition to four Corvettes, there was an all original ’69 Camaro Pace car sitting atop a Roadster Shop chassis taking shape. There was also a healthy sounding purple ’34 Ford coupe parked out front.
These guys know what’s up and use only the best-available components in their builds. LS engines, big blocks, Roadster Shop chassis underneath select builds, Wilwood and Baer brakes inside wheel wells, AkzoNobel paint products, Forgeline wheels and all the good stuff. They take no shortcuts or compromises on quality here at Starlight Restorations.
The car that put Ims on the map was Lou Notaro’s 427 Stingray which you read about last week. The red Stingray has crushed the competition at every show its entered and is a masterful example of a Starlight Restorations car. Shooting it and driving it on the backroads of Egg Harbor was invigorating. A special tip of the cap to Chris Mazza for letting us shoot the Stingray road shots out of his bad ass Bronco.
We left Starlight Restorations refreshed and stoked. Here is another group of younger guys tackling car crafting and restoration with unyielding passion and professionalism. Mike Puggi summed it up perfectly when he told us “Our short and long term goal is to really get the ball rolling towards becoming one of the nation’s premier shops. We’re about ready to expand the shop for more room. We are positioned to expand and grow but our attention is focused on supreme quality.”
Starlight Restorations. On the rise indeed.