When Joe Jacobs was approached to open an auto detail shop along with his smog check business, he wasn’t sure about the idea at first. 

“I said, ‘If we can’t be the best, I’m not doing it. We’re not going to be just a detail shop; we’re going to be the very best auto detail shop.’

“I don’t cut corners,” Jacobs said. “If you can’t do it right, it’s not worth doing.”


How is business?

We opened the detail shop at the beginning of 2009 — at the beginning of the recession — and we’re still in business. We’ve made money. Not a lot of money. But it’s doing OK. 


What’s a common question you get about your work?

“What is a detail? How long should it take?” People don’t really know why they should (have a car detailed) or how long it takes to do it, or what’s involved. They get oil changes and do mechanical maintenance, but when it comes to the interior of the car and the paint, they don’t realize it takes maintenance too. 


Do you have any tips or tricks of the trade to share?

When you wash you car, after you dry it, feel your paint. If it feels rough at all, you need to have it clayed and waxed. Stuff stuck in the paint will eventually eat through the clear coat. The only way to remove that is to clean it with a clay bar. Detailer’s clay picks up anything stuck in the paint. Then you have a smooth surface you can apply wax to. 


What does a detail cost?

$275 to $700, depending on vehicle, color and condition of the car. 


Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

Rick Hendrick (of Hendrick Motorsports), Mike Helton (of NASCAR) and Dale Earnhardt.


What’s the worst job you ever had?

Toxic waste cleanup with no protective gear — it was for a large mining company in the Southern California area. 


How did you get into this business?

I did not choose to be an auto mechanic, it chose me. I was born with the talent of knowing and understanding a vehicle. 


What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

To design a part for a car that will save lives.


What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I was one of the first General Motors professional driver crash test “dummies” for their special projects division. We used to take cars out in Michigan and literally wreck these things and give them back to the engineers. I tested ZR1 Corvettes. One of the things on our list to do was to set off the airbag without hitting the front end of the car. This was in the late ’80s. 


What other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”

Kevin D’Adamo of B&G Tires.


More from Joe Jacobs


What job would you like to try/not like to try?

The job I would like to do is be Sprint Cup crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports.

The job I would least like is to be president of the USA or governor of California.


What was your first job?

My first job was an auto parts washer.


What was your childhood ambition?

To be an Air Force test pilot and fly jets.


If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be? 

Sitting on my dock in my backyard in Mooresville, N.C., my rod in the water of Lake Norman with no bait and a cold beer.


What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?

Finding young, qualified technicians with the ambitions.


Whom do you most admire in the business world? 

Dale Earnhardt Sr.


What’s on your to-do list?

Attend a major NASCAR event at Talladega and/or Daytona.


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