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Local mechanic makes TV debut on national show

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By Mercy Lopez

Michael Romero started his automotive business in a small two-bay garage on Alamo Street.

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But don’t let the humble beginnings fool you. He has expanded that business to an automotive shop that brings in vehicles to the Meadow City from all over.

Romero’s meticulous work has even caught the attention of a television personality, propelling him to the national spotlight via a cable network show.

The local mechanic was given the opportunity to show off his automotive skills in an episode of Spike TV’s Search and Restore. The episode aired this past weekend.

Romero, the owner of Michael’s Precision Automotive, along with employees, Jessie Vigil and Travis Hern traveled to Nashville in August to help rebuild a 1951 Hudson Hornet Coupe for the filming of Search and Restore.

The show featured the vehicle’s complete restoration from start to finish for the Moore family of Michigan.

For Romero, a Las Vegas native, the show provided him nationwide attention and a chance to give back to a family that has endured some turmoil and to ensure that a promise is kept.

Tom Moore fell off a roof, shattering his ankle and injuring his back. The injuries resulted in his losing his job, leaving him with no money to to fix up the Hudson that he planned to restore.

That was until Search and Restore, well, rescued his prized possession and took it to Nashville. For four weeks, automotive-skilled volunteers including Romero, Hern and Vigil worked for roughly 3,000 man-hours to completely restore and customize the car. The build was led by television personality Tim Strange.

The iconic car was a big hit in NASCAR in the 1950s and was even part of the animated film “Cars.”

For most people, becoming a part of the restoration team isn’t an easy task. Romero, however, didn’t have much difficulty.

In the early summer, Romero’s wife, Melissa, submitted the online application for her husband. Soon, the television producers were calling and asking for his assistance in the show.

“We were watching it one weekend and they asked for car builders. (Melissa) sent in my certificates and link to my website,” Romero said. “There was even a guy there that said he has applied a hundred times. They only choose the best, and I got in my first time.”

Romero took a gamble and invited Vigil and Hern to accompany him on this journey. It paid off. Soon, the trio found themselves working on the custom rarity that is the Hudson.

For one week, the local men worked long days doing bodywork as their contribution to making the rare vehicle into a lead sled. And Strange acknowledged during the show that the week that Romero, Vigil and Hern worked on the vehicle was the most labor-intensive week of the four-week restoration project.

“We had the hardest part of the build. We put in 18-hour days,” a smiling Romero said during an interview at his shop, located at 514 South Commerce St. “These guys did not stop, and we really impressed them. We helped build a basket case to a show-stopping car.”

Their journey from a small garage to appearing on a television show aired nationally was  memorable. The three have made a name for themselves in custom restorations.

It also helped uplift Hern, who has been down since the passing of Gene Hern more than a year ago. Gene Hern died in a tragic trench collapse on Cinder Road in May 2011.

“Travis helps me here at the shop in the afternoons. I thought this might be something uplifting for him so, I took a gamble and took him,” Romero said. “It ended up working out since one of the other teams didn’t show up.”

But the three didn’t just stop there. They were soon asked to return to the Nashville facility to help with another restoration.

Earlier this month they helped with a muscle car. That episode has not yet aired.

The original restoration can still be seen online at www.powerblocktv.com

Strange paid Romero and his crew a compliment during the show.

“The group for Michael’s Precision Automotive from Las Vegas, New Mexico drove up all the way from New Mexico and anything you want them to do, they do it …,” Strange said. “They will not sit, they won’t stand still.”