Tue November 19, 2019
Lori Lovely – CEG Correspondent
It's hard to miss the purple logging truck driven by Alex "Tater" Opdahl for Whitco Inc., a trucking company owned by Rick and Barb Whitcomb in Kamiah, Idaho.
Whitco was founded on Sept. 5, 1984. On the day Rick married Barb, Rick's father escorted the couple to Farmers State Bank in Uniontown, Wash., to get a loan for a 1977 Peterbilt 359. That was followed by a second truck in 1986 and later by a third.
Buying and selling trucks along the way included trading in one truck on the purchase of two Peterbilt glider kits in 1990. On May 5, 1996, Whitco incorporated and bought seven Mack trucks from KJ Weller Inc.
Budco Custom Body & Paint Inc., owned by the Whitcomb's son Bud, painted the purple 2019 W900 L Model Kenworth log truck in La Grande, Ore., for the Whitco driver. The truck, which features a 265 wheel base, also displays striping and lettering by Paul Mackie.
In addition to logging trucks, Bud Whitcomb, owner of Budco since 2012, has painted long-haul trucks, insurance truck wrecks, show trucks built and customized specifically for shows, cars, pickups, motorcycles, boats, horse trailers and more.
Budco, a full-service auto, heavy truck and recreation body repair and paint shop, began as a one-man-show — a business launched in the back of Whitco Inc.
"He spent many nights and weekends [going] back and forth from Lewiston to Kamiah, trying to get his business rolling," said Whitcomb's wife, Courtney, who works in the office.
To get his own business off the ground, Whitcomb tried sandblasting and towing, but custom paint jobs put him on the map. Customers came from all over the Northwest for his work.
The company may have been new, but Whitcomb wasn't a novice at his work. While still in high school and college, when he studied business and auto body repair at Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, Whitcomb won awards for outstanding auto body work and painting. His senior project was completely restoring a 1966 Chevy Impala.
After college, he worked at local shops, gaining experience — although his wife says his dad taught him everything there is to know about a truck before Whitcomb could even walk. Whitcomb built on that knowledge by working in his dad's shop when he was in school, sweeping up and performing routine maintenance.
As business increased, Whitcomb bought a shop down the street from his father's shop and added four new employees to his crew — but more changes were in store.
His wife explains that Whitcomb fell in love with La Grande, Ore., after attending a few games to watch one of his best friends play football for Eastern Oregon University. When the owners of Crisp Colors, an auto repair shop, were ready to retire after 29 years in business, Whitcomb decided to buy it and move his family and a few employees to Oregon. On July 1, 2016, Budco officially expanded to serve Union County.
"This was a big change in business," Courtney recalled. Double the number of employees, customers — and opportunities. Since July 2016, the shop has completed more than 200 custom paint jobs.
It's an impressive record, especially considering the changes in the paint industry. Budco uses top-of-the-line PPG paint products along with its paint booth and highly experienced professionals to work on the vehicles and equipment.
Budco has to grow and change with the industry. Employees have taken numerous classes provided by PPG to learn new techniques and understand new products.
The process begins with prep work, such as sanding, body work and repairs. Next, the vehicle undergoes masking to protect areas that don't need paint. Once that's done, painters apply a primer coat, perform a final sanding of any blemishes and then apply the paint, a clear coat and a sealer.
Not everything has changed. The homemade paint booth that Whitcomb and a few of his friends built one weekend is still standing and training in state-of-the-art equipment and techniques is ongoing. They still offer auto, truck and recreational vehicle body repair, specializing in sandblasting and custom painting.
It's not just a way to make a living, Courtney explained. Because they love what they're doing, she says it doesn't feel like work. They're doing what they are passionate about, taking pride in producing exceptional results from using quality paint and products and providing top-notch customer service.
The Whitcombs intend to continue producing the same, consistent quality of work in the future. And, just as Whitcomb once worked in his dad's shop after school and on the weekends, now his children are frequent visitors at his shop. CEG