At one time years ago Joe Gladden needed work. He went to work helping a friend at a Ford dealership and found this was something he absorbed quickly. From there he became a self-taught body shop man. In 1978 he built his own shop and before long he had more work than he could handle. His shop is part of his home on Lady Marion Street in Sherwood Forest.
His friends would bring their cars to him, not only because he knew what he was doing, but also because he worked less expensively than a dealership would. Word spread from his friends and people he knew and work has continued to come his way for 35 years.
I asked Joe what he learned to do before opening his own shop. He said he learned how to cut cars in half and put them back together, as well as how to change motors, transmissions and rear ends. He has also changed the bodies of cars, which is what he is currently working on.
“Have you ever worked on a car for anyone famous?” I questioned. Joe responded, “I worked on a car for a doctor in Gastonia at one time, but I think everyone is famous in their own way.” When asked if he had ever worked on a car for a race car driver, he responded that he had once helped work on Jeff Gordon’s race car when helping out at a body shop on Highway 16.
His wife, Linda, is his “manager.”
“She’s my everything. The love of my life,” Joe says. As we continue talking, he tells me that Linda also plays the drums in a band. “Years ago, she and her father played in a band called The Star Lighter Band and they were once on the Arthur Smith show,” Joe says proudly. Joe goes on to say he bought her the first “real” set of drums she ever had after they were married.
Joe is 72 now and has lived in Lincolnton all his life. No matter where he is he sees people he knows. Frequently someone will mention having a “bump up” and needing some work done on their car. He just tells them to bring it by the shop and he’ll fix it for them. He is such a friendly, down-to-earth man, you like him as soon as you meet him and walk away feeling as if you have known him forever.
Paulette Ballard collects funny, interesting and inspirational stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story for her, email@example.com. In the subject line type FOR YOUR COLUMN.