BLACKFOOT — When you drive up to Pete’s Paint and Repair at 375 S. Maple in Blackfoot, there’s an “attitude” that draws quick attention on the large, weathered garage door — an “attitude” that hasn’t been seen much for many a year.
It harkens back to days when kids would buy model car kits of hot rods with fat tires peeling out and souped up engines sitting high in plain view, the cars’ paint jobs were made to look as nice as possible, and the attitude came from a wild character that was prevalent when it came to muscle cars back in the day.
The painting done by the man who does the work inside the shop himself, Rick Flores, may be fading and weather-beaten, but it still attracts enough attention that anyone who remembers the featured character will remember it and comment on it with fondness.
The character was called “Rat Fink.” Flores still has a fondness for the character, as does anyone who had a serious fondness for model cars in the 1960s or early ‘70s. The cars were cool.
The shop was opened by Flores’ father, Pete. Rick took it over 16 years ago and word-of-mouth has helped him keep a tradition alive outside of city or even state borders.
Rick’s father and the people they’d hang out with helped him him build up a reputation for quality work in a very hands-on way.
“My dad started in this business in the 1960s, and as I grew up I helped him and watched him and got into it,” Flores said. “My dad would hang hang out with these guys working on cars when I was littler than little, and I’d watch them.”
He says he learned from “old-school guys” in the area like Darrell Mitchell, Doug Mitchell, Ron Mitchell, and Ron Landon, among others — ones who loved tinkering with cars, hanging out at the Quonset hut by Blackfoot High School.
Flores doesn’t do mechanical work, he recommends others to do that kind of work. His work comes in custom painting, mostly restorations with some insurance work. For cosmetic work on the inside of the vehicles, he has Randy Walker from Walker Upholstery do that.
He’s been working at body work and painting as a career since he was 18 years old.
The “Rat Fink” character and its meaning to car aficionados played a role in the direction he went in his life.
“I did the picture on the door myself, free-hand,” Flores said. “I’ve always had an eye for cool cars. I got into ‘Rat Fink’ and it was off to the races. Kids these days, they just don’t know what it meant back then.”
Flores readily admits he’s been following a passion of his that developed as a child. It’s not something he went to school to learn.
“Learning hands-on is better than book work when you can,” he said. “You just watch and do.”
Flores said he went to work at Burdette Body Shop after graduating from Blackfoot High School in 1981. He went from there to work with his father, and he’s been at Pete’s shop ever since.
The younger Flores has a simple philosophy when it comes to the business.
“If you’re decent to people and fair, they will come back,” he said. “I’ve had people go by and say they didn’t know there was a body shop here. But I stay busy all the time.”
That’s where the quality of his work and his reputation for it comes in. He’s had customers from Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Boise, and he’s done a couple of jobs on vehicles out of Arizona.
He said he used to show cars himself, which helped get the word out.
Flores was born and raised in Blackfoot, and Blackfoot is where he wants to stay.
“I love this area, it’s been good to me,” he said.
To contact Pete’s Paint & Repair, call (208) 785-6040.