Get this straight

It looked, to me, as gorgeous as any other Aston Martin V8 Vantage, all pursed mouth, pert tail, paintwork you could swim in. Nobody inside the building, itself shimmering silver and immaculate, so much as looked away from their tasks when the flatbed truck pulled up.


Except Ron Goodman. From a good 20 metres away, his eyes twitched over the Aston for about three seconds. Tall, 50 and impossibly fit, Goodman wore the same smart, stiff-collared uniform as his 12 or 13 blackshirt followers. But some magnetic aura marked him clearly as the master of this spotlessly clean and efficient domain.

Goodman is a man who has met concrete and fire at 280km/h in a NASCAR crash. He has broken his neck practising martial arts, his leg racing motocross. He has been clinically dead from a heart attack. He concerns his doctor because he has a diminished physical capacity to feel pain. He starts work here every day at 2:00am, rarely leaving before 4:30pm.

Even without the newly arrived Aston, which was to join a DB9, a Lamborghini Murciélago and upwards of a dozen Porsches, Goodman's Exclusive Body Werks looks less like a smash-repair shop, more like the lair of an obsessive Bond villain.

I had to half-run to keep up with Goodman's military stride. "Hmm, it doesn't look too bad, but it will be bad," he said, still 15 metres out from the Aston. "See how the bootlid is standing up by a few mill?"

When we reached the car I could see that the bootlid was, by no more than the thickness of its rolled edge, sitting proud of the rear quarter-panel. Goodman nodded at the plastic rear bumper. "Depending on what's going on with the aluminium behind there, that'll run anywhere from 10 to 50 grand."

Goodman knows Aston Martins inside-out. Literally. His Exclusive Body Werks in the western Sydney suburb of Granville is one of only two factory-appointed 'Category A' repairers in Australia (the other being Gosney's Panel Beating Works in Southport, Qld) authorised to make structural repairs to the bonded-aluminium British GT cars.

And it's not just Astons. He's Australia's only factory-approved structural repairer for Lamborghini (the Gallardo, of course, also being in bonded aluminium). One of nine factory-approved Porsche repairers in Australia. And the only factory-approved structural repair centre for Rolls-Royce in the entire southern hemisphere.

This last company recently had Goodman packed for Mumbai, after an Indian owner drove a stake through a Phantom. "But the factory flew a mechanic over from England to assess it, and it turned out there was no structural damage," Goodman said.

"So we liaised with the guy, showed him where to measure everything, and he put all new suspension inside it. But if it's structural, it gets shipped straight over here."

Shipping a Rolls-Royce to Sydney might add $10,000-$20,000 to a foreign owner's repair bill. Which, expressed otherwise, might be only 10 percent of said repair bill.

Any week of the year, EBW looks like a dream-car museum for masochists: "Ooh, there's a Murciélago LP-six-f - aark, what happened to that?" "Hey, a 997 GT2, I haven't seen one of th - ohh."

The 2900 square-metre workshop is in three main areas: the painting area, with its two Pan spray booths, currently being converted for water-based paints; the body straightening area, with four jigs and French-made NAJA robotic measuring equipment; and the sanding and preparation area, eerily dustless thanks to ducted vacuuming and EBW's more usual practice of lead-wiping.

The omnipresent Goodman ensures that even this, potentially the messiest of all work areas, is a showroom worthy of these marques.

But it's not a showroom; it's the smash shop of the rich and famous. Outside of Lexus and possibly Porsche, EBW does not repair normal or affordable cars. "Most of the repairs we do here, the repair costs are dearer than buying a new family car," Goodman said.

Or a new supercar. With his strong Porsche ties, he fixes plenty of racing and track-day cars. Picture an Australian GT Championship shunt involving a 997 GT3 Cup 'S' and a works Aston Martin DBRS9; and a damage bill of up to half of each car's value.

EBW divides its time roughly equally between racetrack trip-ups and the prangs that make the social pages. You won't get any names out of Goodman or his zip-lipped employees. But the blue DB9 on the hoist was a car I recognised.

In 2004, it had been the first DB9 delivered in Australia, the subject of some friendly competition between a certain media scion and a property scion (the media guy won).

It had since been sold, and its new owner had apparently lost it against a kerb. Both left wheels had the rims shorn from their hubs.

Meanwhile, they were unloading the Aston out front. "It's like burley," Goodman shrugged. "We get one in, and it seems to attract them. Like that Aston [V8] on the jig - two days later we got the DB9 in, and here's this [V8] that was rear-ended last night. On average, we probably get two and a half Astons a month."

I grimaced at the cost of repairing the half.

The snotted V8 on the jig was exposing the large, aluminium beams of its 'VH' modular chassis. Goodman loves to work on these.

"An Aston Martin, there's not one weld on the whole car," he said. "Well, there's one brass weld on the V8, where you join the quarter panel. Absolutely everything else is bonded.

"It's easy as anything. We've got a special tool that just electric-cuts it all ... we cut the glue, and then we re-activate the glue with a re-activator. It's just like cutting a windscreen out of the car."

Likewise, new generations of high-strength steels cause no problems. "Most of it is just replaced. We just cut it all out."

Goodman keeps up to date, and maintains his factory-appointed status, with monthly in-house and annual factory training. "We do Rolls-Royce training in England and New York, Aston Martin in England, and Lamborghini training is in Italy. Every year," he said. "We do Porsche training in Melbourne; they fly a guy over."

Then there's the $20,000 Rolls-Royce rivet gun. "Which we need for two rivets on a Phantom." And it gets used maybe three times a year? "No, not that often. But we need it, so we got it."

Rolls-Royces often come in merely for exterior detailing prior to a customer delivery. However, Goodman recently painted a Phantom Drophead Coupe whose owner decided he wanted its stainless-steel bonnet
(a $20,000 option) concealed in body colour.

Do the rich crash differently? "I don't think they crash any differently, but they handle it differently," Goodman said. "Some of the really rich have people to do it all for them. The medium-rich, they'll ride the whole thing through until it gets here, then it's 'give me a ring when it's finished'.

"The only ones that ever really ride us are Boxster owners," he smiled. "I think because it's more of an entry-level car, they've always gotta have them for the weekend, to be seen in."

That said, this man who knows at a fundamental level the way cars are built, has an overwhelming admiration for Porsches. He owns, er, a few of his own, along with a collection of scale models said to be worth $100,000.

Goodman's 2:00am starts are simply a belief in the early-bird theory; he does quotes, studies new model manuals, sends job progress updates to customers by SMS and devises marketing ideas in these early hours.

The downside happened three years ago: at four o'clock one morning, the non-drinking, non-smoking fitness freak had a heart attack. Alone, he called an ambulance and lay down on the cold, concrete floor. He died in the hospital. "But they jump-started me, put a stent in and I was back at work three days later."

As he waved his hands over a 996, showing me where the inertia of the engine creases the rear quarter panels in a heavy frontal impact, Goodman looked very much the maestro of metal. The older 911 models, he explained, contained the damage in one area, "but the people might not be walking in here the next day."

There's not much that frightens him. Older, spaceframe Lamborghinis? "Hmm, until Audi took them over, they were tractors." Then he remembered: "Actually, Porsche 928." As he described removing the rear bar from a 928, I was picturing the removal of the nose-cone from a Boeing 747.

Porsches were the backbone of the business he started building a dozen years ago, after the fiery conclusion of his NASCAR racing career. After a year of working for someone else, he spotted a niche in the market and went for it.

And he believes Australia is the epicentre of smash-repair excellence. Last year, he rebuilt a Porsche 356 Speedster that took third outright at the Pebble Beach concours in California. Its owner had sent the car from Los Angeles. You mean, as in the home of car customising, Chip Foose, Overhaulin'?

"Have you watched that show, how much 'nicky' they use?" Goodman said, rolling his eyes. "I've watched them film that show Overhaulin', and it's bloody rough, believe me.

"It's not because I'm biased - I'm nationally proud, 100 percent - but we in Australia are better with panels than anywhere else," he said. "To us, in Australia, a car is our second-biggest purchase, and we care about it. You go home to your family in your brand-new 4WD, the whole family comes outside and has a look all over it. In America, a car is just a throw-away commodity."

In the market for a new car? Check out Australia's Best Value Cars.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!