Steel Town Garage makes old cars ‘beautiful’


Birdsboro’s First Street was filled with candy-colored vintage cars on Saturday for an open house celebrating Steel Town Garage, a car restoration and hot rod business founded in November 2020 by friends Mark Denlinger and John Detweiler.

“I’ve been in this business for about 20 years,” said Denlinger, 36, of Akron, Lancaster County. “I wanted to start my own business and do things a little different from where I worked before, and have a little more to say about the quality.”

Denlinger has been working on cars since the age of 12 and takes pride in his metalworking which “makes it look like nothing has happened”.

“I like to take something that’s in a really rough condition and make it look like new,” he said, “like a piece of jewelry.”

Steel Town Garage is located in what was once the Detweiler family body shop. Detweiler was Denlinger’s client when the two met in 2018. The pair decided to go into business together after learning how similar their tastes in cars were.

“This industry is so hot right now, it’s very popular right now,” said Detweiler, 42, of Birdsboro. “Starting a new business is a challenge. At the end of the day, it’s a gamble to start a business during a pandemic. “

“We have been blessed,” Denlinger said.

“It’s a lot of hard work and dedication,” Detweiler said, “it’s not for everyone. You’re kind of married to this vehicle from start to finish. It doesn’t happen overnight. on the next day.

To prove their point, they showed a 1964 Ford Falcon they have been working on since opening. It was the owner’s first car, bought when he was in high school and loved by him ever since. The owner wanted it to be fully restored, so Steel Town took it apart and gave it a new frame.

“We only used the body,” Denlinger said, “and we put a new frame on it.” In restaurant jargon, this is called “catering”. The goal is to make the Falcon run as fast and as efficiently as a modern car.

“He still loves this car,” Denlinger said. “It’s kind of like a piece of him, it’s a piece of his story.”

The open house included a barbecue from Lebanon’s Ogre’s Swamp N Grill, drinks from Birdsboro’s The Angry Anvil, and a soft serve ice cream maker in the garage.

“The cars just seem to bring everyone together,” Denlinger said.

His friend Mark Criblear warns Denlinger that a child has just leaned on one of his projects with sweaty arms.

“You’re going to have to wipe this off,” Criblear said.

Criblear, 37, of Mertztown is impressed with the quality of Steel Town parts and their attention to detail.

“In the short time they’ve been here,” he said, “I have the impression that they are growing up really, really fast. Their names are getting known and people see what they are doing and want to be a part of it.

At Steel Town, family and business go hand in hand. There are still pictures from when it was the Detweiler’s body shop, pictures of John working on cars with his father and grandfather.

“I learned a lot from my grandfather,” he said, “about the way he treated people and helped people in the community.

“We take a lot longer than other stores and we like to take care of customers and be fair to customers,” said Denlinger.

On his tool cabinet, mechanic Mark Alexander keeps baby photos of his daughter Ruby Mae. Now 3-year-old Ruby Mae rides her own toddler-sized toy hot rod. Over time, John and “the other Mark” also became a family.

“We work well together, we have a lot of respect for each other,” said Alexander, 36, of Boyertown. “It’s not just a job. Just seeing people enjoying your job, seeing the customer driving your car after working so long to make an old car run like a new car. Some people don’t even like to drive them, they like to show them off.

Alexander got his passion for cars from his uncle.

“I like to make old cars do things they weren’t meant to do,” he said, “making them look good. We see it almost as an art form, as a craft.

Steel city garage

Location: 721 W. First St., Birdsboro

Telephone: 610-780-0162


Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 am to 5 pm; Saturday

yes by appointment only; Sunday closed.

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    A 1964 Ford Falcon and a 1940 Ford truck at the Steel Town garage in Birdsboro. (Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    Mark Alexander is working on a dash for ’62 Chevy. (Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    A 1964 Ford Falcon that Steel Town Garage is working on. (BEN HASTY – EAGLE READING)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    Dan Kerns TIG welding a drive tunnel for a 1964 Ford Falcon. (Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    A 1940 Ford truck that Steel Town Garage is restoring at the Steel Town Garage in Birdsboro. (BEN HASTY – EAGLE READING)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    Karolyn Callahan, sand the tailgate of a Bronco to prepare it for a primer at the Steel Town Garage in Birdsboro. (Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    A sign for Steel Town Garage in the shop. Steel Town is a hot rod store that custom builds, maintains and renovates classic cars. (BEN HASTY EAGLE READING)

  • Submitted photo

    John Detweiler and Mark Denlinger co-owners of Steel Town Garage. Steel Town is a Hot Rod store that does custom build, service and restoration of classic cars. (PHOTO COURTESY OF STEEL TOWN GARAGE)

  • Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle

    From left to right, Mark Denlinger, co-owner of Steel Town Garage, and Mark Alexander working on the dashboard of a Chevrolet 62 at the Steel Town Garage in Birdsboro. (Ben Hasty – Reading Eagle)

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