Jack of all trades with engines and feathers
Rod Williams, owner of Williams Service in Florence, doesn’t have much of a commute from work to home. Williams can wipe the days grease off his weathered hands, close the door behind him, and look up and see his house a block away, just as he has for 56 years.
Through grit and grind over five decades, Williams Service has trickled down the family tree. Rod’s son Stan plays a predominant role in the business these days, and Rod’s grandson, Chase, is also an employee. Williams Service employs almost 20 employees full time, many of which have been with the company for a long time.
“Most of them are all from right around here,” Williams said. “I have employees that have at least 20 years with me. One that’s got at least 45.”
Williams Service offers a variety of new and pre-owned trucks, including a new inventory of International models and used Peterbilt and Freightliner models.
The business also offers a selection of tractors, wreckers, car carriers, trailers, box and step vans, and dump trucks along with a parts and service department offering maintenance and repair services.
“At one time, there was probably 75 International dealers in the state of Kansas,” Williams said. “Now there’s four. I’m one of them. That means there’s a lot of them that never made it.”
The secret for success at Williams Service lies behind the relentless work ethic Williams has possessed since its inception.
At 82, he still works about five and a half days per week, which while impressive, is a staggering cut back from what he used to work.
“When I first started, I found I could only work about 70 hours a week before I started being inefficient and it cost me money,” he said.
His strong love of all things automotive didn’t just serve as the motivation behind the business, it also laid the groundwork for his love of racing and his collection of restored antique cars.
William’s racing career came to an end 12 years ago at 70, after rolling his 1957 Chevrolet about a quarter mile.
“I was doing about 140 when I rolled it,” he said. “I wasn’t hurt at all, I was tied in my roll cage. I wasn’t even thinking about getting hurt honestly. I was worried about it tearing up my car.”
Despite his plans to continue racing after the accident, Williams’ wife had a different idea.
“I told her I was only going to take the engine and put it in a lighter car so it’d go faster,” he said. “She about had a cow, so I couldn’t do that.”
When working at his business or racing cars didn’t fulfill his love for cars, Williams could be found restoring an antique.
His collection consists of a blue 1927 Buick, a yellow 1964 Chevy, a red 1960 Pontiac, and a red 1936 International pickup truck.
Rod said that his grandson, Colin, chose the royal blue Buick to take his date to prom in last weekend.
Williams also has a knack for quail hunting, one of his only passions outside of anything with an engine.
“I go quail hunting every weekend during season,” he said. “I told my preacher there’s two seasons. There’s church season and there’s quail season. I can’t participate in church season when it’s quail season,” he said sporting an ornery grin.
According to Williams, one factor has assisted him in being successful.
“The key ingredient to success is ambition,” he said. “It’s not just education or smarts. It takes ambition and smarts. If you have just smarts and no ambition, you’re going nowhere.”
Last modified April 26, 2018