This year Henderson’s Line-Up, Brake & RV Inc. of Grants Pass, Oregon, has been celebrating its golden anniversary of service to the motoring public.
By Jim Brightly, F358406
It’s quite a leap from the cockpit of an A-26 bomber to the chair of a service writer at an auto repair business, but Robert Henderson’s father, Floyd, made that leap in 1961. “My father was a bomber pilot in World War II and flew 68 combat missions in the 671st Army Air Corps squadron,” Robert said. “He had money for a down payment on a business and home combined.” This was the start of Henderson’s Line-Up, Brake & R.V. Inc. in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Floyd and Ann Henderson, and their eight children, moved to Grants Pass from Fort Bragg, California, to get away from the damp coastal weather. Floyd had auto parts experience, but he could not find an auto parts business for sale. “He did find The Line-Up Shop, which he purchased,” Robert recalled.
The shop had one of the first on-the-car high-speed balancers and was located near U.S. 99, the main inland north-south route at the time. Interstate 5 was just being constructed, adding to the need for balanced tires as motorists drove at freeway speeds.
The Henderson children literally grew up in the business, which Floyd slowly nurtured. “I often say my mother fed me with a brake spoon,” Robert said. “I would clean tools, run errands, and help Dad with whatever he wanted done.”
After nearly 20 years in the business, Floyd, then in his late 50s, decided to retire in order to enjoy RVing. When Robert was 26, Floyd, for a modest sum, handed the shop keys to Robert and his older brother, Loren. “Even though he had retired, Dad continued working many hours helping us out,” Robert said. “My brother and I were in business together for three or four years before I became sole owner. Unfortunately, Loren passed on about 2 1/2 years ago, and our father passed about six months later. I still miss Dad’s daily visits.”
I first met Robert Henderson a little more than 10 years ago when we cohosted seminars at FMCA international conventions. A few years later, after a seminar at the Minot, North Dakota, convention in August 2005, I told him about the woes I was having with my 1999 P-30 chassis motorhome. Robert convinced me to visit his shop on the way home, which I did. There, I met other members of his family: Floyd; Robert’s wife, Barbara; and his brother John, who now heads SuperSteer, a subsidiary of Henderson’s Line-Up.
Robert and John performed their exclusive Road Performance Assessment (RPA) on my coach and then gave me the prognosis. Since I had driven the coach for 1,500 miles from Minot with no power assist for the brakes and no power assist for the steering below 10 mph, I wasn’t surprised to learn that it needed some extensive work.
While Henderson’s technicians worked on the motorhome, my family and I enjoyed Grants Pass (and a jet boat ride on the Rogue River). We slept and ate in the motorhome while it was at the shop for repairs. It seemed as though the Hendersons performed a miracle, as my coach’s handling improved markedly with the installation of several new products, including a SuperSteer bell crank and a hydro-boost pump. While our 1999 25-foot motorhome, with its narrower front track, would never handle like a Corvette, driving it home after Robert and John did their work on it was pure joy. (For details about the improvements, see “Suspension Upgrades,” FMC, February 2006, page 58.) It was almost as joyful as my association has been with Robert and Barbara as friends and colleagues.
It’s also a joy to see a successful business pass down through generations of a loving family. Robert’s son, Tommy, also works at Henderson’s. He began college this past fall with plans to major in mechanical engineering and hopes to return to the company when he graduates, Robert said. Robert’s youngest brother, John, who was born in Grants Pass and thus became the ninth child in the family, today directs outside sales for SuperSteer parts, a subsidiary of Henderson’s Line-Up.
Henderson’s technicians are kept busy with motorhomes, cars, and pickup trucks. “We are finding that instead of purchasing new motorhomes, many people are fixing up their current ones and come to us to solve their coaches’ handling and suspension problems,” Robert said. “This has been good for our business. We are committed to serving and caring for the customers that God brings to us. Our mission is, ‘Safer and Happier Driving!’”
The shop works on brakes, suspensions, and steering components and has trademarked the RPA mentioned earlier. Motorhome customers arrive at Henderson’s from all over North America. The technicians also tackle jobs on automobiles, trucks, trailers, and fifth wheels. And according to Robert, “Not only is John tops at aligning the classic cars we service, but his years as a Henderson’s Line-Up technician are proving invaluable for answering our SuperSteer customers’ online and phone inquiries.”
The company’s creation of parts for motorhomes grew out of necessity. “A few years after taking over the business,” Robert said, “motorhomes began to come to our shop. I realized that I loved to figure out how to make them handle better. John was very good at fabrication, and together we began to design steering and suspension parts. Our first steering component was the SuperSteer bell crank for the P-30 and P-32 chassis. Today we have an extensive RV chassis parts line, and we also have aftermarket track bars and idler arms for some pickup truck applications.”
Motorists who are not able to get to Oregon to have a vehicle serviced still can benefit from Henderson’s Line-Up expertise. The company ships parts nationally and internationally to dealers and do-it-yourselfers — both their own products and several major brands, such as Koni shock absorbers, Roadmaster products, and the Safe-T-Plus Steering Control. To help ensure that parts are installed correctly, instructional videos are available on the Henderson’s Line-Up Web site, and the SuperSteer team stands ready to answer questions.
“We are pleased that over 90 percent of our parts are produced in the United States,” Robert added.
As the company celebrates its half-century mark, the Hendersons and the technicians at Henderson’s Line-Up are waiting to serve you, and they’ll be happy to solve any handling or suspension problems you and your coach may encounter.
Henderson’s Line-Up, Brake & R.V. Inc., 417 S.W. Henderson Lane, Grants Pass, OR 97527; (800) 245-8309; www.hendersonslineup.com.