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An Australian legacy to stand the test of time

A career in the automotive repair industry is guaranteed to be a challenging endeavour. For the Maher family, this challenge has been met with fierce determination to create a family legacy that is underpinned by loyalty, respect and adaptability.

For 60 years, L&M Smash Repairs has been a Western Sydney institution for automotive repairs. Known for their friendly and fair demeanours, the Maher family have grown and expanded their business over six decades, all while keeping the business in the family name.

Bill Maher paved the way for his son, Gary Maher, and his grandson Dan Maher, to excel in the industry.

NCR spoke with Bill’s grandson, Dan Maher, about Bill’s legacy and the evolution of L&M Smash Repairs.

The early stages

The legacy of Bill Maher all began in the mid 1960’s in a backyard in West Pennant Hills in Sydney. From a backyard workshop, to a chook shed in Dural, and finally to a workspace in Seven Hills where it remains today, the history behind L&M Smash Repairs is one to call a true Australian legacy.

Starting from humble beginnings on a flower farm, Bill’s love of automotive quickly took hold, and his pursuit of success in the industry was driven by strong will and determination.

Bill was passionate about restoring old cars.
New beginnings, the Seven Hills workshop in its early years.

“He was known for his approach to life. A sort of grabbing life by the horns and giving everything a red-hot go,” Dan says.

“In an industry as tough as ours, it is a real testament that his business is still where it is today, with his family running it,” Dan says.

“For a man that was taken from us over 20 years ago, to hear his name mentioned by clients, assessors, friends, and colleagues, he is a man that certainly left a lasting impression,” Dan says.

Known as a man for making a lasting impression among his clients, friends, and colleagues, Bill was a kind-hearted and generous man that valued respect and loyalty.

“He was a joker, kind-hearted, loud, large and intimidating man. He expected everybody to work hard with early starts and over time including late nights, he was always driven to be successful,” Dan says.

With a rocky start in business, Bill made the most of the cards he was dealt, after his business partner pulled the pin shortly after the business was established.

“The most creative business name they could come up with was L&M. After Leeds pulled the pin, Bill had only just paid for the new carbon copy invoicing books with the L&M name printed all through them, so changing the name was never an option,” Dan says.

So, the business remained as L&M Smash Repairs, and Bill’s desire for success grew even more.

From simple beginnings repairing and restoring old Holdens and caravans, to picking up contracts with local dealerships, Bill always had a vision for the future.

L&M Smash Repairs storefront in the 1970’s.

“Pop would send Dad overseas to train and to scout for new equipment and repair technology,” Dan says.

“That process has been carried on and continued over the years and has gotten us to where we are today, with highly trained staff in a facility filled with the latest equipment and technology.”

A family affair

Known for his loud, proud, and in-charge personality, Bill made sure the workshop was a family affair.

“Just about all of the family has been involved in the business in one way or another. It has employed all of my aunties, my uncles, cousins, and brother,” Dan says.

“It has always been about “the family” and that all stared with Nan and Pop.”

Generational gifts

For a brief period of time, the three generations of Maher’s, Bill, Gary (Bill’s son) and Dan, worked together from 2002-2003. Before Bill’s health took a turn, Dan was a first-year apprentice under Bill and Gary’s guidance.

Gary Maher mixing paints in the workshop.

“I do like listening to everybody’s stories about Bill. People sometimes draw some parallels between us, I reckon we would have worked well together,” Dan says.

An old school mindset of working hard and earning respect was, and still is a strong value at L&M Smash Repairs.

“Being a driven businessman, he expected his workers to work hard. He was an early riser so that meant everybody else was too,” Dan says.

“But to those that did right by Bill earned a spot at his table and were rewarded with his friendship and approval which was a coveted label.”

Bill’s ability to connect with both customers and strangers made him a respected and likeable man. He created a rapport with customers that resulted in a loyal client base.

“Everyone said Bill had the gift of the gab, everybody even complete strangers ended up being his ‘little buddy,’” Dan says.

“He would learn the languages of the local migrant residents in Western Sydney and he prided himself on knowing how to say ‘hello’ in many different tongues. His signature ‘gratzi’ in his loud, deep, thick Australian accent still rings in my ears to this day.”

Rolling with the times

If there is anything that L&M Smash Repairs has done well, it is adapting to the climate of the time. From 1970 to 2000, the industry underwent significant changes, from technology, to equipment, to the creation of the internet, change was never too far away.

Gary with one of the workshops first computers.

Being ahead of the competition was another strong suit of Bill’s. By embracing change and adapting quickly, he always attracted new staff who were willing to be part of the energy he brought to his workshop.

“Back in those days finding staff wasn’t an issue, we would have people knocking on the door every day looking for a start at L&M,” Dan says.

“Having the right team in each department was his key.  With Dad in the office running things, blokes like Harry Pearce overseeing Panel Shop Operations and high-level long-term painters like Roy Freeman and Andy Maglecic running the Paint Shop, operating a successful collision shop has always come down to having the right people.”

L&M Smash Repairs in 2024

Dan, and his father, have continued the Maher name in the automotive repair industry. L&M Smash Repairs currently employs 19 full time staff, and five apprentices.

Like Bill, Dan makes sure that he gives clients the same face to face engagement that initially made the workshop a local success.

The storefront in 2024.

“I make sure people get that personal touch,” Dan says.

Even though Dan has been running the show for a few years, the progression from apprentice to tradesman was a memorable moment for Dan.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. On day one, I asked Pop ‘ok mate which car you want me to fix?’.  Dad laughed and said, ‘You’re not fixing anything, go sweep the workshop out.’ Plot twist, my OCD liked sweeping and cleaning so it wasn’t so bad for me,” Dan says.

Dan’s drive to be the best in the workshop fuelled his desire to learn everything he could about the automotive trade. However, it took him a few years to be on an even playing field with the rest of the tradesmen.

“When I started doing the repairs I’d find myself dripping in sweat, making a mess, covered in dust and oil.  I’d look over at my tradesmen and they’d be cool, calm, clean and have finished their job. I wanted to be better than all of them,” Dan says.

One day, everything clicked into gear, and Dan’s persistence paid off.

“Fast forward a few years, and I was repairing a chassis with my tradesman, and we were having a hard time agreeing on what needed to be done to fix the issue,” Dan says.

“We went on and on about it so we measured it and I was right, he was wrong, so that made me the best and smartest tradesman in the world.”

“I have never considered doing anything else outside of being a panel beater. It was more of a birth right.”

Well received

L&M Smash Repairs has garnered an impressive resume, with a perfect 5-star score on Google Reviews, to investments in the latest technology, to achieving I-CAR Gold Class Status.

“My Mrs won’t even grab a coffee from a café unless it has 4.5 stars or more,” Dan says.

“Engaging the customers from the earliest stages and extracting their actual needs is the key to meeting their expectations. We ask them to submit their feedback once the repair is done, and we are happy with the comments we receive.”

With quality customer service, a loyal workforce, training, and specialist services at the forefront of the shop, the business is a united front.

The workshop has been I-CAR Gold Class Accredited since 2006, and is an EV certified repairer. The shop is also OEM trained for Subaru and General Motors.


L&M Smash Repairs workshop floor.

“We have tooled and trained for electric vehicles. But with EV sales dropping who knows where that market is headed. Regardless, there are tens of thousands of them already on the road and we are already prepared to take on that market,” Dan says.

With jobs relocated to L&M Smash Repairs from all over Sydney, they have made a name for themselves as some of the best in the industry.

Dan highlights how the team is the glue for the smooth operations of the business.

“We have highly trained long-term employees we look after, invest in and reward. Mark and I have been here for 22 years. We have long termers who have been with us for over 15 years. Building a strong team is the key to success in business,” Dan says.

Advocates for the industry

L&M Smash Repairs’ mission statement is to provide the best possible collision repair and automotive services following three key objectives; repair quality, estimate accuracy, and speed of repairs, all at a fair and reasonable cost.

“We are 100 per cent an independent repairer,” Dan says.

“We are advocates for the industry and are pushing for realistic labour rates, better processes, improved standards and licencing to help lift the average quality of collision repairs and safety standards to benefit the consumer.”

A challenging climate

The current climate in the automotive industry makes business growth a point of contention for many workshops. With the sustainability of the industry without reform and with apprentice numbers and sign-up rates dwindling, and over 45,000 tradesmen short nationally, expansion is a difficult bet to make.

“One day I’d like to consider relocating to a larger and newer facility to expand our fleet repair service. I’d like to keep our workshop on Station Road and turn it into a restoration facility,” Dan says.

The work stations in the 1980’s.
The work stations in 2024.

The skills shortage is making it harder for workshops to find both qualified and entry level workers.

“During the pandemic we had an ad on Seek for a panel beater for 12 months and the salary figure was unlimited.  We had zero applications,” Dan says.

“Apprentice numbers have collapsed and TAFEs in Western Sydney have all been shut down,” Dan says.

“We have two workers from the Philippines, who are both still with us.  They have filled gaps in our labour supply, but international workers aren’t a long-term sustainable answer to the shortage.”

“We have 5 apprentices that we are getting up to speed. We are making room for the next generation of bodyshop experts.”

“Shops that don’t have any apprentices need to have a long hard look in the mirror in my opinion,” Dan says.

Remaining true to legacy

Staying true to Bill’s legacy on creating a respectable working environment is something that Dan Maher still taps into in 2024.

Dan Maher with his children Layla and Billie.

“It’s a matter of ‘if they look after you, then look after them’ kind of deal,” Dan says.

“Staff that meet our expectations are rewarded with bonuses, events, holidays, 2 yearly pay rise opportunities, and the ability to progress within the business.”

“Our staff are along for the ride. We want to share our success with our staff, without them we have no product, service or business.”

Daniel Maher’s advice for young business owners entering into the repair industry rings true to the strong family values that were cemented by Bill.

“Run a profitable business, not a revenue generating business.  Revenue is vanity, Profit is sanity.”

Never too far away, a mural of Bill in the workshop.
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