Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 16, 2013

With just one arm, Marlen Hollenbeck transforms wrecks into beauties

ELK RAPIDS — At the 19, Marlen Hollenbeck’s life hit bottom.

His dad, an unfiltered Camel cigarette smoker, was dying of lung cancer in a downstate hospital, the family’s body shop business was falling apart, and Hollenbeck, drunk, crashed his motorcycle after missing a curve on a Kewadin highway.

Thrown into a deep swamp, he remembers gasping for air. A buddy kept him from drowning until the ambulance arrived.

“The state cops were there and everyone was mad,” he said.

Hollenbeck had broken several vertebrae in the accident, paralyzing his arm. Shortly after the accident, his beloved father died.

But there was one kernel of good fortune. Hollenbeck had paralyzed his right “right” arm.

“I’m left handed,” he said. “I was lucky, I tell you. Unbelievable.”

Since that drizzly night in May of 1981, a lot has changed for Hollenbeck, who lives in Elk Rapids. Unable to bring life back to his arm, he had it amputated when he was 28. He met his true love at his surgeon’s office. And he opened a body shop, Riverside Collision.

That’s right. He restores and repairs cars, using one arm. He pulls out dents, welds and paints. He uses his belly and legs to hold things in place or a specialized tool he places against his leg—a small slab of steel with a long stem. He calls in a friend or his brother when he needs a hand lifting a heavy auto part.

“He does good work. I’ve used him for 15 years,” said pharmacist Lou Ghiringhelli, owner of River Pharmacy in Elk Rapids. “He restored a street rod that I was building. He did the body and paint work and it came out just beautiful. He does a lot of the classic cars. It’s just amazing what he does with just the one arm.”

Text Only

Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Associated Press Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot