SANDUSKY - John Taylor is often mistaken for an auto mechanic, a car washer, or the neighborhood maintenance man.
But rarely is he recognized for the guy he really is - just another Hancock Street homeowner.
Mr. Taylor, a graphic designer at the Cedar Point amusement park, recently received national attention for fashioning a faux automotive business on the first floor of his home.
His body shop-house, known as T&T Towing Co., is complete with painted grease fingerprints on the walls, old car signs in the windows and exterior, and a ceramic watchdog, Axle, that's chained up outside.
Upstairs, artifacts from the automotive industry are scattered throughout his living space, from car jacks that hold up his living room table to the Craftsman toolbox where he stores his socks. Atlases serve as wallpaper across his kitchen walls, its ceiling, and even the refrigerator.
“I wanted to do something different but didn't know what exactly,” Mr. Taylor said from his home yesterday. “When I found out about the automotive theme, it just all kind of came together.”
Mr. Taylor, 44, bought the two-story house in 1995 with plans to restore it. Soon after, he learned about the varied businesses that had once been on its first floor, including an auto paint and repair shop.
It was then that he decided to renovate the entire 1920s building in the automotive theme.
But he had to start from scratch with his plans, as the only thing left from past businesses was a slight smell of dust and oil.
So Mr. Taylor started by designing some signs and collecting old hubcaps. He found replica “pinups” of women for the bathroom walls, hauled in oil cans, and placed a bottle of whiskey in an office desk.
He made business cards, made a work shirt with his name and company on it, and even came up with the company logo, “When you break down, we pick you up.”
“The theme just goes on and on,” Mr. Taylor said. “It was a fun project.”
Mr. Taylor said he enjoyed creating his home on his weekends and nights because he does it every day at Cedar Point, where he's working on designs for cabins at a new camp site.
“I try to make art every day, whether it's a simple thing here or something at work,” he said.
His house has been recognized by the Old House Guild of Sandusky, which included his automotive display on its candlelight tour of homes in December, 1997.
“He's so creative,” said Ellie Damm, guild president. “This is the third [restored] home he's had on a tour in 20 years. Each one has been more delightful than the other one.”
Ms. Damm said the guild hopes to present an award to Mr. Taylor for his home, something they likely will do once he washes paint from one exterior cement wall.
It was after the candlelight tour that Mr. Taylor received national attention for his unusual work. Someone from the tour notified the Homes and Gardens television program, prompting producers there to spotlight him on the air last fall.
Fellow homeowners and business owners along Hancock Street said they're pleased with Mr. Taylor's work, especially since residents are trying to clean up the neighborhood.
“He did a wonderful job,” said Jim Buderer, co-owner of Fisher Drugs. “It's just nice that he fixed it up. We're all trying to do our part to make things look nice.”
But Mr. Taylor still has fooled some with his faux business, which looks real to passers-by.
“I always thought that was a body shop,” said Jason Baker, co-owner of Terry and J's convenience store. “It just shocks me that it isn't.”