Jim Inman was 12 when he started taking apart radios to see what was inside. At 13, he was making regular trips to Radio Shack, and one of his first projects was to install a subwoofer in his parents’ car.
At 14, he landed a job at Radio Shack in Grass Valley, thanks to a special student work permit. Not only was it a place to learn more about electronics, but it gave him the coveted employee discount.
In addition to helping his dad, who ran a Grass Valley service station, Inman went on to gain experience and knowledge by working at numerous custom auto electronic businesses, such as Auburn Car Tunes, Good Guys in Reno and Acme Tops and Tunes in Sacramento.
“Finally it got to the point where I was always the one training the staff,” he said. “I had enough knowledge, I had a good reputation and I had a loyal customer base. Owning my own business seemed to make more and more sense.”
In March of 2010, Inman opened Electronic Solutions in Grass Valley, which specializes in custom car audio, performance and electronic specialties. He and his staff of three can be found in the shop on South Auburn Street fixing or installing car stereos, alarms, GPS systems, speakers and Bluetooth devices and diagnosing auto electrical problems.
On Thursday, a 1960s’ VW Bug was in the shop for full rewiring and restoration. Inman and his crew had recently finished completely rewiring three 1970s’ Landcruisers, vintage vehicles now in high demand.
Having built a reputation for his high standards, Inman and his staff at Electronic Solutions also have a steady stream of customers who are part of the “hot rod” car club known as the Roamin’ Angels.
“Some even come by to chat, even when they aren’t having a car worked on,” said Inman.
“I think people like to see what we’re working on.”
“Jim has done a lot of work for us,” said Ray Byers Jr. of Byers’ Leaf Guard.
“He put GPS tracking software on our fleet of trucks and wired power inverters into the batteries of our big trucks. Now our trucks can generate power without the cost and hassle of a gas-powered generator. Even before he started his own business, we would only go to Jim — he’s always taken care of us.”
Apparently the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department agrees, as it has a contract with Electronic Solutions for the removal and installation of lights, sirens, computers and cameras in its cars.
“I’ve also worked with emergency vehicles and cars owned by the FBI and federal marshals,” Inman said.
This week, Electronic Solutions is expected to open a new retail space on the same site as its shop. The store will sell car stereos, speakers, Bluetooth devices and GPS systems, said Inman, who says he is always eager to research the latest technology.
He hopes to have a grand opening for the store in the coming months.
One thing is clear — Inman is one of the lucky few who discovered his passion early in life when he took apart that first radio at age 12.
“I get instant gratification when I see customers happy with their new toys — some are downright giddy,” he said with a laugh.
“I guess I’ve always loved taking apart things and making them better.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.