March '19

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MARCH 2019 THE SHOP 17 I t was approximately two decades ago when highly stylized sport compact vehicles splashed onto the customizing scene. Powered by The Fast and the Furious movies and fueled by a younger generation that wanted something different than their parents, the trend was marked by brightly colored imports boasting extreme body kits and high-flying wings and spoilers. Over the next 20 years tastes moved more toward the middle, but the power of the body kit had been revealed. Proper designs executed in high-quality materials allowed restylers to enhance the look of OEM vehi- cles, bringing a new level of modification to even the most mundane sedans and coupes. These days, the use of body styling com- ponents has expanded to even include trucks and SUVs. Painted to match or as a contrasting two-tone, they help bring attention to vehicles everywhere from car shows to dealership lots. Project vehicle builders Billy Longfellow and Carlos Molina were in on the body styling market from the beginning, helping set the trends that won awards at the SEMA Show and drove the market. Both fondly recall the early days of body styling, and are pleased with where the market is today. BILLY LONGFELLOW Vice President of Design Air Design USA Billy Longfellow is a well-known name in the vehicle styling market, having show- cased his design talents with manufacturers including Wings West, 3D Carbon and now Air Design USA. At the 2018 SEMA Show he received his 20th overall SEMA Design Award working with Ford, Chev- rolet and Chrysler, earning a 2018 Ford Design Award for his company's new 2019 Ranger body kit. Looking back, he credits overseas inspira- tion for sparking what he prefers to call the styling kit market more than 20 years ago. "In the late 1990s, this movement was really headed up by the big name: Mugen. I used to go to the Tokyo Auto Salon show every year in Japan, and that was the huge name. It was a Japanese company formed in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda, the son of Honda Motor Co. founder Soichiro Honda. Mugen, meaning without limit, ultimate power." The company had made its mark as an engine tuner and OEM parts manufacturer for Honda, he recalls, producing body kits, sport exhausts and more. "We visited them in Japan (to discuss) doing business in the USA, but after intended plans didn't work out, it ultimately led to Wings West starting to design our own Japanese-style body kits in the States. The kids wanted something they couldn't BODY OF WORK The vehicle styling market has come a long way from the extreme kits of the 2000s. MARCH 2019 THE SHOP 17 The best body styling kits en- hance a stock vehicle's factory lines, making it a better version of itself. (Photo courtesy Air Design USA

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