Performance & Hotrod Business - April '15

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68 n Performance & Hotrod Business n April 2015 HOTROD site ( shows one custom car, a 1931 custom- built Marmon roadster. It belongs to one of my regular customers and is so unusual I decided to add it to the website. I simply don't have the skills to do the kind of design and fabrication work being shown on The Hog Ring these days. I am continually amazed at the kind of interiors being produced in trim shops today. I keep doing the old stuff because I am not good enough to do the new stuff. 5. You cater to such a niche market, which is probably very limited in local clientele. How far do your customers travel to seek your services? The classic car market is extremely small compared to what else is going on in the automotive world. Sometimes I feel like I just painted myself into a corner. It is a very tough marketplace to get into. For example, one customer took eight years from the time I met him until I got his first car. He has been a regular ever since, though. There are some great collections and avid collectors right here in Oklahoma, but I do get projects from all over the U.S.; from California to Maryland, from Texas to Wyoming. I have been very fortunate. 6. What was the rarest vehicle you've restored? Which vehicle was your favorite? Some of the rarest automobiles I have done are also some of the oldest: 1906 American Tourist, 1911 Pope, 1911 Olds Autocrat, 1914 Cadillac seven-passenger touring, 1915 Stutz Bearcat and a 1916 Stutz Bulldog. Some of the later-model rare automo- biles include any of the Duesenbergs. I have trimmed five Duesenbergs: a 1931 Ruxton Phaeton (one of two), a 1929 Ruxton Roadster (first one), a 1953 Cunningham C3 Vignale convertible (one of four), and a 1937 Ford Darrin (the only Ford famous customizer "Dutch" Howard Darrin built). Any of the automobiles listed on the Classic Car Club of America roster of des- ignated "Classics" are considered rare and very collectible. My personal favorite is the 1929 Duesenberg J-108 convertible coupe bodied by Murphy. It belonged to actress Ginger Rogers and was featured in the 1934 film The Gay Divorcee with Fred Astaire. 7. How difficult is it to restore a clas- sic car so that it's period-correct? What type of research do you do to learn about a car in order to ensure every last detail is accurate? Fortunately, in the classic car circles, the respective owners are quite knowledgeable about what is correct for their car. But I do spend a lot of time looking online or at resource books I have for clues. With the Ginger Rogers Duesenberg, I freeze- framed the movie where the interior of the car and top were shown so I could tell how it was done originally. Many of these early cars were hand- built to a customer's request so there is no "correct." They are not at all like most pro- duction cars built after the late '30s. Often my customer will just ship the car to me and tell me to "fix" it. If you have knowl- edge of the techniques of the era, and can get your hands on the correct hardware, it's not a great mystery. I will spend hours looking for photo- graphs, reading resource material, talking Convertible top on a 1931 Chrysler Imperial CG Roadster. 1933 Duesenberg SJ-528 Brunn Riviera Disappearing Top Phaeton. to other people about certain specifics. After a while you develop a network of "go-to" people to get help, whether it is just a question or a piece of hardware or fabric. Occasionally I'll get a car with some of the original still with it, but that is rare. 8. Speaking of hardware, do you find it difficult to find necessary parts? Also, do you typically fabricate everything by hand or do you sometimes install after- market upholstery components? Finding correct hardware and materials is only getting more difficult. When I can find hardware I need, I will buy all I can no matter the price. Most of the especially rare parts have already been provided by the cus- tomer. He will borrow a part from someone with a correct part and have it duplicated. I make everything for the interior myself. I use no aftermarket products and, frankly, have refused to install any interior kit of any kind for years. 9. To what do you credit your shop's success? How do you define "success?" In many ways, I am still trying to become a success. There is a funny old saying: "The harder I work the luckier I get." I used to think that if I was good enough, people would just stand in line and pay whatever I wanted. I was wrong. There are built-in limitations in any mar-

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