What is a car customizer? Everyone has their own idea of what a car customizer is and is not, but if we were to follow in the footsteps of the true definition, then a customizer is a person who has had hands-on experience working on cars. These days it seems everyone in this industry wants in on the action, yet who has really paid their dues? The list of so-called customizers is a long one and it now comes down to pointing out the real ones, or to better please our scene, the real ones in the import industry. I believe this question can get split up in three different categories: guys that physically do the work in this industry, guys that work in another type of car industry and the guys that market themselves well. We know about the guys in the industry, so let's start with the guys in the other industries.
Mention the name Chip Foose, Troy Lee and the late Von Dutch and I instantly think "hot rod car customizers." Yes, the name Von Dutch is the same as what you see stitched on the apparel of many Hollywood hotties, but that's a totally different, totally jacked-up story. Each of the above mentioned names somehow have their hands on, or in, the hot rod industry, whether it's building a car from scratch or laying down a paint job or pin stripe. To tell you the truth, these guys are the masters in the hot rod scene, and whether it's metal fabrication, custom paint or pin striping, they have not only mastered their trade, they are well-known for their hands-on training. I think I can be honest: These guys have come from a do-it-yourself era and this is what has made them the kings of their market. Lately it seems like import companies have been starting to hire these legends to build custom imports. Now this is the part when my hate mail folder gets bigger. While they are great designers in their own industry, why is it that their old-school designs tend to follow them into our industry? From body styling to gaudy, multi-tone, hot rod-ish paint jobs, it's all that type of stuff that portrays old-school styles rather than what our true enthusiasts are after. Now I know if I tried to step into their world of hot rods, I would probably get laughed at trying to add my import styling to their type of cars, but the flip side is that it does work the other way around. Don't come to our industry assuming your styles will work for us.
Then you have the guys that are in our industry and know how to market themselves really well to companies. I know a lot of people that have been in this industry for quite some time and feel as if they can call themselves a car customizer, but observing the newest trends in the industry and creating the trends yourself are two completely different things. So once again, what right does a person have to call himself a car customizer? For most enthusiasts in this market, the customizing comes from aftermarket parts and they make their car unique to their needs. This may be the perfect example of a custom car but there's one problem: Were the parts ordered from a catalog or custom-made by the enthusiast? These days, the ordering from a catalog is what's called an import tuner. There's nothing wrong with it, but that's not what a car customizer is by definition. So who is a car customizer in our industry? The manufacturers? The designer behind the computer or drawing board? Or the person who physically gets under the car to create their ideas?
If we follow in the footsteps of the domestic market, the true customizer is the guy that pays his dues by physically getting into the work himself to create the parts, making it a unique vehicle. This is the guy that takes the car down to a shell and creates his vision from this point, not by what is found in a catalog. This is the guy that physically designed your body kit, the guy that welded your strut tower bar with just an image floating in his head of what looks cool and works well. The guy that designed a turbo kit on the computer and welded the thing together is the true customizer. What I want to see is one guy or one team take a car down and build it from scratch to start this new trend. To me, this is a true car customizer. I want to see the Chip Foose's and Troy Lee's of our industry build a car with their own hands just as these domestic legends did to build their name for themselves. This is more than having an idea doing it on paper. This is about that same guy getting dirty on a project. This is the person on which the big manufacturers base their latest products. Show me someone that can do that in the import scene and I would be glad to shake his hand. Unfortunately, this industry is filled with wannabes and the wannabe who creates on paper and contracts another company to create the design isn't a car customizer, he's a phony in my book. To have the title of "car customizer" is a privilege and not something you can buy.
Anyone can dream of what they want to create, but only a select few can create a dream on their own.