For some people, an ordinary car, truck or van just isn't good enough.
Luckily for them, auto-customizers are ready to help. Auto-customizers use
paints, wheels, spoilers, seats, body style changes, stereos and a host of
other accessories and alterations to make the ordinary extraordinary.
Auto-customizers combine skill at bodywork and other mechanics with artistic
flair. In fact, some of the most famous customizers are also well-known for
For instance, Robert Williams, who went on to become a comic book artist
in the 1970s, started his career painting flames and stripes on cars in Hollywood.
Williams' art is well-known to modern music fans, since his work has appeared
on several album covers.
Customizers face some tough challenges along the way. Clients either know
exactly what they want their car to look like -- and they may have unrealistic
ideas -- or they aren't sure. Either way, customizers say they spend almost
as much time talking to the customer as they do working on the car.
Martin Lum owns and operates a car restoration company. His clients are
generally wealthy people with money to burn. Collecting antique autos isn't
a cheap hobby. "It's not even a middle-class sport. It's an upper-class sport
economically because you can blow five grand real quick and that's just a
Customizers need a broad range of general knowledge about paint colors
and how to best coat different surfaces, as well as an idea of vehicle design
Customizers usually work in garages or shops, sometimes around potentially
toxic automobile paints and solvents. Most follow strict safety procedures
to protect against the chemicals they encounter. Workdays and weeks are usually
standard, but customizers who do their work on the side may work nights and
weekends to get their work done.
Customizers find work because most automobiles are made in mass production.
That means car-buying customers have a limited number of choices in terms
of body design, paint color and other esthetic features.
Some car companies have tried to change that, allowing customers to "custom
order" automobiles from the showroom. However, automotive industry experts
have pointed out that attempts to create "custom" factories have largely failed.
That's because customizing a car is an expensive proposition, one requiring
long hours of preparation, design conception and painting.