Story: Michael Crenshaw
Photography: Scott Dukes
Back in the “MTV days,” West Coast Customs got famous by modifying cars that were often laughable and always outrageous. Still, it was enough to make the Cali customizer a household name. Clothes dryers, fish tanks and even a river flowin’ through the back of a Cadillac Deville were some of the modifications that WCC became (infamously) known for. “[Pimp My Ride] helped a lot with the brand. Then once we moved to TLC [Street Customs], it helped to show what we really do, instead of just doing a TV show,” Ryan Friedlinghaus, owner and founder of WCC, explains. Now, years removed from the persona that MTV’s Pimp My Ride gave them, WCC is focused more than ever on producing the most original and best-quality builds the world has ever seen, period.
Embarking on something that hasn’t been done before, Friedlinghaus and the WCC crew decided to put a spin on old-school classics with a modern twist. “The demand is coming from celebrities and high-end people who want an old car, but a reliable old car,” Friedlinghaus says. The pieces fell in place like a puzzle.
With Detroit pushing out muscle cars again, attention has moved away from high-end exotics and super-luxe whips. But purists still prefer the original old-school models over their sleeker, more modern name holders. So WCC figured it’d make sense to dress the new-schools in old-school skins. “It’s basically doing it like an old RC car,” Friedlinghaus explains. “We took the body off the old-school one and put it on the brand-new one. Every part of the new-schools is used except the body. Latches, door hinges and mechanisms are also utilized to teach an old dog new tricks, with the end result being more Six Million Dollar Man than Frankenstein”; a time-honored shape with the reliability of a brand-new whip.
Though Friedlinghaus is modest in stating there “isn’t much work at all” when melding the old and new, you can be assured that making the seamless transition is much more intensive than building a Tamiya Grasshopper 1/10 scale model. “We try to keep it as factory as possible, to the point where you could still take it to the dealership and warranty it. They freak out a little bit when they see them, but after plugging it into the computer, you still see everything,” says Friedlinghaus. Examples such as a ’66 Chevy Chevelle SS mated with an ’07 Corvette Z06—which is as much a showpiece as it is a runner—was widened, shaved and finished with Z06 running gear and interior, complete with the Vette’s Heads Up Display (HUD) system. And this year WCC has been busy melding a ’68 Camaro with gen-five parts, which they will unleash at SEMA. “We haven’t done a ton of these transformations yet, but for 2010, that’s all I really want to do,” Friedlinghaus explains. But don’t fret, the crew at WCC will still make your automotive dreams come true, even if they don’t involve gutting muscle cars. Want to build a two-door Rover or a fire engine equipped with a sound system that’ll intimidate a nightclub? Give them a ring. Just don’t ask them to put a fishbowl in your clapped-out ’92 Camry ever again.