- Bitchin' Rides' Dave Kindig

For one of the world’s leading car customisers, designers and fabricators, Bitchin' Rides’ Dave Kindig didn’t have the most promising start to automotive life. “It was kinda funny,” he told DriveTribe. “I grew up with no Dad around and no one building cars in the garage. So my love of automobiles came from Hot Wheels toys and building stuff that didn’t exist out of Legos.”

Fast forward a couple of decades and Dave’s the founder of Kindig It Design, a custom shop and fabricator based in Salt Lake City, Utah – a shop that’s the focus of MotorTrend’s Bitchin' Rides show.

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Dave spent his formative years modding his own Volkswagen Beetles and learning his trade from fellow owners. “I surrounded myself with people who could do metal shaping, bodywork and paint, mechanical and electric modifications. So I just watched them work on their cars to get an idea, then I’d go home and work on my own cars using what I’d learned.”

As well as developing his hands-on skills he kept his designer’s eye sharp by penning renders for projects, drawings which were then hung on the wall of his office at High Performance Coatings. The quality of his designs was spotted by trade visitors to the office and Dave ended up quitting his job to set up shop alone.

“I quit my job, cashed in my 401K and started my business, Kindig It Designs – this was about 20 years ago.”

Working on camera

Cool beard, cooler cars – Dave's first love is customs and hot rods

Cool beard, cooler cars – Dave's first love is customs and hot rods

Bitchin' Rides is a fly-on-the-wall show that follows the work of Dave’s shop – where clients get their wildest custom projects built and, inevitably, filmed. “Obviously we were a functioning business long before Bitchin' Rides, but now pretty much every car that comes through the shop is filmed in one form or another. If I checked my mum’s oil it would likely make it into an episode,” he jokes.

When asked how he marries running a successful business with being the set for a full-on restoration and modding show, Dave seems pretty happy with how things have turned out. “It’s a cool marriage, actually,” he explains. “The production company is only a 20 minutes drive away, so they film anywhere between three and five days per week, all year long! We overlap our filming seasons because the projects we film are anywhere from nine months to a little over a year. The filming crew will be on six or seven different cars every day capturing our work. They’re very respectful of the fact we’re a business – they’re just capturing what we’d be doing if they weren’t filming.”

And how much quicker would builds get done without the cameras around?

“It’d be the exact same!” Dave laughs. “Most people wouldn’t expect it, but the disturbance is minimal. I’ve been on shows before where we’d have to take cars halfway apart again just so the construction could be filmed… it’s refreshing not to have to do that.”

Modern metal, modern tools

The attention to detail in the Kindig It Design team's builds even stretches to restoring original wiring

The attention to detail in the Kindig It Design team's builds even stretches to restoring original wiring

Although the focus of Bitchin' Rides is predominantly classic muscle cars and hot rods, Dave seems up for a more up-to-date challenge. “We have a lot of late model vehicles come in – we’ve seen a few Challenger Hellcats come through, as well as a couple of Bentley Bentaygas. That’s always a challenge taking a brand-new high-end vehicle apart to de-chrome it, but we’re up for that!”

Dave’s approach to customising cars seems pretty forward thinking. Although he’s a big proponent of classic metal working tools such as English wheels, planishing hammers, bead rollers and so on, he has a new favourite toy.

“3D printing is so helpful for rapid prototyping,” he explains. “I can sculpt, say, a rearview mirror housing, out of clay. I then scan it and make a reverse image, then 3D print it on our Pharaoh 3D printer. It’s not the sort of technology you necessarily would find in old-school hot-rod shops, but we want to make cars to the standard that would make a new Mercedes or Rolls-Royce blush in terms of quality of fitment and quality of the panels.”

The biggest challenge

The Futurliner restoration was a monster build

The Futurliner restoration was a monster build

A few years ago Dave and his team were set the monumental task of fully restoring a 1939 GM Futurliner – a vast bus-like vehicle used as a travelling exhibition for future tech. Dave recalls how it was their biggest Bitchin' Rides challenge in more ways than one.

“The scale of the build was something else,’ he remembers. “It took up five stalls in my shop. We had to build an air evacuation plenum above the project area and put a slide-around curtain in. It took almost 37,000 hours to build – there was anything from five to 12 people working on it at any given time. It took 19 months!”

You can see a clip of the guys working on this behemoth below.

The fact the Futurliner definitely wasn’t a hot-rod took Dave slightly out of his comfort zone, and forced him to think in terms of period-correct restoration more than pens-out creativity – although it sounds like he has some pretty big plans for the future.

“I’ll tell you what – I’ve got some ideas and plans in my mind to build my own supercar! My own chassis, lots of carbon fibre, aluminium carriages… it’ll definitely be mid-ended and probably rear-wheel drive because I like to drift a little bit.”

And what engine will it have?

“If you’d have asked me two years ago I’d definitely have said a V12 or a V8. But I’ve had the chance to ride in the new Ford GT with the V6 Ecoboost and that car is extremely, extremely capable. I know there was a lot of disappointment it didn’t have a V8 but the V6 is completely usable.”

That single engine choice reflects Dave and his Bitchin' Rides ethos in a nutshell – they’re guys and girls dead-set on giving classics a new lease of life, and they’re not afraid to use cutting edge technology to do it.

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