Mountainous Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, hosts an annual event called “Car d’Alene,” which has appeared on Dennis Gage’s My Classic Car show on Speed Channel. The national media coverage of this show reflects the fact that this beautiful Northwestern city is a hotbed for collector car activity. Coeur d’Alene also plays home to Elder Automotive and Butcher’s Kreative Kustoms, two shops that have joined forces to build street rods and offer restoration work to hobbyists.
Teamwork is the secret that put this dynamic duo on the map. Jeff Elder’s shop handles the chassis construction and mechanical fabrication phases of a car build, while Dave Williams of Kreative Kustoms slings body filler and squirts paint. Together the two shops turn out vehicles that embody top-quality work and require both types of skill sets.
Elder Automotive is a small shop with an active everyday trade in repairing modern iron. A local reputation for market-priced fixes that get the job done keeps the shop busy on a daily basis and generates a regular flow of income. This foundation keeps the business thriving and supports Elder’s ability to provide more labor-intensive services like the rod building and restoration jobs that don’t come through the door every day. The new-car repairs pay the bills and the classic car jobs feed the “soul” of a long-time hot rodder who loves cars.
But the money isn’t the only reward that Elder gets from dabbling in old-time cars and trucks. A testimonial letter posted in the shop tells how his “restification” of a vintage Nova Sport Coupe brought some joy to a young lady suffering with a terminal illness. The letter stated how she enjoyed driving the car and taking it to shows, and how it gave her something to think about other than her illness.
Elder works on the new cars in a small, well-organized shop that shows only a few signs of his interest in collecting. But once you tell him your interest in older iron, you’re likely to take a walk to some nearby buildings where you’ll see some neat vehicles and meet Dave Williams.
One of the steel buildings houses Elder’s under-construction 1954 Chevy ½-ton truck. This “Advance-Design”-style panel delivery is in the midst of having some updating done. The chromed-up Chevy V-8 under the hood carries a blower and an air scoop. Elder is still working out some chassis modification details and custom touches for his rig. He has aluminum rims and fat tires mounted on it. Inside, a set of modern bucket seats has been installed. When the fabrication work is finished, the truck will be rolled to a steel building next door for the Dave William’s treatment.
This building – with a spotless interior – is where you’ll encounter Williams and Butcher’s Kreative Kustoms. This body shop handles its own restorations, plus paintwork for Elder’s jobs. Two projects that Williams had underway recently involved an early-‘50s Chevy pickup truck cab and a ‘40s Ford Fordor sedan that was in the middle of a total and radical restyling. A very professional-looking top chop (hard to do on a Fordor) had been finished and the otherwise stripped-down body was in primer and awaiting the additional body work needed to make it a hit at a future “Car d’Alene” event.
Although these works-in-progress vehicles seemed like pretty good representations of the type of cars the two shops work on, Elder also suggested a stop at his brother’s Hot Rod Café in nearby Post Falls, where several cars that he and Williams have completed are displayed among the restaurant’s collection of automobilia and petroliana.
In addition to the cars inside the must-see eatery, an interesting item to note is the ice-cream cooler that Jeff and Dave crafted from the rear section of a Chevy panel truck body.
Elder Automotive can be reached at 208-765-6497. To reach Dave Williams at Butcher’s Kreative Kustoms, call 208-755-8856.
John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.