22 August 2008

Trim with a Twist

Randy Sharpe doesn’t consider himself an automotive upholsterer. “I’m an automotive interior stylist who creates unique and high-styled designs,” he says. “I don’t just install interiors; I complete a connection between car owner and car.”

Randy and his wife Tina want to take automotive interior craftsmanship to a new level. “At DeLuxe Automotive Interior Stylists, we don’t just install interiors,” says Randy. “We create a complete interior design from start to finish. We start by exchanging ideas and inspirations with our clients. It is important to know their likes before we start building an interior.”

Once Randy and Tina have the car owner’s input, they start making renderings. “A good drawing ensures that we are ‘on the same page’ with the client,” Randy believes. “Once an interior design is determined, colors and textures are selected from only the most luxurious leather hides.”

Randy brings 29 years of experience to the creation of an interior. Nearly 50 years old, he recalls cruising Woodward Avenue in the late ‘60s in his brother’s car. Randy’s father was a skilled auto-body man who built limousines and hearses on a farm in Blue Ash, Ohio. “Dad raised me with the determination that I could do anything,” Randy recalls. “When I saw him whack a car in half and make it beautiful, I knew anything was possible.”

After moving to the Detroit area, Randy’s father went into the auto body business. “He was a lead man and did really great stuff,” says Randy. “He had a shop on Woodward.” After automakers stopped making convertibles in the mid-‘70s, Randy’s father entered the custom-conversion business. “I started with custom stuff, but I hated the smell of paint,” Randy explained. “I had to do something. I knew how to put on vinyl tops and how to sew.”

Randy moved around the country for awhile and even tried mobile furniture repair. “By then, I knew I could get through anything,” he says. “I started thinking about how I could break into the high-end hot rod business.” Randy crafted a custom interior for a 1941 Willys coupe. Then, he met Blackie Gejeian, the creator of the Oakland Roadster Show, at the Detroit Autorama.

“I told him I did interiors and that I was going to move to California, because I didn’t think I could get car builders to come to me in the middle of the country,” says Randy. Gejeian advised him to stay in the Midwest. Now he has a shop in St. Clair, Missouri or, as he puts it, “50 miles west of St. Louis in the heart of Route 66 hot-rod country.”

Tina and Randy work as a team, with Tina doing design work and Randy building the interiors. “We use only hand-built aluminum panels throughout each vehicle,” Randy points out. “This ensures an exact fit that cannot be achieved with press board or plastic panels. By paying meticulous attention to detail, we find that we can create award-winning interiors for our clients.”

According to Sharpe, the creation and installation of high-quality interior takes time more than anything else. “If a trimmer has to hurry to finish, the customer is going to end up with a hurried-up-and-finished looking interior,” says Randy. “That’s why so many hot rods that look spectacular on the outside fall short on the inside. DeLuxe Automotive Interior Stylists will not fall short. We view the interior as one-third of a vehicle build and we try to create an interior that completes the flow of the car. A beautiful motor flows into a beautiful paint job and both will continue to flow into a beautiful interior.” Randy’s mottor for his business is, “We expect great things from us – you should too.”

One of Sharpe’s wilder creations drew lots of looks at the 2006 SEMA Show. This unique, vehicle was finished in pink with green flames. It combined a 1964 Chevy pickup truck cab with a 1961 Chrysler front end and a 1957 Imperial rear end. Power was supplied by a blown Chrysler Hemi with six Stromberg carbs hooked to a Muncie four-speed transmission. The interior was done in white leather with leopard skin inserts and chrome. Since SEMA, this car has appeared in at least five magazines.

Randy’s Missouri shop encompasses 3,700 square feet of floor space. A new facility he is planning to open in Ionia, Michigan will be three times as large. DeLuxe Automotive Interior Stylists can be reached at 636-629-6996 or by visiting www.deluxeautointeriors.com.

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