A fabulous ’55 Chrysler 300 built by Hot Rods & Custom Stuff was recently featured in HOT ROD magazine. Owned by a Michigan auto exec who had it restored to original, then found it a bit “old-tech” and decided to redo it as an up-to-date performance car, this “Beautiful Brute” – as 300s are known – looked like Concours d’Elegance winner on top. Underneath, it was built like a NASCAR racing machine.
The Chrysler is a masterpiece example of Randy Clark’s restorative talents. As the owner of Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, Randy’s motto is: “We do it all and we do it right.” The Escondido , Calif. , facility has been constructing modified vehicles since 1989.
“Facility” really describes HR&CS, as it’s more than just a shop. The main location consists of three buildings housing a body shop, administrative offices, parts showroom, service bays and a fabrication shop. A new paint and assembly facility is at another location.
Once inside, visitors will find the metal building loaded with all kinds of dress-up and go-fast hardware, as well as nostalgic performance items. Randy Clark enjoys the hands-on involvement with cars and customers and is usually around to discuss potential projects.
Clark grew up in Iowa . His grandfather was a machinist and tool inventor and his father had worked as a blacksmith and welder. “I got out of high school and started working on cars in a gas station, then at a Pontiac-Cadillac dealership and then at a GMC dealership,” Randy recalled. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
When his folks moved to California in 1949, Randy did, too. A year later, he started going to drag races and got hooked on California ’s car culture and rods. “I’m here for good,” he says. “I’ve lived in the same house since 1955.”
Hot Rod & Custom Stuff’s plastic media-blasting department typically has several cars in for paint stripping. Randy believes media blasting is the best way to strip paint from metal, plastic and fiberglass. “It is also the best way to start prepping surfaces for award-winning paint jobs,” he says.
Dressed up with old-fashioned signage and memorabilia, the HR&CS vehicle service center could have a stock silver ’69 Camaro in for brake repairs or a ’64 GTO getting a top-to-bottom “restification.” The service mechanics switch back and forth from tuning up and aligning cars leaving the other shops to doing maintenance for regular customers. HR&CS provides all levels of engine service from tune-up to complete rebuild. Worried about gas prices? HR&CS does carb re-jetting, fuel-injection systems, gear-ratio changes and overdrive installations. In some cases, mileage gains hit 20 mpg.
The HR&CS body shop and fabrication shop offer a variety of services from custom bodywork on a street rod or “lead sled” to collision repair on a collector’s late-model everyday driver. Both metal and fiberglass coachwork can be repaired and the company can handle chopping, channeling, frenching and louvering. Installing bolt-on item like hood scoops, body flares and spoilers is another niche. An in-house upholstery shop does seats, carpets, headliners and other trim operations.
Clark ’s new paint shop is in a different location. “We found that we were unable to paint near the media blasting and fabrication shops where we do the dirty work,” he explained. “Moving the department allowed us to upgrade quality by installing an all-new computerized PPG paint system and spray booth.”
Randy’s “outside” interests include toy cars, car magazines, car museums and the history of hot rodding. His personal garage is a fabulous place that’s been featured in magazines. “I like doing the hands-on work and running the business, too” he says.
According to Clark , first-time customers usually say they don’t want a show car when they start a project, but they usually find that it only pays to go all the way and wind up with a car like the Chrysler 300 seen in Hot Rod. “We do it all and we do it right,” Clark says, repeating his business creed. “It’s the only way to go.”
Hot Rod & Custom Stuff, Escondido , CA , 760- 745-1170 , www.hotrodscustomstuff.com
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.