Derek Bemiss modestly refers to himself as “just some street detailer from Huntington Beach,” but he’s so much more than that. The California detailer has worked on everything from Gremlins to Bugattis, and his skill is such that he put the finishing touches on Chip Foose’s Riddler Award-winning hot rod, “The Imposter,” at Autorama in 2015.
At 13, Bemiss was mesmerized by the work of an auto detailer that he met while working at a car wash near his California home, and it soon became his passion too. “Watching him work his magic on those cars… it made them look spectacular. But more than that, he liked what he was doing, and his clients who came to pick up their cars were always happy with what they saw. It could have been this old, messed up car, but he’d bring it back to life. It was beautiful and shiny, and had all this depth and gloss, and the chrome looked new, and the interior smelled fresh… It was those things that I think kind of turned me on to detailing and making a career out of it. It was neat.”
Bemiss says his job “is to take things to the next level, to places that most clients don’t understand until we show them, ‘Hey, your car can look like this. We can do this with it.’”
To say that Bemiss is grateful is a bit of an understatement. He’s still in “pinch me” mode. “Some of these cars that we get to work on are pieces of history,” he says. “Sometimes they’re one of one, sometimes they’ve performed acts that changed automotive history… We get our hands on this stuff. To be able to make it perfect for (a client)—as good as it can be—that’s a great feeling.”
This is the sixth episode of The Craftsmen Series. Look for previous episodes about pinstriper Lyle Fisk, woodworker Ron Heiden, fabricator Steve Hogue, upholsterer Luis Loyola, and Ed Pink racing engines.