Selling a Custom in Today’s Market

Most car enthusiasts dream of the day when they can create their dream car, whether that means a flawless, accurate restoration that will win a concours, a recreation of a vintage Salt Flat car that goes like stink, or the one of a kind custom they’ve always wanted to own. The idea of doing it “right”, with no holds barred, and seeing that final product match the vision you have for it in your head is the dream of many, and realized by just a few.

Dave Hall is a guy who lived that dream with a 1955 Chevrolet Nomad named “Newmad”. Dave’s interest in ’55 Chevys goes back to his youth in the 60’s, when he did a mild restoration on a Belair hardtop. Built with a .60 over bored 283, 327 heads, Corvette (Rochester) fuel injection, Borg Warner T10 4 speed and a 411 posi rear end, it ran a quick 12.96 at 108 MPH with street tires and closed exhaust, and Dave was hooked.

So, you can understand when in 1995, Dave jumped on a nice ’55 wagon out of an estate sale in Texas. After a year of driving it in the stock format, Dave began a process that would span almost 5 years and several shops – creating his dream car. He retired from a 35 year career in the electronics industry, and finally found his way to Steve’s Auto Restorations in Portland, Oregon. Dave was “blown away” when he first visited, as they were just completing “RealMad”, another significant Chevy Nomad, and he knew he had found the shop to fulfill his dream.

Steve Frisbie introduced Dave to Chris Ito, a SAR customer with design experience, and Chris almost immediately sketched a contemporary design theme that was still obviously a ’55 Nomad, but subtly executed a modernized outlook. Dave knew this partnership between Chris and the metal craftsmen at SAR was the right fit, so work proceeded in January, 2000 and continued for 15 months. Check out a “blow by blow” overview of construction at Steve’s Auto Restorations.

The results speak for themselves – every panel and every piece of trim or glass was reconstructed or custom fabricated. Overall, the body was channeled 3”, the roof sectioned 1 ½”, and the wheelbase lengthened 3”. Newmad sits on a 4” x 5” custom frame with tubular cross members, and is motivated by a 496 cu. in. Aluminum Big Block Chevrolet motor that churns out 540 HP. Mated with a Hughes Performance GM4L80E 4 speed automatic transmission and a 9” 3.89 posi rear end, Newmad rides on custom Budnik wheels and BFG g-force T/A tires, which can be smoked in any gear. Luxury features include a massive Clarion sound system, power everything, and Vintage Air climate control.

Newmad has garnered a ton of attention, and won awards from coast to coast, including a Custom Rodder “Top 10” Award, Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year, Best of Show at the Detroit Autorama, and been featured in dozens of advertisements and magazine features. It has just about done and won everything it can, and is one of the most recognizable customs in the country. Dave had achieved his goal of seeing his vision become reality, and doing what most car guys can only dream of – he created an iconic vehicle that was universally appreciated, and it reflected his vision perfectly.

So, in 2009, Dave got the itch for his next project, and made the difficult decision to sell the car. He consigned it to the elegant RM Auction at the Biltmore Resort, and with much trepidation, drove it for one last time across the RM block. Top bid that day for Newmad was $258,500, which is a lot of money, but nowhere near the build cost of this 24,000 man hour effort. I was with Dave that day, and we both got a little emotional when the gavel fell – for Dave, he was seeing the reality of his dream from decades ago head for someone else’s garage.

Dave’s advice after his experience at the top of the custom car world: Stick with the tried and true aftermarket suppliers, avoid cutting corners or using cheap parts, and lay out a realistic plan and budget ahead of time. And most important – create what you really want and enjoy it to the fullest – that way, whether you break even or lose money upon the sale, you’ll have no regrets, because you did it right, and right from the start.

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