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Masters of Custom 2011!

0 Posted on August 09, 2011inGeneral

For most people, the closest they’re likely to have come to Gene Winfield, John D’Agostino or Charley Hutton is to see them on one of the reality TV shows geared around custom vehicles or, perhaps, in a magazine article. As a result, many were apprehensive about the opportunity to actually meet their heroes face-to-face at PPG’s special ‘Masters of Custom’ seminar held recently at Mt Druitt TAFE College in Sydney – would they be aloof, unapproachable prima donnas? In fact, the reality was life changing for many who attended, according to John Hristias (National Training Manager).

“We had people from virtually every trade that goes into building a custom car – panel beaters, painters, custom shop owners, mechanics, electricians, trimmers, you name it. What we aimed for with this seminar is exactly what people got – personal contact with their idols. All three of these guys were really good at giving their time – there was no ‘diva moments’ or dramas. During breaks in the schedule, participants could walk right up and chat with any of the ‘masters’. At the same time, you could see people saying to themselves – here’s one of my heroes that I’ve seen on TV and, you know what, he’s a regular guy. People couldn’t get enough of it!”

After splitting into three groups, participants rotated through the presentations delivered by the custom gurus. It was all about tapping into their incredible storehouse of knowledge and the trio didn’t hold back. Charley Hutton talked about the processes he puts in place and the areas he focuses on to achieve his renowned quality of workmanship. For example, he has a written paint process to ensure consistency and every staff member must learn it from day-one. He also highlighted efficient work practices, such as when stripping a vehicle, taking photos of each section and bagging and tagging every component down to nuts and bolts. That saves time when it comes to reassembly because everything is in place and so logical that even someone who didn’t strip it can do the job. He was amazed at the similarities between our markets.

“Even though we’re so far apart, custom shops here have the same issues – setting up the right payment plan with the right customer so that we get paid properly for what we do. You won’t get paid for every hour you work on a vehicle but you can minimise the time you give away. I’m just a painter and I’m still learning on the business side – that’s where PPG’s MVP program is exactly what I need.”

John D’Agostino has built hundreds of custom cars and specialises in his own particular style. His presentation revolved around planning a vehicle build, from establishing exactly what the customer wants and then laying out each step to the finish. He emphasised the need to get renderings done first because they save a lot of time later. Once the customer visualises the result, they’re less likely to make expensive changes down the track. John was really open and friendly and was even happy to provide useful contacts for trusted US businesses he uses to produce unique parts.

Gene Winfield’s presentation centred on metalworking tips and techniques. For many custom jobs it’s simply impossible to buy a suitable tool so, over the years, Gene has made his own. As an example he used a cut down baseball bat to demonstrate how easy tasks, such as shaping bends and recesses in metal, can be when you have a tool to suit. Even at 84 years old, Gene is still motivated by the custom scene.

“I still like to create new things and to set new benchmarks. I like to be challenged and to challenge myself to do something different.”

During the seminar’s second day, Charley Hutton did a live demonstration of a wood panelling effect on one of Gareth Davies’ award winning choppers. As he painted he was surrounded by attendees who asked questions and he was happy to answer. Later, the entire group was treated to seeing Gene do one of his trademark ‘blended’ paint jobs, says John Hristias.

“Everybody absolutely loved watching as Gene transformed the finish. The mixing bench was setup right next to the booth so that when he came out people could see how he mixed and reduced the colours, etc – that made it really personal for everyone. No wonder he has such an amazing following and people really respect him.”

According to John Hristias, it was difficult to see how the event could have gone better.

“It may seem relatively simple to bring these guys out here but for many people who attended the seminar it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it has really touched their lives. To have three generations of US custom car builders mingling with our car builders – it was an amazing experience!”

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