Dusk 'Til Drawn

Builder VS Installer: Where to Draw the Line?

Builder or installer?

I was recently asked an interesting, if not loaded question:

 “Why do you hate patina builds?”
And that had the effect of setting me off. It proves that very few people read anything beyond a word or two. I don’t “hate” patina. That would be a logical impossibility, or at the very last a psychotic reaction to something meaningless on any scale of importance, no matter how pathetic or sheltered your life may be. It simply wouldn’t make its way onto my list of things I truly give a shit about if I had to carry that list deep into the ten thousandth power.

“A better way to phrase this,” I responded, “would be to ask “what differentiates a builder from an installer?”

The Installer Project

There is no design. There is no requirement of planning, beyond shopping in a catalog for what parts to replace with new bolt-in’s. It is an act of pure accessorizing, with apologies to that word for lessening its meaning in this respect. Unless you are creating an entirely new chassis, engineering fresh parts and whatnot to make this particular “barn find” a new vehicle, then it’s not a “build.” And for Pete’s sake, enough applying the term “barn find” to every damned vehicle that has oxidized paint. If you literally discover a barn lost to the ages, and there is a mystery vehicle inside of that building, then yes, you have a barn FIND. We have been over this ad nauseam. into something far outside of anything seen before in functionality, then you’re simply cloning the last 600 features from that magazine, you half-wit. To say that you “designed” a patina “build” is tantamount to saying that you “invented” a new dish for dinner, because you accidentally spilled canned chili on the spaghetti. Your reference to yourself as a “builder” or “designer” are what I’d refer to as “a real head-scratcher”, or maybe something closer to “obscenely over-optimistic”. What you do is truly something that anyone with some hand tools and general knowledge could pull off. It’s the color-by-number of the hot rod world. If it weren’t, there would be some variety. Think about it.

I view this “barn find, patina truck” scene as the dope-addled cousin of the “rat rod” movement: It’s a cliched caricature of anything it set out to be. These guys thought that a crusty exterior, set on a stance that looks broken at best was a way to be unique… a rebellion against a “sea of red ’32 Fords.” Now we have a sea of rusty C-10’s on smoothie wheels that look like the suspension just gave up. Sweet turn radius, pal. Almost as cool as that flat-brimmed hat holding your ears in. Can never be too safe. I work my days away trying to help clients get the most of their vision into a build. I enjoy the guys who have PASSION and drive. That willingness to dive in and create something unique… an expression of an emotion in a mechanical object. These are the clients and the sort of car guys I want to be around, and enjoy the company of. On the other hand, I see the “patina” guys as looking for the quickest buy-in, and can’t jump that hurdle.

In fact, when you consider it, calling yourself a “builder” if all you do is slap a few parts, smoothie wheels and some airbags from a catalog under a rusty vehicle, that’s like playing the video game Rock Band, and calling yourself a “musician”. I certainly wouldn’t sign you on. Besides, I’ve heard that song played correctly a million times before. Even your best note-for-note rendition brings on a yawn no matter how ironic that retro script is across the face of your late-model amp.

The Builder Project

It all starts with a design. A plan. At the builder level, we are building something new. A fresh vehicle. We are customizing thing, inventing and re-inventing, re-imagining and even modernizing. A builder of custom cars is is much like a builder of custom homes: He is going off of the beaten path. There are home builders who put together nice cookie-cutter tract homes, but they don;t call themselves “custom builders.”

Heck, there are hot rod builders who have made a name for themselves by building custom versions of the same cars with similar themes time and again. But these guys are are using their own parts or tricks to build from. There may be a few catalog parts, but that’s a business decision, and certainly a grand topic all its own. The builder is concentrating on making a statement from his fabrication and his or a hired party’s) design or vision. The builder seeks to put out a one-of-a-kind ride with unique flavor, and possibly even launch a line of bespoke parts for the installer crowd. All of those parts start somewhere, after all. Starting to see how it all feeds?

Reality TV has blurred the perception of so many defined values in the industry, and with the potential to damage it. There are many half-finished projects on the market die to a customer taking a “builder” project to an “installer” shop. If you have fallen victim to this, you know what I’m talking about.

Again, this isn’t meant to bash on anyone whose skill level isn’t Ridler contender-worthy, as those are the few and rare. It’s merely meant to educate those looking for the right shop to tackle their build. Don’t allow your dream project to be some shop’s learning curve; instead, match the end goal with the guy who can pave the path to it.

Ask yourself “do I need a builder or an installer?”

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The Author

Brian Stupski

Brian Stupski

1 Comment

  1. […] second consultation. Make this a clear as possible. At the same time, make sure that you make your shop of choice or build skill known. Make it an open exchange where ideas can flow freely, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised […]

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