Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast Customs

Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast CustomsWCC’s Customization Game
As trendsetters, Ryan and his WCC crew are pushing their new school/old school conversions for 2010. “We call them the ‘modern day hot rods,’” he says. “It’s where we take an old body and we put it on top of a brand new chassis. So we’ll take a ’68 GTO and will buy a 2007 GTO and put the older body on the newer one, so it basically looks like an old school car from the outside, but the inside is all brand new and modern.” Ryan noticed how his clients really liked older cars, but didn’t want to put up with the hassles of them breaking down, being worn down on the inside or the troubles of having to track down the old school they wanted.

The first one he did was for actor Gary Dourdan on “CSI,” with the idea first originating in a concept meeting. Ryan explains that he wanted the shop to do an original custom project. “We blew away his idea with our final product!” he says. “With the success of that project, WCC has again started yet another trend that not many shops can step to. A lot of people like older cars; I think it’s because you can only do so much to the newer ones.” For those looking for this new modern day hot rod, Ryan and his crew will take care of everything. “All the client needs to do is tell us what car they’re interested in and we’ll go and find the old school and its modern version.” No matter what type of build you want, clients should expect a six month waiting list, and that’s with the shop being able to do anywhere from four to six builds at a time.

And don’t think you have to be a celebrity to get some work done at WCC either. “About 50 percent of our clients are celebs, with the other 50 usually a mix between high rollers and avid automotive enthusiasts who want custom, one-of-a-kind builds, as well as show-stopping corporate event vehicles,” he says. “We don’t discriminate among clients. If we have the time to build it, we’ll take anything, really.”

Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast CustomsPutting in 16-hour days, six days a week, Ryan practically lives at the shop in Corona, CA, but all his hard work and time hasn’t been in vain. As one of the world’s top customizers, WCC doesn’t look to any other shops for ideas since it’s usually the other way around. As a shop that does everything in house (he has a crew of 28 staff members that he likes to think of as a family more than employees), WCC’s advantage over other shops is that all the builds are carefully looked after from start to finish, so there’s no comprising the quality of work that goes into the cars, Ryan comments. “Another advantage is that I go overseas a lot and get to see firsthand all the new stuff in Europe and around the world. Cars are different over there from here in the States, which gives me lots of ideas and stuff.”

Being on top always has its downfalls, with haters being one of them…but Ryan isn’t sweating the negative stuff. “Haters will always be there and you can’t shake them off. If we didn’t have haters, then we wouldn’t be doing something right. There’s no time for negativity in these tough times we’re in.” Despite the slow economy, Ryan and WCC are surviving the economic storm, but have definitely been affected by its downturn.

“Everybody thinks we’re these big millionaires with a big shop and a TV show, so we’re not affected by the economy, but we’ve taken a hit,” he describes. “It just makes us realize what to be happy about—we still have the shop, everybody is still employed here and we still have customers, but it’s definitely not the way it used to be.” Because more people are being careful on what they spend their money on, Ryan has noticed that customers are no longer going for the big, flashy look, but keeping it simple and clean in terms of their modification requests.

Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast CustomsWCC’s “Street Customs”
All of Ryans new school/old school conversions will be seen on his TLC reality show, “Street Customs,” along with all the other builds he and his crew take on. Not satisfied with the image the shop built on “Pimp My Ride,” Ryan wanted to do the new series to show America everyday life in his shop. “Other shows like ours are just focused about giving back, while ours is more real ’cause it’s a real customer, whether it’s a celeb or a guy who wants to build a car, and we take it from start to finish.” Ryan and his WCC crew have also done philanthropic vehicles that were shown in the first season, but the show’s primary goal is to provide fans with an insider’s look into how celebrity and high-profile cars are built, from the clients’ ideas all the way to them driving out of the parking lot with their new West Coast Custom original.

With each episode depicting the entire process that goes into a build, Ryan saw the show evolve into providing people how-tos. “People out in the Midwest and all over the world want to be like us and go into their garages and build cars,” he says. “It’s cool to give them something useful they can use when working on their own rides.”

With a huge following, Ryan hopes to take the show as many seasons as it can go. “A lot of people love it. They can relate to the show since it’s the everyday life of being in the shop.” Besides filming the day-to-day business of his shop in Corona, Ryan also has a German “Street Customs” that chronicles his journey as he sets up shop in Berlin, Germany than can be seen both over there and here in the States. “So far, we’ve had a good response on the first few episodes.”

Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast CustomsWCC’s Celebrity Clientele
Expect to see tons of celebrity builds on the new season of “Street Customs,” like Sylvester Stallone’s three ’55 Ford F-100 trucks WCC is building for his new movie Expendables, Christian Audiger’s Cadillac Hearse, Paris Hilton’s pink Bentley and a Chevy Nomad for NASCAR’s Rusty Wallace, to name a few. Ryan also built a taco truck for Chronic Tacos, a mobile ticket booth for the Dodgers and a Mercedes-Benz van for Vans complete with a half pipe inside with a glass dome roof. “We just did a new-to-old conversion GTO for Rock Star Energy, which is one of the best ones we did so far ’cause we learned how to perfect them,” Ryan mentions.

Having worked with so many celebrities, Ryan still credits anything Shaq brings him as the most outrageous ones he’s done. “He always comes to me with crazy stuff. He recently brought me a Mercedes-Benz S-Class that he wanted to have turned into a convertible with a retractable roof. It took eight months to build and I just finished it. It’s so far one of the hardest projects I’ve done in a while ’cause we had to build everything from scratch.”

Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast CustomsWCC’s Expansions
In conjunction to Ryan’s Berlin expansion shop, he has franchised the brand to other parts of the world, including Dubai, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Tokyo, Mexico City and Moscow (along with the Berlin and Corona location). “The more and more I visited these countries, the more I realized how much people really loved and wanted to have a piece of West Coast Customs,” he explains. “I figured as long as I could find a good partner who’s also a good person, then I’d be able to open up different shops all over the world.” While all locations are franchised out, Ryan still places rules and regulations to have each shop look the same and feel the same to give it the authenticity of the original West Coast Customs.

“The first thing we do is to make sure they financially can set up and make a handbook as far as the look and the feel,” he says. “I help them with the look and the layout, and then they send their two main guys that will be running the shop to spend time with us to learn the ropes to get the feel of how we do things.” Ryan actually kept the Berlin shop for himself, flying there once a month for the last year to film the German version of the show.

“Germany was one of the first places I ever went to when I went out of the country and we have a really big following in Europe,” he says. “The respect is there and people love us and treat us like we’re gods over there so I figured if there was one I wanted to keep for myself it was that one. I’m really hands-on with the operations and setup.” Ryan later wants to open shops in Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Expect to see a lifestyle brand from WCC in 2010, too. “We’re working on a WCC clothing line and building the side brand called Wrench Clothing. I want to build a work line of clothing for guys who work in the shop that’ll include work boots, gloves, safety glasses and more. Basically stuff they’d wear in the shop. We’re also going to open up a couple of tattoo shops, where we’ll also display artwork and stuff called Custom Ink’d.”

With so many things in the works for 2010, Ryan and his West Coast Customs family are more than ready to ring in the new year with endless possibilities. “The sky’s the limit for us right now…we’re getting ready for total world domination!”

Make sure to catch the season premiere of “Street Customs” on TLC starting back up on October 29 at 10 p.m. and every Thursday night after that!

The Magazine

Amber Rose CoverIssue 74 Features:

Amber Rose

Shaquille O'Neal

Anderson Silva

Ason Martin Virage + Much more!