Alumni Updates

Car Customizer


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Following in the footsteps of a world-class mentor, David Grant has made a career of customizing and restoring automobiles.

David A. Grant’s (BS ’85) fascination with cars began at age 2, when his father took him to a store and he saw a box covered with pictures of a car. Not realizing it was a model to be built, Grant begged his father for it. When he opened the box, he expected a car ready to play with, but what he got was a multitude of parts ready for assembly. “I was not ready for that,” says Grant, who nevertheless soon became an avid modeler.

At 14 he took a big step up from models and purchased for $50 a 1930 Ford Tudor sedan that was missing several components. When he learned that a front fender was available, Grant had his dad drive him to Winfield’s Special Projects in North Hollywood, Calif., to pick it up. There he met the owner, Gene Winfield, who built custom vehicles for movies such as Woody Allen’s Sleeper and the Star Trek TV series. Impressed, Grant expressed a desire to work for Winfield.

That opportunity came when Winfield moved to Chatsworth, Calif., to work for Traditional Coach Works, a shop that customized new vehicles into station wagons and pickup trucks. “I learned the art of automobile customizating from someone who was a legend,” Grant says. “His advice to me as a teenager was ‘Know how to work.’” The two later built a car for the film The Last Starfighter.

Years later, Grant decided to write a book about his mentor. The result, The Legendary Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield, took more than a decade of work before it was published this year. All the while, Grant has been busy applying skills he learned from Winfield in his own car-restoration business.

Among other projects, Grant has restored a 1969 Iso Grifo, an Italian sports car. Only 10 were manufactured, and the car is worth more than $1 million. “To do the job right takes patience, time, and a lot of money,” he says.

Meanwhile, there is still a car in his shop waiting to be finished—his old 1930 Ford Tudor sedan.