Skratch's Garage

A Coming of Age Story, Kustom Style

By Jeff Alexander

Skratch was introduced to kustom kulture during family movie night. His father would proudly show 8mm films of his days pinstriping and wrenching. The flakes, flames, and lines of classic Detroit metal immediately captivated Skratch.

Skratch was introduced to kustom kulture during family movie night. His father would proudly show 8mm films of his days pinstriping and wrenching. The flakes, flames, and lines of classic Detroit metal immediately captivated Skratch.

“I was 11 and watching these short movies of my dad pinstriping a shoebox Ford. I was surprised, ‘that’s my dad?’ I guess he was pretty cool. I was really taken by the colors and the cars and it always stuck with me,” reflected Skratch.

He began working on second-generation Camaros at 16 but eventually moved on to classics. The discipline required to properly wrench and paint didn’t deter him and he soon acquired a ’53 and ’59 Chevy pickup. His initial foray into DIY painting began innocently enough but his self-critique, much like any artist, was intense.

“I would constantly practice. I think it was about 8 years before I could say I was simply ‘good.’ There’s a lot of intricacies involved that people can overlook. What I like to do in my builds is transform a vehicle into a concept version from the manufacturer, create something that is a faithful representation of the original model but not stock. Adding unique designs and touches to make it my own,” stated Skratch.

Skratch’s goals evolved and he felt it would be best to surround himself with even more individuals immersed in kustom kulture; He set his sights on California, the undeniable birthplace of kustoms. Skratch put his home up for rent and broke the news to his family.

“I went to follow the dream of building and painting. I quit my job, put my house up for rent, packed my stuff into a ’59 Pontiac, and headed for California with my paint box. My dad didn’t believe I was going and my mom would sigh, ‘Well, if that’s what you want to do.’ It really was like something out of a coming-of-age movie,” laughed Skratch.  

Skratch transitioned to working with Tyler Surfboards after a stint at the Von Dutch clothing shop on Melrose and seemingly overnight, demands for his artwork took off!

“I wasn’t even in California for a year and things were happening. I would stripe surfboards and things were going great to the point that I was asked to accompany them on a trip to Japan to participate in exhibitions and stripe more boards. My mind was blown! I had just moved to California from Texas and all of a sudden, I’m on an 11-hour flight and hopping a fast train to events. We got to tour a lot of the local builder garages and it was crazy because they worked and created in such tight spaces.”

He added, “Craftsmanship out there was very impressive and if they needed a certain product to finish a build and didn’t have it on hand, they would just innovate. Lots of impressive creativity! While with Tyler Surfboards, they also brought me onstage for my first pinstriping event there, which was terrifying at first!” reflected Skratch.

Upon returning to California from Japan, Skratch secured a position at a local hot rod shop but then pursued his own business venture in 2001. Anxious to make his mark in the competitive world of kustom kulture, Skratch moved into his Sun Valley shop, a move that greatly benefited him by bringing his skills to mainstream television. 

“Things went well and all of a sudden I got some phone call from a local producer out in El Segundo asking me about mechanics and fabricators, because he knew me from my work at the previous shop and knew I was really into hot rods. I wasn’t sure if the call was even real but sure enough, it was and suddenly, I was down at the company signing paperwork to be on the show Overhaulin’ with Chip Foose!”

Centered on the premise of the production team staging fake car thefts, the team would bring tired rides to Foose and his team to transform the rides into the owner’s dream vision, all while the owner still believing their beloved car was stolen. Upon completion, the owners would be brought to the studio for a surprise unveiling of their restored and transformed ride. The show originally aired in 2004 on TLC, with new episodes airing courtesy of Motor Trend. Skratch appeared in 2007. 

“My first day I show up early due to my excitement. Just waiting around and watching everyone come in, one by one. I was introduced as a builder and fabricator. Chip is a very down-to-earth guy. He is so knowledgeable and you can learn so much just by being around him. He has all of the skills in each category and he’s very versatile and does impressive work freehand,” stated Skratch.

Overhaulin’ is categorized as a reality-based show which many can view with skepticism but Skratch personally attested to the heavy work involved and the tight deadlines.

“They absolutely do real builds, stripping down to the frame. The deadlines are tight but the team they assemble is amazing, great work ethic, and very knowledgeable. People working together are there because they want to be. It’s very satisfying to see a project come to completion and a lot of the people on the show still don’t believe it’s their vehicle after the unveiling!” 

After concluding his tenure on Overhaulin’, Skratch partnered with Bell Helmets in 2010 to produce limited designs for their Custom 500 model. Skratch once again earned unique opportunities to travel abroad and further spread the kustom kulture gospel. He stated the subculture underwent dramatic changes during 2007-2012, a mere 5 years marked with the highest of highs, followed by critical transitions.

“I feel 2007 was a real high point for kustom kulture because there was so much momentum surrounding the building of cars and bikes and people seemed to have even bigger budgets for builds. You had mainstream television shows dedicated to this but it was short-lived because of the recession in 2008. It seemed the rug was pulled out from the industry and all the non-essential things, so to speak, just stopped,” said Skratch.

As the economy slowly recovered, Skratch stated he witnessed a new upswing in kustom kulture, but hot rods didn’t return as strong.

“Starting in 2010, those were some great years but they were for a totally different industry; bikes. I feel this was due to them being physically smaller so people weren’t so reliant on spending a lot of money for storage and that was also the time that you would really notice an upswing with café racers. Today, I see a big interest in trucks such as the Chevy C-10. Even during the pandemic, I was seeing people that finally had additional time to dedicate to projects, so it was cool to see what people were coming up with and seeing their hard work.”

Skratch’s Garage continues on in Texas and upon returning, he immediately noticed how strong the kustom community had grown while he was in California. Skratch stated his door is always open for another opportunity to work on Overhaulin.’ The show is available via the MotorTrend App, with new episodes released in 2020. Skratch reflected on his unique opportunities abroad, as well as facilitating new, positive relationships while back in Texas. 

“I hope to influence others in a positive way because this is my life and I never want to see the scene die. I’m still building and painting and it's refreshing to see others as well dedicate their skills and their lives
to this.”

Follow Skratch on Instagram: @skratchsgarage

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