What is the difference between a good hot rod shop and a truly great one? Is it the decades of experience? Is it having the right tools and equipment and knowing how to use them? Or is it true passion and heart in creating one-of-a-kind customs? Well, quite possibly – it’s ALL of the above.
One step inside Image Street Rods & Customs and you are instantly transported to a time and place that we all hold near and dear – a place where people mean what they say and say what they mean! A place where each and every customer becomes a life-long friend, and albeit a bit cliché, that is exactly what you’ll find walking through the doors of Image Street Rods. As you can see in our featured video above, this family owned and operated custom shop is definitely one worth checking out!
You might say that Keith Vander Meulen was “born to create” as he has always had quite the creative streak running through his veins. Whether it was music, hot rods, muscle cars, or pretty much anything with wheels, Keith had found an early love working on cars with his dad at a very young age. He actually got his first job working in a Southern California hot rod shop at age 11 and went on to work in his dad’s machine shop.
The Duo // Husband & Wife Team
With a bit of a push from his partner in crime, his wife Misty, they began to research and plan what it would take to start a custom shop of their own. After putting in years of work and honing their craft, Keith and Misty Vander Meulen opened up the doors to Image Street Rods in early 2000 and never looked back.
Starting a “custom hot rod shop” is one of those dreams that many car guys have at one time or another, kind of like starting a micro-brew or pub is on the list of most beer drinkers in the crowd. But we would venture a guess that not many people actually lay the ground work, put in the time and effort to hone their craft, and then work hard day and night to make that dream a reality.
That’s what it takes to take an idea off the chalkboard and turn it into something real. Just like with each and every custom car build, it takes turning imagination into a vision, and turning that vision into a real creation. This is where Keith and Misty truly excel! They have that special “make it happen-ness” that not every dreamer can quite capture or posses.
They constantly buckle down to make things happen one way or another, and despite the normal everyday challenges that running both a hot rod shop and a family of four can bring, they are a team and have each other’s backs through thick and thin!
Simple Philosophy // Put The Customer First
When you find a shop that not only cares about the quality of work that they put out, but also genuinely cares about the customer and the customer’s vision – that is a shop that will stand tall above the rest. Putting the customer first and helping them build their dream is definitely what sets apart the average custom shops from the truly great ones.
Having clear communication throughout the entire build process is one of the most important parts. -Misty Vander Meulen, Co-Owner
It’s not always easy to listen to a customer, that more often then not, knows less than you do about their car. But listening and working hard to help guide the customer and bring their vision to life with a bit of your “custom know-how” is exactly what Keith and Misty are well known for. Because of their genuine care for both the customer and the car, the high quality of work is just a natural side effect with wanting to give the customer the very best they can with each and every build.
When we asked Misty what are the most important aspects of any build she shared, “Good communication is key, we are able to sit down and get an idea of what they are looking for, but we’re also able to guide them along the way. Having clear communication throughout the entire build process is one of the most important parts, if not THE most important part of the build.” We think she nailed that one on the head, because with a solid foundation of clear and open communication, the customer knows exactly what they can expect, there are no surprises.
Although things always come up with any build, Keith and Misty said that their customers are always the first to know and they help guide the decision process for the build every step of the way. Sure, there are generally some tweaks and changes, and maybe even a few guided suggestions from Keith and Misty along the way, but the ultimate goal is always to preserve the customer’s vision and create something that both the customer and the shop can be proud of – IMAGE STYLE!
What’s In The Shop? // Current Projects
After following the build for quite sometime, we were lucky enough to get the scoop and be the first to feature Jacobo Herrera’s recently completed 1949 Baby Lincoln, dubbed The Missing Link. Herrera came to Image Street Rods looking for some professional help to finally complete his dream build. After four long years of broken promises and half-hearted work from other shops, it was time to take action.
Keith and Misty put together a game plan and broke it down step-by-step to show Jacobo Herrera that it would be possible to completely finish his dream Lincoln build and stay within his budget. It took some major repair work to fix some previous work that had already been done, but with a plan of action and a team effort they were able to finish just in time for it’s photo shoot debut at the LA Roadster Show this year.
John Cowell’s 1935 Ford
John Cowell trusted the Image Street Rods team to take his vision for his 1935 Ford 5-window and bring his creation to life. Image handled all of the customization from the air suspension, to the suicide doors, all the way through the body and paint. Cowell travels and shows his car all over and has been featured in numerous magazines.
Project Flat Out
Our very own Project Flat Out is currently underway at the shop with high hopes of making a 2014 SEMA Show debut. Currently the rest of the chassis and drivetrain work is underway, and on-deck will be some chopping and cutting with body mods galore to turn our 1936 Ford into a one-of-a-kind street rod.
Old meets new – blending modern performance and technology with classic hot rod lines and styling, it’s easy to see why we’re pretty excited to see this one come to life, stay tuned for more updates coming in the next couple months!
A Look Ahead // What Does The Future Hold?
After spending quite a bit of time with the Vander Meulens it’s easy to see that they don’t plan on settling for “mediocre” builds or show any signs of slowing up just yet. Keith shared with us, “Really, I just want to continue to push the envelope and build cool cars for cool customers, then pass the torch on to my kids so they can continue to do the same.”
We can’t argue with that – really, that’s all anyone could ask for. Stay tuned for more updates and behind the scenes action!
Check out more exclusive photos from our shop tour feature shoot in the GALLERY below: