At this point in his career, there isn’t much left that Rick Dore hasn’t accomplished.
He’s claimed nearly every single prestigious award offered in the custom car world, sometimes several times over. (His Black Pearl car won every single category in its class at the 2014 Grand National Roadster Show!) He’s done reality TV and had his car creations appear in countless magazines and publications worldwide. Dore, known for his high-end radical 1930s-’60s custom cars, is responsible for some of the most creative coachbuilt cars to come out of the last decade, and counts celebs such as Metallica’s James Hetfield as both friends and clients.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Dore has a lot more tasks to cross off of his to-do list, including enjoying life outside of his Southern-California-based shop – Rick Dore Kustoms.
“I live by the ocean, so I spend a lot of my free time there,” Dore said. “Either that or I’m out driving my cars. Building the cars and having them win awards or get into magazines is all fun and great, but what I really like to do is drive them! A lot of the early cars I had, they weren’t really that great to drive. But now, that’s what I love to do best.”
We spoke to Dore last year about what cars he’s driving, what cars he’s building and what he thinks the future will bring for traditional customs.
GG: In your opinion, what makes for a great custom car?
Rick Dore: It has to have rhythm, bumper to bumper, and it has to flow. A car has to have elegance, but most importantly it has to have an attitude. When you turn into a dark alley, and you see the Black Pearl sitting there, it looks like it’s going to bite you! I like aggressive-looking cars. To be a great custom car, it has to have elegance, style and attitude.
GG: You’ve built so many incredible, award-winning cars. Do you have a personal favorite?
Rick Dore: Up until I did the Aquarius, I would have said that my favorite car was whatever car I was currently working on. But now I have to say that’s changed. The Aquarius is my favorite car, because it was the dream car for me. It looked like a Delahaye and it has those French lines. The Delahaye inspired me to do the Aquarius.
GG: What’s your daily driver?
Rick Dore: I have six cars—there’s the Shangri-La, and one I’m building right now. I have two Mercurys and a Buick, and my wife has a Lincoln. The one I drive most of the time is a 2009 pickup truck, though.
GG: How do you choose the unique colors you use on the cars that you build?
Rick Dore: I get asked that a lot. I’ve found colors in all sorts of different places. One time I was at a street fair in Italy and there was a guy there selling gems and stones. He had this one stone that was blue. At the time we were working on a car, and I saw that stone and said, ‘That’s the color!’ I get color inspiration everywhere. I like to walk through the Hallmark store and see all of the pearlized gift ribbon they sell. They have hundreds of different colors that I can envision on a car. Mostly, I get my inspiration from traveling the world and from things I have brought back home.
GG: If you weren’t building cars, what do you think you’d be doing for a living right now?
Rick Dore: I’d probably be doing something artsy, or maybe I would have gotten into music. I don’t know what I’d be doing, to be honest. I could be unloading trucks! When I think about that, it kind of scares me.
GG: You’ve built cars for a lot of famous people. Was there any celebrity that you were really excited to meet?
Rick Dore: That would probably be Ozzy Osbourne. He was on a Black Sabbath tour and my wife and I ended up in a room with him. We talked for about an hour. I remember thinking that he was nothing like the person I saw on TV. This was right after he did his reality TV show. He was so gentle and clear.
GG: Speaking of reality TV, do you think we’ll ever see you on another show?
Rick Dore: We just finished a pilot, actually! I can’t talk too much about it yet, but it’s being edited and will be all about cars. But it has nothing to do with [car] hoarders or the guys I was with on ‘Lords of the Car Hoards’ or ‘Rusted Development.’
GG: At this point in your career, is there any car left that you want to get your hands on but haven’t yet?
Rick Dore: In all honesty, I’ve done all of the cars that appeal to me, all of the models. In the early years, it was the Buicks and the Mercs and the Caddys. I was taking what Detroit gave us and changing and enhancing the existing lines — making cool lines cooler. I did that for 25 years and I felt like I was really repeating myself. I had done all of the models from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s that I wanted to do, sometimes two or three times over. I was doing a Zephyr for James Hetfield and that’s when I met Marcel. He was about 85 then and we were talking about doing a two-door fastback that looked like a fastback car from the ’30s. We couldn’t think of any concept cars from the ’30s that never went into production. Marcel being a coachbuilder meant I had the luxury of saying to him, ‘This is how I want it.’ With him and Luc being so talented in shaping metal, we were able to do the Black Pearl.
GG: How did working with Marcel and Luc change your style?
Rick Dore: We all got along great, which, honestly doesn’t always happen. Marcel is the high priest of metal shaping and now he’s passed the torch to Luc. I was able to take the next step. I was tired of doing Buicks and Mercs and Caddys. I love all of those cars but how many of them can you do? Running into Marcel made me be able to take a French-style car and give it an American attitude. That’s currently what’s inspiring me.
GG: What do you do in your free time outside of the shop?
Rick Dore: I do yoga! I hit the gym and I like to walk the sea wall. If I’m not doing that, I’m probably hanging out with my grandkids when I’m not working or traveling.
GG: In your opinion, will traditional customs ever die?
Rick Dore: I don’t think they’re going to go away. I think they’re going to have their ups and downs. Right now, it’s right in the middle. The hobby has grown so much and I think it’s going to keep growing. As far as traditional whitewall custom cars, I think they’re holding their own right now. I don’t see a lot of people going out and building them right now, but I hope that changes.
GG: What’s next for you?
Rick Dore: I’ll have a new coach-built car at Monterey Car Week [in August 2017] and, at some point, I’d like to get around to painting the Shangri-La, although it looks so cool in bare aluminum that people tell me not to paint it. I want to finish all of my cars and I want to drive them afterward. I don’t want to be afraid to drive them because they have a really expensive paint job. That’s what’s next for me — debuting that car and bringing it to SEMA and hopefully some Goodguys shows too!