The reality television show, “Bitchin’ Rides,” was one of the most-viewed TV shows on Discovery Channel’s Motor Trend TV when they announced its renewal for its 8th season in the fall of 2021. The show took its viewers inside David Kindig’s company called Kindig-It Designs as he and his team of skilled fabricators and mechanics customized all types of cars that were manufactured in every decade. Their cars were not for everyone. as they were made for discerning clients with expensive tastes, and loads of cash to spare. The TV show premiered in 2014, and has been providing car enthusiasts all over the world with the best car transformations on cable television. It was quite a surprise when rumors of cancelation went around in the online community in its early years, mostly due to the type of content, but it prevailed over the years, and gained a loyal following.

David Kindig, owner of Kindig-It Designs and star of “Bitchin’ Rides”

Establishing an automotive customization shop called Kindig-It Designs was a dream come true for its owner David Kindig, but getting to star in his own TV show, “Bitchin’ Rides,” was the icing on the cake. He used to collect Hot Wheels when he was a little kid, and his interest in drawing them was what made him love everything about cars. Building cars using Lego started his passion for automotive construction; it was back then when the creative seed was planted in him. Even at a very young age, he realized that he could put his design first on paper, before he cut the material to build it.

Early Years, Education, and Family

David didn’t come from a wealthy background, in Salt Lake City, Utah, so he didn’t have the opportunity to have a college education to gain knowledge about his passion. Attending an auto mechanics class at West High was the only formal education he had, and everything after that was self-taught.

It was basically through years of hard work and steel determination that taught him all about the automotive industry.

He was born on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, at Rose Park, an ethnically diverse area at the time when it was still a crime-infested neighborhood.  It didn’t help that his father left him at a very young age, but it didn’t deter him from reaching for his dreams. The good thing was that his mother along with his grandparents was very supportive of him. There was a library at the corner where his grandparents lived, and he would browse over its collection of automotive encyclopedias just to familiarize himself with the car body lines and other important details about car construction. The young car aficionado would save every single cent that was given to him just to buy car magazines, including Hot Rod and Motor Trend so that he could study vehicles repeatedly.

When the teen David was booted out from his home, when his mom and her boyfriend had problems, he started working.

He saved enough money to buy a car, and realized from the get-go that his hobby could be very expensive, so he then worked harder to save more so that he could work on his car upgrades, and trade it for a better one. Dave also realized that he would never be satisfied with a stock car, that he needed to stamp it with his own mark. Since he couldn’t afford customization and repair services, he would hang out with people in auto shops and learn by watching repeatedly so that he could do everything himself.

The origins of Kindig-It Designs

Dave’s career path in automotive construction was not easy; it was years of trial and error until he perfected his skills. He treated it as a part-time hobby at the start, while he worked full time for other people, learning from the ground up. Initially, he was tasked with sandblasting exhaust systems, and later on he rose to supervise the Western division of the company he was working for.

He was happy with his job, but then someone approached him, being impressed with his drawings displayed on his office wall. Dave was initially commissioned to draw a 1969 Camaro for Super Chevy and Chevy High-Performance magazines, and after it was featured in the magazines, he was asked for more drawings, for which graphic illustration work he was paid 10 times better than his 60-hour per week salaried job.

In 1999, Dave left his job at High Performance Coating where he’d worked for the past eight-and-a-half years, cashed-in on his 401K plan, and used the money to open Kindig-It Design in Salt Lake. By word of mouth, increasing numbers of clients came to his shop to have their cars redesigned and reconstructed. His reputation for high quality and detailed work grew, so that the initial rented area of about 4,500-square-foot workshop in the company’s early years expanded into a 27,000-square-foot facility, which he now proudly owns.

“Bitchin’ Rides,” the reality-TV show

Aside from his artistic talent, it was his relentless passion and dedication for work that led to the success of his auto shop. He won numerous awards for his brand, including the 2012 Master Builder Award given at the Boise Roadster Show, and the 2014 Finest Award at the Salt Lake, Utah Auto-Rama. With this level of success, a couple of TV executives from Velocity Channel, which was rebranded by Discovery Channel as Motor Trend Network, heard from one of the auto shop’s press releases that Kindig-It Designs would be restoring a vintage 1939 GM Futurliner. David Lee and Bob Scanlon were impressed by the car build and offered Dave a chance to star in his own TV show.

Dave looked quite natural on screen as he has always been comfortable with other people observing him while he worked. He already had a backlog of cars to work on, even before “Bitchin’ Rides” was offered to him, and so he told the TV producers from Fischer Productions that it wouldn’t be like any other auto-related shows on TV.

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His crew wouldn’t work under a toxic deadline, just to provide content, or expect them to do any scripted drama to increase viewership rating. The car projects that they had in his shop would sometimes last for several months or even years, depending on the compexity of restoration or customization required. It was agreed upon that they would be filming all year long, just to capture all the significant items that they tackled for each project.

At first, most of the people in the shop were conscious of the cameras and the TV crew following all that they did, but after a while it didn’t bother them. “Bitchin’ Rides” made its television debut on 2 September 2014, and has since captured the interest of car enthusiasts, making it one of the most-watched auto-related shows in cable TV history.

Meet Kindig-It Design/Bitchin’ Rides Crew

One of the things that Dave was so proud of in his company was that everyone treated each other like family. Kindig-It Design has adopted this kind of culture at its inception.

His wife, Charity, who co-founded the company, worked as its Vice President; she’d grown-up restoring cars with her father, and the first tools that Dave used in the shop were borrowed from him, then his future father-in-law, who was also a hot rod builder. Dave and Charity’s daughter, Baylee, worked on the marketing side of the business, handled the merchandise, and took care of its website. Baylee’s husband, Kaden Cornett, supervised the Shipping Department, Apparel Store, and Showroom, but he also has extensive knowledge of car mechanism and paint jobs.

Most people in Dave’s main crew worked with him from the early years of the shop, including Will Lockwood, an engineer whom Dave met back in HPC. Will was asked to join the Kindig-It Designs in 2003 to help in making Dave’s drawings a reality. He was the reason their business expanded, as Will lent his expertise in metal shaping, and they purchased tools such as Mandrels and English wheels.

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Later on, he suggested using newer machines such as 3D printers and scanners to make their jobs easier. Another important member of Dave’s team was the Shop Foreman, Kevin Schiele, in the business since 2004, who practically oversaw all aspects of the whole shop, but also specialized in suspension and chassis. In 2010, Brandon Jones joined the team as his expertise was bodywork, and who became the Body Shop Manager.

The shop’s other loyal crew members are fabricator Eric Larsen, parts manager Jason Pringle, Digital Fabrication Specialist Greg Hebard, and body man Javier Lopez, along with metal fabricator Howard Coliflower, door handle expert Kyler Bench, and detailer Pooh Summer.

Eight seasons of designing and constructing vehicles

The cast and crew of “Bitchin’ Rides” claimed that what they had been showing to the viewers over eight seasons was the authentic way of reconstructing cars.

In the 100 episodes that were aired, they had never resorted to any types of gimmickry that would have short-changed the way cars were rebuilt. The Kindig-It Design’s huge workshop with its appropriate number of crew members worked on around 15 to 22 automotive customizations simultaneously. TV producers took the risk of filming a car customization project that normally took nine to twelve months to finish, and get the right footage, even if it was time-consuming and expensive. It was worth the hard work and perseverance, because according to Discovery Channel, in 2020, “Bitchin’ Rides” was the No.1 in the Men and Persons demographic share of viewers aged 25 to 54, and No.3 in Men between the ages of 18 to 34. They credited this to the authenticity of the show that their audience preferred, from the plethora of auto-customization series that cable television offered.

Top customized cars in “Bitchin’ Rides”

Choosing the top customized cars that came from Dave Kindig’s shop was a difficult chore, as most of his creations were painstakingly done to perfection.

Here are just three of the stunning masterpieces that he and his crew reconstructed from the ground up.

A rare 1939 GM Futurliner

The TV show spent two episodes presenting the rare 1939 GM Futurliner. When the vehicle was initially presented to Dave via a photo from a client, he said that he kept a poker face, since it was the first time he would handle something that huge and rare. Apparently, the vehicle came from a group of custom vehicles styled originally by Harley Earl for General Motors, was 33×8 feet long and over 11 feet tall, and was used as a promotional caravan called Parade of Progress that traveled around the US and Canada sponsored by GM. Out of the 12 Futurliners manufactured back then, only seven were accounted for in 2007. It took Kindig-It Designs almost two years to finish, after reducing it down to its skeleton. It was completely restored with the original chassis and axles with the number matching the 1950 GMC 302 CID 6-cyl gas engine.

The body had its original panels and lettering, including all the motors responsible for lowering and raising all its doors. Even the interior was restored using original materials for its upholstery and gauges. The original Allison J-35 jet engine was even placed in the display bay.

The 1958 Lincoln Continental

During the fourth season of “Bitchin’ Rides,” 70-year old car enthusiast Tad Leach brought his 1958 Lincoln Continental to Dave Kindig’s shop, to have it modified to his liking, to serve as his last ultimate dream car. Dave then put both their ideas on paper and Tad approved – the old man wanted a unique car with lots of power, so Dave’s team put in an all-aluminum 600c.i. V12 engine from Falconer Racing Engines. He also wanted a clear bubble on top of the hood to showcase the engine, and a stunning paint job of AkzoNobel Teal. The interior upholstery was done with beer foam-colored leather giving an immaculate look.

They dubbed it “Maybellene” and it debuted at the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The owner was more than satisfied with the result, most especially since it won several important awards in various car events, such as the Grand National Roadster Show, Portland Roadster Show, and the Sacramento Autorama. While it didn’t win the top prize at the 2018 Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year, being a finalist was already a great honor for him.

1960 Copper Caddy Chop Top

Sometime in 2013, Dave’s good friend Jerry Logan dropped by his shop to have his rusty 1960 Cadillac Coupe Deville customized. Initially, they didn’t see eye-to-eye, Jerry’s idea incorporating too much copper into the car. The owner was quite anxious as to how it would turn out, since they disagreed on some of the ideas, but he also trusted Dave enough and gave him the respect of doing what was best for his classic car. After two years of working on the car, Jerry was called to the shop in 2015, and was ecstatic at the result.

The Kindig crew had placed an all-aluminum 454 GM Performance Ram Jet Engine and a 4L80E Transmission, with a paint job of mixed Candy Brandy Wine base coat. Copper was incorporated elegantly on all the important parts of the car, including the wheel wells. Copper bullets were also found in the grill and a light copper hue was used as a tint on the windshield and windows. The client’s smile was wide when he sat in his newly customized 1960 Caddy. It featured in the second season of “Bitchin’ Rides.”

The TV show could have ended because of this

It was ironic that the very thing that made “Bitchin’ Rides” a success was also one of the reasons why it was rumored to have been canceled. Each year, many new auto-related shows made their debut on television, and since they presented the same narrative to the public with a few tweaks and new faces, they became trendy for a few years. Some of these shows tapped into intrigues and conflicts, so that they could reach viewers who salivated in scripted personal dramas.

Some TV producers can be greedy, and resort to incorporating tasteless public tantrums just to increase or maintain their viewership ratings.

During its early years, the TV show was so focused on the auto restoration process that it was criticized for its lack of ‘entertainment value’ – some people suggested that it would be best to inject some conflicts into the narrative. On the other side of the spectrum were the auto restoration purists, who posed some challenge to Dave and the TV producers; most of them cringed when Dave’s team installed an air conditioning system into a classic 1934 Dodge. Some even raised their eyebrows when he placed a muffler on a big vintage muscle car, so that the owner could turn it on or off whenever he liked, or if cops were around.

However, if Dave Kindig had listened to these criticisms, it could have truly ended the show immediately, as the majority of his fans loved the show as it is. Dave was never tempted to compromise his principles when it came to auto customization, and it’s been for this reason that the TV show stayed relevant over the years, and has been aired in over 40 countries around the world.

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