Today, Kindig-It-Designs employs 17 people after 14 years in business in Salt Lake City, UT. Kindig, 42, is a custom car builder, designer and painter. “We do all aspects in-house—everything from design, chassis engineering, body and paint, sheet metal fabrication, electronics, audio, graphics and custom suspensions,” he said. Kindig described his shop as a one-stop custom and restoration facility.
“Our forte is not just street rods, or one style of car,” Kindig said. “We do cars from any era. We prefer to do customizing. We work on late model vehicles as well as the earlier muscle cars and street rods back from the early ‘30s.” On average, the shop is working on about 34 cars at any given time, many of which are long-term projects.
As a young man, Kindig’s passion started with VW Beetles. “I started off buying Volkswagens and chopping the tops, taking tops completely off and making Roadsters out of them.” Playing around with the early Volkswagen Beetles snowballed into bigger and better cars, although he still loves the VWs because it’s his heritage. Currently, he has a bare metal finished VW that he’s still working on that he says will be a “radical piece” once it’s finished, a combination of old and new.
With a life built around cars, one would think Kindig would have several custom cars of his own, but that isn’t so. “That’s the funny part about it. I’m like the shoemaker that never has time for his own shoes,” he said laughing. His only completed custom car is a 1961 VW shortened wheel-based dune buggy. “After 14 years in business, I believe that is first car I ever built and finished for myself. I live vicariously my hot rod dreams through others’ wallets since I don’t have time for my own.”
By age 20, he was rebuilding VWs and working across the street from High Performance Coatings. He admired the cars that were pulling into that place and the owner frequently borrowed Kindig’s forklift. One day the owner of HPC asked him when he was going to come work for him, and soon Kindig started a new career that lasted more than eight years. He started off sand blasting and ended up traveling across the country helping with marketing, operations and national sales. “It was a good opportunity for me. I saw the world and met a lot of racers and top builders.”
However, Kindig never gave up drawing. Eventually, his renderings tacked up on his office wall caught the attention of those in the industry and his hobby became a side business, then a career.
“I figured out that working 60 hours a week for someone else wasn’t really cutting it. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. The amount of work he had with the renderings, painting cars out of his garage and selling parts on the side allowed him to quit his full-time job with HPC and start his own business, and Kindig-It Designs was born. It started out of his garage with barely 1,000 square feet. That only lasted a little more than two months before he moved into a 4,500-square-foot space for two-and-half years before moving into 9,000 square feet. Five years later, the shop added another 9,000 square feet. Recently, Kindig signed a two-year lease option to buy the entire 27,000 square foot building, of which he subleases 6,000 square feet to an upholstery shop and window tinting business.
Kindig loves his work, but “It’s not like work. It’s like a good-paying hobby. I go to work every day and I get to sit in my drawing office if I desire to and just sit here and draw. It’s been very rewarding. It’s calming, and it’s exciting. When I talk to a client about building a car, usually the very first thing we do is a rendering. Within a couple minutes, I’m already driving this car up and down the street, imagining what it would look like. You want to build a car to somebody’s taste and by adding your flare and playing off the customer’s taste, I build a car that’s very unique. Each car is different. It is something that will be timeless and classic, it will stop people walking through a show. I love to put the details into a car and a lot of design flavor.”
His favorite project is a white 1968 Mustang called ‘The Boss’ and is well-known in the show industry. His most famous customer is Apolo Anton Ohno, a gold medal Olympic speed skater who commissioned Kindig to rebuild a 1964 Series 62 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that was featured on Hot Rod Television on the Speed Channel.
Currently, the shop is working on a 1953 GM Parade of Progress FuturLiner Bus, one of 12 originals. Of these 12 originals, nine are still in existence: one burned up, one was rear-ended, and one ended up being used for parts and is no longer trackable, according to Kindig. This bus, No. 3 of the series, is over 11 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 33 feet long and only seats three. The driver sits in the center, 10 feet in the air. The doors are 16 feet long and the interior includes a staircase. Most of the structure needs to be rebuilt, and Kindig-It used computer-generated scanned 3D schematics to measure all dimensions of the vehicle.
Kindig said these vehicles are very sought after and that one of these remaining vehicles sold for $4.2 million at Barrett-Jackson in 2008. He added that his shop has received a lot of national attention because of the vehicle. The owner of the #3 FuturLiner also found another original and has commissioned the shop to rebuild it from scratch, updating the replicated version with a full modern drive train, modern electronics, smoke machine and air driven doors. This one will be used for tradeshows.
One of Kindig’s favorite products is PPG paint. “PPG is a great product for us. I am really impressed with their clear coats, and the way they link up in a baking situation is obviously more modern. The colors offer good coverage, and I like the ability to custom mix colors and have the backing of PPG as far as knowledge to making balanced formulas.”
Kindig-It Designs has developed two of their own colors, called ‘Kindig-It Cool Clay’ and ‘Bad Tomato.’