The Beautiful World Of Custom-Car Design

Gestalten publishes a car bible for the real-life fast and furious.

What is a car? For people like me, it’s a thing you rent occasionally for road trips, or to take your elderly mother to Home Depot. We don’t really care about make or model, slightly prefer hybrids if we have to choose, and the only really critical feature we need is a working USB port. But for other people–non-lame-ohs, for lack of a better term–a car represents something more than a convenient conveyance. It is a thrilling mechanical extension of themselves, and just like you can train to run a marathon or deadlift a thousand pounds, any automobile can be given superpowers.


Published by Gestalten, The Drive: Custom Cars and Their Builders is a new book that takes a closer look at the jacked-out rides of the real-life fast and furious. It’s a comprehensive bible of the international custom car scene throughout the years, featuring everything from ’60s-era hot rods to state-of-the-art Japanese wire bodies. It’s basically pure vehicular porn, mixed in with profiles of the men who feel compelled to tinker with their cars as a near religious pursuit.

The Drive is the sort of book Vin Diesel has on his coffee table. Each page is another sumptuous, tricked-out racer, plucked from the entire pantheon of dream cars. For every classic Lamborghini or custom-designed Ringbrothers Adrnln, there’s a Cadillac Coupe “Sophia” or a Chevy Nomad station wagon, which has been lovingly restored and supercharged. Some of the mods on display are astonishing: Bulletproof Automotive’s conversion of a BMW Z4 GT Continuum into a convertible without a windshield, Nigel Petrie’s drifting Toyoya Hilux pickup truck, or Derek Jenkins’ Manx Buggy, a matte black designer dune buggy that looks like it came out of a Porsche factory. And if you like your cars tattooed, there’s a loving section devoted to custom paint jobs, including sparkly lowriders that look like Trapper Keepers, or old T-Model Roadsters that look like they were painted by the same guy who does the bumper cars at your local carnival.

Magnus Walkerfrom The Drive, © Gestalten 2016

The personalities who are driven to modify cars aren’t necessarily all the Jesse James types you expect. On the more Burning Man side of things, there’s Magnus Walker, an enormous grizzly man with dreadlocks and a huge beard who has been lusting after Porsches since he was 10, and now can barely squeeze into one. Other personalities include Jon Olsson, a clean-cut skier straight out of Better Off Dead who modified an Audi RS6 DTM to perform as well under snow as his skis; “Mad” Mike Whiddett, a professional race car drifter with a crazy streak; Chris Runge, a mild-mannered Minnesotan who likes building cars from scratch, and believes “if you can’t build a seat, you can’t build a car”; and more. What unites all of these guys is the belief that what you drive is more than just a vehicle. It’s a medium for self-expression.

Containing 400 glossy color pages in a hardcover slip case, The Drive can be purchased directly from Gestalten for $69 by clicking here. If you have a need for speed, buckle up.

[All Images: courtesy Gestalten]