GearHeads Interviews Demented Customs
Updated December 27, 2014
For this interview we spoke with James of Demented Customs, as the man behind the shop and several SEMA showings James has built his shop from the ground up. We got to talk with him about how he got started with almost nothing, and with hard work and family turned that little something into an impressive and renowned custom shop. This is truly a story that depicts and solidifies the American way and reiterates the fact that we all are able to overcome various obstacles with dedication and a solid work ethic. Enjoy
GearHeads – How did you first get into cars?
James of Demented Customs – I first got into cars back in 1988! I was a skater and I grew up in some low income apartments in my home town. I lived with my grandparents and we never had any extra money so a car in high school was out of the question but all my buddies had cars with booming systems. M&M godfathers. Cerwin Vegas. The punch! Lol. Memories! But there were some really sick mini-trucks at school as well. I always wanted somethin sick! Custom vehicles were a big dream that one day I would make come true!! After high school my grandpa gave me an 83’ Mercury Lynx station wagon with the vinyl wood grain on the side! I had 2 12″M&M’s in there running off a Sparkomatic equalizer and Pioneer cassette player. I rolled that thing everywhere and I thought I was bad! LOL. I didn’t even have an amp as the EQ was a booster. So it was my amp. I got in a wreck so my next ride was a Plymouth Horizon TC3. I lowered it. Put it on some American Racing wheels and had my uncle paint them gray, and I went thru all kinds of systems with that one. I had 4-15’s in the back at one time. That thing was my baby. Then I got a pickup. 86’ Chevrolet Silverado. I bought it used and the next day had cut the springs and out it on some 15×10 wheels with a 225/50. Sanded it and had it painted. But I’ve always been about changing them up. I started working at Napa auto parts about 1993 and that was when I started to learn to paint. I would mix paint on Sat and go to a friend’s house and sand my car down and shoot it. I would help him work on his clients cars so I could learn on mine! I’ve been painting cars ever since! I have never stopped customizing my stuff as it was always different.
GearHeads – When did you decide to start building customs for a business?
James of Demented Customs – I have worked several different jobs. I had my first son when I was 19 so I kinda fell into the role of “you have to feed your family and your dreams are over now”! Lol. I’ve worked in the oilfield, had a class A CDL and was making 75k a year with full benefits. I did that for about 5 years then went to the police department. I was a police officer for the city for three years then I worked narcotics undercover for the drug task force for two and a half years. But all in all I was always painting or someone would ask me to do their stereos etc, it was always a side job for me. So while I was at the task force my oldest kid’s mom and I got a divorce. We had joint custody for a while till she ended up getting strung out on meth. How ironic. I was working narcotics and never even knew my kids were staying in a meth house for about 6 months. Once I found out they never went back with her and to this day have lived with me! That was about 11 years ago! My oldest is 20 now and he was 9 barely turning 10. Anyhow, I’m a single parent working narcotics and its getting rough on the kids. I had no family support and we were bouncing from house to house, so I quit. I went to work at a local body shop since I always painted and was going to school to be a massage therapist. As I was painting more and more people wanted custom stuff. I was always layin flames or doing flake etc, so I started my business on the side. As always, working at night at the same shop on my stuff. After a year of that I had already met my new wife and we had just moved in together. I told her I was going to open a shop and just hustle the work. I had a chopper to paint and build for a guy and he was paying me $5000, I had rented a building behind another shop and made arrangements to use his booth to do my stuff. We haven’t stopped since and that was 2006, we have been broke but we never quit, we just hustle!
GearHeads – How did you land with the name Demented Customs?
James of Demented Customs – We came up with the name demented one day at my buddy’s shop. Mike Reza! We were talking and I was like what’s another name for crazy. And his nephew said demented. I was like yep that will work. I was leaning towards “Flames by James” if we hadn’t come up with it. I’ve always been crazy in life. But here is the catch and it’s something I have learned. We are all demented at some point in life! See I have a clothing line. Demented “a simple state of mind” now you’re wondering what the deal is. Ok. Demented is a perception from the outside looking in! How do know someone is demented. You’re not in their head. So how can it be a disease? It isn’t. It’s a simple state of mind. See everyone told me my shop wouldn’t last! Or for instance I dream big too much, we are in a small town it will never happen. So to them I’m demented!! I’m crazy. But to me I’m focused! Not crazy. Now my theory! I’m friends with Flex Wheeler. Bodybuilders are crazy, dieting, lifting etc to regular people they are demented, in their head they are focused! Here is where it gets good. Christopher Columbus! Demented, Einstein! Demented, Ali! Demented, Jordan! Demented. But in their head they knew they were right and no one could tell them otherwise until they showed them! So to achieve greatness we all have to be demented. We have to go to a place no one else will go to mentally. That’s when we look crazy! I’m demented because I’m gonna be bigger than West Coast Customs and my clothing line will be bigger than Nike! But my vision is true! I know what I want and one day I will have it! I’m successful now. Not money wise but I have friends that others dream of. I stay in Beverly Hills when I’m in Los Angeles at Michael Strahans house because I build cars for him and we are friends. That’s coming from low income welfare apartments! We have to be demented to everyone else to be as great as we know we can!
GearHeads – How has having your three sons working with you shaped the dynamics of the shop?
James of Demented Customs – Having my sons work with me hasn’t necessarily changed the dynamics. I’m only 40 years old! My oldest son is 20; the next one down is 17 and then my 14 year old. My oldest is with me all day long and my right hand man!! He is learning so much everyday and just surpasses what I knew at that age. I was barely learning how to paint and he does almost all the fab work and suspension, he understands audio and he’s painting as well. My parents were never around, my mom was a drug addict and my dad was an alcoholic, I grew up with my grandfather who was a disabled veteran. He does mechanic work for money and my other grandfather on my dad’s side was a mechanic and owned a salvage yard, so I guess this is in my blood. I was spending a lot of time in a friend’s body shop making side job money and doing what I loved while working a full time job with the drug task force but my kids stayed with me, my youngest was 3 and he walking around the shop playing. They all grew up in the shop and now it’s their second home. They work all summer no days off and they work on weekends and after school but we all are the best of friends and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! We all build together and I love it
GearHeads – Is there any moments at the shop or with your vehicles that stand out positively amongst others that you care to share?
James of Demented Customs – I’d say when we did the private unveil for General Motors Performance Parts as a highlight! SEMA 2010 I talked Dr Meyer and GMPP into giving us 2 motors, an LSX454 and a LSX376 with a ZR1 supercharger on top. It took a lot of calls but I made it happen and we ended up building 2 cars that were privately unveiled at the Wynn Casino by GMPP for GM execs Mon night before SEMA 10! It was really cool, we were doing one of the cars for Tapout’s co-owner Skyskrape and the other was for UFC fighter Nate Marquardt. My kids were with me when we walked out and to have people looking over our builds was awesome! I really think this was one of our greatest moments, but all of our success is great! We may not have money yet but we are successful in a lot of other stuff.
GearHeads – When did you first present at SEMA and what was the experience like?
James of Demented Customs – First SEMA truck was in 06’ we did a maroon and Chevy with white flames and maroon flames interlaced! I met a guy named Chad Fincher from Phoenix, Chad said he had a truck and a friend who would shoot it for a magazine, I said I wanted it to go to SEMA. I told him that I wanted it to go SEMA and I didn’t care about a magazine. Little did I know that we would get magazine coverage of SEMA. So we built the truck and were just out having a blast looking at all this badass stuff. So one morning out cleaning it (because it was a feature vehicle) we were outside, while I was wiping it down I heard a voice say “nice flames” I turn around and Jimmy Shine gives me a thumbs up and is walking away. That was a turning point for me because I knew then I wanted to play this game with the big boys!!
GearHeads – Do you have any info you can share about your project for this year’s SEMA?
James of Demented Customs – This year at SEMA we have 5 vehicles, we have project “Freedom Fighter” which belongs to Kelly Fromm. Jason Oberly and I painted it in Phoenix last year just before xmas. We finished up the door jambs and what not, a couple weeks ago. This vehicle tours the country and is a reminder to never forget the fallen soldiers!! Kelly has revitupforwoundedwarrior.com where he tours with the car, then after a year he auctions it off and donates the money to military organizations, this car is airbrushed from front to back and inside and out.
GearHeads – What are some future plans or projects you have for your shop?
James of Demented Customs – We have Flex Wheeler’s Charger which we painted last month, this car is airbrushed murals by Jason Oberly along with some translucent gold flames over a red kandy. Flex Wheeler is a legend in body building and a great friend
We have project “Street Fighter” which is my sons BMW 330i. We decided to do that in white with red flames on the outside and on the inside its fully airbrushed work (by Jason Oberly) of all the street fighter characters
We have a 300c we are doing with a local client that is two toned and bagged
Last we have project “Head Hunter” which is a 2013 Jeep Wrangler with a RIPP supercharger, 6″ BDS lift, rugged ridge gear from front to back and top to bottom, 38″ Toyo tires and MTX audio, and custom airbrush work by Jason Oberly as well!
So this year should be pretty good for us, if we can get 4 out of the 5 in a magazine I’d say we did alright!
I’m currently working in a 61’ Olds F85 cutlass for Micheal Strahan and imp building a 36’ International pickup for the shop!! Plus Goldberg wants to do a 72’ model Blazer so next year will be a bit interesting as well! Hahaha!!
It seems obvious that James is an optimistic man that manages three sons and his own business at the same time. With plenty of bumps in the road Demented Customs has managed to continue on a strong path of popularity in the custom car community. The family has drive and talent and we like what we see here at Gearheads and look forward to the next projects the shop completes. We will keep in touch with the shop in order to bring you our readers the latest rides coming from their demented minds. If you would like to see more pictures and information about Demented Customs then click on their link to be transferred. http://dementedcustoms.com/
Categories: Readers Rides