Is West Coast Customs Still in Business?
There is nothing more satisfying than watching the transformation of beat-down and ordinary cars into personalized masterpieces.
West Coast Customs, the most popular automobile repair shop, was the Picasso of this art. Founded by Ryan Friedlinghaus and Quinton Dodson in 1993, WCC became a fan-favorite following its association with multiple A-List celebrities and acclaimed reality TV shows.
But now, the automobile company has taken somewhat of a backseat, compelling many loyal fans to echo the same question – Is West Coast Customs still open in 2023?
Fortunately, WCC is still in the business of repairing and customizing cars in California despite parting ways with all reality shows and television networks. The success of the shop has also resulted in the creation of multiple franchises, with the ones in Dubai and Shanghai still running profitably.
Despite the knowledge that West Coast Customs is still operational, there are many questions that need to be answered. Like what happened to the original crew, and why did Ryan Friedlinghaus stop appearing on TV shows or interviews?
So, if you want to get in-depth information on West Coast Custom’s current whereabouts and its contentious history, buckle up and stick with us till the end of the article.
We’re about to uncover some very interesting stuff!
WCC’s Rise to Fame (1993-2007)
The story of West Coast Customs is an inspirational one. It started with Ryan Friedlinghaus taking out a $5,000 loan from his grandfather. After years of hard work and dedication, the business is now worth millions of dollars.
So, where did it start going right for Ryan and his band of car enthusiasts?
A large part of the company’s success is because of how Friedlinghaus ran the business. Ever since the tender age of 14, he was already learning the ropes and getting his custom vehicles featured in local automobile magazines.
The passion he had for cars compelled him to open his own shop. The business was not an instant hit. Ryan had to move his business between several cities and locations. It was finally in Inglewood that WCC started building up a solid reputation.
The business picked up when Ryan started having celebrities as his customers. Shaquille O’Neal was among the first A-Listers to use WCC’s commendable services. He wanted Ryan and his team to customize a brand-new Chevrolet Suburban.
After impressing Big Shaq, WCC became a popular hub for other car enthusiasts-cum-celebrities. With so many A-Listers interested in the business, the opportunity was ripe to convert West Coast Customs into an international sensation.
And it happened when Music Television (MTV) approached Ryan and his business with an opportunity to feature in a reality TV show. Naturally, Ryan and his co-founded Quinton were more than happy to oblige.
And that is the story of how Pimp My Ride, the successful 2004 TV show, came into existence.
WCC and ‘Pimp My Ride’: What Happened with the Popular MTV Show?
As anyone would expect, Pimp My Ride became extremely successful. It garnered international attention and resulted in multiple spin-offs. Consequently, West Coast Customs became a premium automobile brand.
The show’s format was somewhat different compared to other car customization series. The majority of the control rested with MTV.
The producers were responsible for finding American citizens with beat-down cars. They were then invited to do a short interview with Xzibit, the show host, to collect necessary information about their personalities, hobbies, and interests.
Based on the interviews, Ryan and his crew would take the junk car and transform it completely, giving it a makeover based on the personality of the owner.
Although slightly unconventional and risky, this format became very successful among the audience. But it wasn’t exactly perfect.
Why Did ‘Pimp My Ride’ Stop Airing?
The show Pimp My Ride aired for 3 years and covered 6 seasons. In 5 of those, the West Coast Customs crew led the restoration projects. But after Ryan parted ways with the channel in 2007, Galpin Auto Sports took over the mangle for the 6th and the final season.
Even in 2007, Pimp My Ride was one of the most streamed and viewed shows on television. So, why did Ryan opt out of the deal? There are many reasons behind this.
Short Deadlines, Impossible Projects
The show’s format put a lot of pressure on the crew to complete ‘impossible’ projects on a weekly basis. Because of the shorter deadlines, many employees had to work over twelve hours per day.
One employee even alleged that most of the off-screen labor was done by illegal immigrants from Mexico. MTV turned a blind eye to these allegations as the employees were technically working for WCC and not for them.
Lack of Creative Freedom
Apart from the staffing and deadline issues, Ryan also stated that working with MTV was putting a strain on his passion for car customization. This was because the show’s format forced the crew to work on their conditions.
Ryan mentioned in many interviews that he was grateful to MTV for building up his company’s brand value but that the nature of his work was damaging his relationship with other, older clients. That is when he decided to take on a new challenge with his crew and go back to working on their own rules.
Although the breakup was mostly amicable, several members of WCC made interesting remarks about their time with MTV afterward. Ryan himself said that he wanted to “build cars on TV, not for TV.”
Sean Mahaney, a former WCC employee also said – “Most of the MTV people are not real car guys. They pay us to build the cars, so we do what they want even if it sucks.”
In any case, both WCC and MTV moved on pretty quickly.
In fact, WCC moved on a little too quickly. In no time at all, Ryan had already found a new show for his business and crew.
The Next Chapter: Street Customs and Inside West Coast Customs (2007-2018)
It is common knowledge that Ryan was a screentime junkie. He had an infatuation with appearing on TV shows. Naturally, he began starring on a new television program as soon as he parted ways with MTV.
The new show, Street Customs, aired on the Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel. The format of the show was exactly what Ryan preferred – they would work for actual clients and customize them according to their own creative talents.
The show featured more A-Listers than any other car-related show, including the likes of Carroll Shelby, Shaquille O’Neal (a regular customer of WCC with over 30 completed orders), Justin Beiber, the Jonas Brothers, and so on.
Some of their most popular creations included three identical 1955 Ford F-100 trucks that featured in The Expendables as well as the 2015 masterpiece appearing in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Later on, the show would go on to change its name twice and channel four times. But the format and the success rate remained largely consistent. The new name was Inside West Coast Customs and the new channels were Discovery HD Theater, which later became Velocity.
After years of success, the Fox Sports Network overtook the production of the show in 2013, renaming it to West Coast Customs, which aired till 2016. From there, the show moved back to Velocity and continued to air till January 2018.
What Happened to West Coast Customs? (2018-2023)
After 2018, West Coast Customs officially disappeared from the Big Screen. The business started focusing solely on customizing cars and building interesting things. For example, the crew partly designed the West Coast Racers roller coaster in Six Flags Magic Mountain.
While WCC is not associated with any TV show, they regularly post videos of their latest projects on their YouTube channel to keep their fans updated.
West Coast Customs continues to be a successful business with multiple projects and a pretty solid work environment.
But what happened to the original West Coast Customs crew? Let’s find out.
Where are the Members of the Original WCC Crew Now?
While the location and whereabouts of most of the crew members are still unclear, we have updates about some prominent names.
1. Ryan Friedlinghaus
Let’s start with the most obvious name – the owner himself. Ryan is still an active part of West Coast Customs’ day-to-day operations.
While he is not as involved as he used to be, he still makes most of the major decisions. In recent years, Ryan took a backseat and let his crew handle most of the customization work to give more time to his family comprising two sons and his wife.
Ryan, along with his business and all the assets combined, has a net worth of over $20 million, making him one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country.
2. Big Dane
Big Dane was one of the most loveable characters of the WCC saga. He started out as a customer and later became Ryan’s trusted business partner. He appeared in Pimp My Ride as well as Inside West Coast Customs.
But after the show was canceled, Big Dane pursued his other interest – cooking and barbecue.
He started his own food truck called Dane’s West Coast BBQ and is a popular internet figure among food and entertainment lovers.
3. Ish Jimenez
Many fans claim that Ish was the most talented among the WCC crew. Growing up around cars, Ish worked primarily with the interiors and exteriors of different vehicles. He had a rough life early on, joining gangs and getting into trouble.
But he straightened things out and eventually established a great relationship with West Coast Customs.
Today, Ish runs his own company called Royal Auto Designs in California.
4. Kenny Pfitzer
Kenny was the project manager at West Coast Customs. His job was to ensure that all the deadlines were met and the projects were completed smoothly.
He was a beloved member of the crew. After 5 years of partnership with Ryan, he parted ways and started his own company called Kenny Pfitzer Designs.
The Controversial Side of West Coast Customs
Despite the long and successful career, West Coast Customs was never shy of controversies. Especially with Ryan at the vanguard.
Let us take a look at some shady parts of WCC’s existence.
Mistreatment of Employees
In 2014, the government found that West Coast Customs was not paying any overtime or minimum wage to its employees. The company paid a fixed weekly wage to all the workers. But as the hours were flexible, they were supposed to disburse wages on an hourly basis.
The matter was brought to court, and Ryan had to pay a fine of $157,592 in back wages for all the affected employees. He also had to pay around $17,000 in civil penalties.
Aggressive and Rude Nature
Many former employees as well as past clients have come out and complained about Ryan’s aggressive and rude nature.
The owner is a self-described micromanager and allegedly only cares about money instead of doing the right thing on some occasions.
Quality and Deadline Issues
Despite WCC’s supposed commitment to quality, they had many negative run-ins with unsatisfied clients. The most prominent was their association with Trisha Paytas, who publicly complained about her bad experience.
According to her, WCC’s crew missed the deadline by several months and threatened a lawsuit if she complained publicly.
She also stated that her Mercedes was practically un-drivable after WCC was done with it.
West Coast Customs has been around for a long time. While the road wasn’t always smooth, they managed to keep the business profitable and successful at each turn.
Today, WCC is mostly controversy-free and focused solely on customizing cars instead of worrying about TV deals or season renewals.
This is one of the reasons why things are looking good for Ryan and his crewmates.