West Coast Customs is the most famous custom automobile shop in the United States. Opening its doors for the first time in 1997, it found a national audience in 2004 on the MTV show Pimp My Ride. Hosted by rapper Xzibit, the show was an instant hit, and rocketed the shop and its owner, Ryan Friedlinghaus, to celebrity status. Three years later, the show abandoned West Coast Customs. From the exhaust pipe of that show,Street Customs was born, and eventually re-branded West Coast Customs. This is the crazy story of how Ryan Friedlinghaus’ passion project evolved from day one to modern day.
You won’t believe what Nintendo-branded racing game they brought to real life!
Shaq Gave Friedlinghaus His Big Break
Before Ryan Friedlinghaus met Shaquille O’Neal he was running just another struggling customs shop. After his car was modified, Shaq spread the word about WCC to his friends. If there’s one thing we know about Shaq, it’s that he has friends in high places.
Thanks to Shaq’s endorsement, business started flowing in for Friedlinghaus. Suddenly he had celebrities lining up around the corner to have their cars modified. Always humble, Friedlinghaus gives his large friend all the credit for his initial success.
WCC Employees Are Expected To Put Job Above Family
While we’re sure Friedlinghaus would deny this accusation, several WCC custom employees have complained of the shop’s standard that they must place work before family. One worker even said he had to fight the shop to let him see the birth of his child. And then he was called into the work the next morning.
Another worker, Mauricio Hernandez, said he was forced to work 10 to 12 hour days without benefits or social security for six days a week. All Friedlinghaus has ever said about the accusation is that he hates the question, “When can I go home?”
Up next, learn how Friedlingaus took West Coast Customs to television for the first time.
The Relationship With Pimp My Ride Ended Controversially
As we’ve said, WCC first came into the national spotlight on the show Pimp My Ride. From 2004 until 2007, the Xzibit hosted show used the auto shop as its home base. After three years, though, Friedlinghaus was fed up with the exhaustive fixer-up jobs the company was doing.
Friedlinghaus "parted ways" with MTV to do just that. He said he preferred to have more control over his clientele and that the show was hurting his reputation. Pimp My Ride continued with a new autoshop, and Friedlingaus, of course, found a new home on Discovery Channel.
The Shop Has Worked On 20 Projects At Once Before
If you thought un-equal pay and never seeing your family were pretty bad, wait until you hear this. The reason Friedlinghaus expects work loyalty above all else is because of the amount of work he accepts. At one point, WCC might have 20 projects going simultaneously.
Under these conditions, workers were required to work 60 hour work weeks; more for newer workers. Friedlinghaus is also famously hands on and has been called a micro manager on several occasions. Basically, you need to have incredibly thick skin to work for WCC — do you?
They Severely Messed Up Trisha Paytas’ Custom Job
YouTube star Trisha Paytas was on top of the world in 2014 when she bought a brand new Mercedes G550. She was even more excited a few weeks later when she dropped the car off at WCC for a few simple modifications. When Paytas picked up her new car, all her excitement faded.
West Coast Customs had done far more than just a few simple modifications. The shop gave the star every modification she rejected from their salesman along with what she originally wanted. On top of that, the car had massive electrical issues and wasn’t ready until weeks after it was supposed to be!
In two slides, we reveal what video game West Coast Customs once turned into a real life experience!
Publicity Stunts Are Common Practice To Keep Customers Interested
Having been on television in one form or another since 2004, West Coast Customs has mastered the art of the publicity stunt. Not all stunts are created equal, though, and the one we want to talk about really blew up in the shop’s face.
During a party, rapper Will.I Am’s $700,000 Delorean went missing. He didn’t leave it with the valet, instead parking somewhere away from the crowd. The search for the car ended when WCC “surprisingly” found it. No one believed that the incident wasn’t staged, and Friedlinghaus’ reputation took a minor hit as a result.
They Created A Real Life Version Of Mario Kart
No job is too big for WCC, even when that job is taking the iconic video game Mario Kart and turning it into a real life experience! Working directly with Nintendo, the auto shop has put on a series of Mario Kart based real world displays.
Hollywood has also come calling. The work of WCC has been featured in major blockbusters, most notably The Expendables and Mad Max: Fury Road. Even if you’ve never seen one of their TV shows, you’ve definitely seen their work on the silver screen.
West Coast Customs Started Doing Business Overseas In 2008
Ryan Friedlingaus made his first attempt to take WCC global in 2008 by opening a shop in Berlin. The shop failed, closing less than a year after opening. Undeterred, Friedlinghaus gave Mauricio Hernandez the chance to open another shop in Mexico, where a TV deal was in place.
The Mexican version of West Coast Customs ran for six seasons. Friedlinghaus then took the company to China, thanks to an $18 million investment from Al Ghussein Global Investments. The opening was covered by seemingly every media outlet in China and has been very successful since.
Still ahead, learn just how much value a WCC job could add to your car!
West Coast Customs Would Keep Cars For Months On Pimp My Ride
When people learned they were going to get there car fixed on Pimp My Ride by West Coast Customs they were ecstatic. They had no idea that this thing they needed to continue functioning in everyday society was about to be taken away from them for months.
After the show ended, several former participants complained about losing their cars for so long nearly ruined their lives. This young people needed to be able to go to work or get to class, and losing their car before the time of Uber and Lyft was not an easy adjustment.
Modifications From WCC Skyrocket The Value Of Their Cars
If you decided to take your car into West Coast Customs for some work, you might consider selling it afterwards. Because of how much space and technical skill the shop has, they can do just about anything you desire to your car.
Their clientele is the reason WCC is limit free. When your regulars include Justin Bieber and Shaq, you better be able to deliver. WCC delivers in spades, turning cars worth a few thousands of dollars into treasures worth hundreds of thousands!
There Is No Such Thing As An Overnight Job At WCC
When you know that WCC will work on 20 projects at the same time, it should come as no surprise that if you drop your car off after work, don’t expect it to be ready for the next day. West Coast Customs is notoriously slow when it comes to their work.
Rest assured, the job will always get done, you just might not be happy with the deadline date. Several clients have complained, including Red 5 Studios. The game company hired WCC to customize a Fireball bus with space for a game room on the inside. The job was supposed to be done in time for E3. It was not.
On the next slide we’ll let you know how much Ryan Friedlinghaus is worth today!
Friedlinghaus Turned A$5K Loan Into A $20 Million Net Worth
West Coast Customs officially opened its doors in 1997, but that’s not when Friedlinghaus started the business. In 1994 Friedlinghaus was a teenager when he and business partner Quinton Dodson began following their passion. At the start, all they had a $5,000 loan.
Today, Friedlinghaus is worth a reported $20 million. Not a bad return on investment. He says part of the reason for his continued success is that he sees the company as part of his family. Several employees who started with him in 1997 are even still there today, impossible hours and all.
Major Mechanical Fixes Are Left To The Professionals
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Pimp My Ride you no doubt noticed the tow truck waiting hanging out on the lot. That tow truck served a very specific purpose. It was there to tow the car to a real mechanic after it broke down off camera.
You see, the main concern of WCC on the show was that the cars look and sound cool. If you needed a new engine, though, they wouldn’t replace. Still, those suicide doors on your 1988 Toyota Camry look pretty flippin’ sweet!
Let’s Talk About Fake Parts
In a previous slide, we revealed that certain parts put on cars for Pimp My Ride were strictly there to look cool. During one episode a car was given a robotic arm that looked cool and even moved in front of the camera. Once the camera was turned off, so was the arm.
The car’s owner said the arm literally did nothing after he drove off the lot. The movement seen on the show was controlled by someone off camera with a computer. Another person said the show put a make muffler on the car to make it sound louder than it was supposed to.
Not All Jobs Are Finished The First Time Around
This story directly relates to the TV show. Every episode is under strict deadline, meaning the cars must be finished by the time they’re unveiled to the owner. The problem is that’s not always true. Sure, the exterior of the car is always done. Worse, they’ll let customers drive off the lot with their unfinished work!
Usually the problem the customer drives off with is minor. There’s always a part with no other function than to look good for television. There have been other times, though, where cars left the lot with faulty brakes or suspensions! Hopefully they were fixed with some kind of refund after.
In a few slides learn just how big WCC’s celebrity client base has grown to.
They Almost Went Out Of Business In 2008
West Coast Customs found themselves in hot water in 2008. When the financial crisis hit that year, everyone rich to poor was affected. Ryan Friedlinghaus was no exception. Business crashed to a halt, leading to the biggest loss in company history.
Wealthy clients could no longer afford to have several cars modified a year, and the number fell so low, Friedlinghaus had to consider closing the garage. To make up for the lack of rich clients, WCC began taking on smaller jobs to break even until the crisis was over.
West Coast Customs Underpaid Workers Until 2014
In 2014, West Coast Customs and Ryan Friedlinghaus were sued amidst reports the auto shop severely underpaid low level workers. According to the suit, WCC put workers on salary when they should have been hourly. By paying them on salary, the company avoided paying steep overtime fees.
The lawsuit was settled when Friedlinghaus agreed to pay $150,000 in back pay to eligible workers. After the incident, WCC started keeping organized worker logs and followed worker standards set by the Department of Labor. There has not been a worker complaint since.
The Celebrity Client Base Grew After Divorcing MTV
During WCC’s three years on Pimp My Ride they had a money problem. A lot of the costs to modify cars for the show cost the shop more money than they made. This is why Friedlinghaus felt he needed to focus on wealthy clientele, and why he forced the split from MTV.
The decision is one of the best Friedlinghaus ever made. Being able to focus on celebrities like Shaq and Bieber, have only lead to more opportunities with more celebrities. It’s safe to say WCC is the go to mod-shop for famous rich celebrities worldwide.
MTV Would Nearly Destroy Cars Before Giving Them To WCC
Part of the allure of Pimp My Ride was just how bad the condition the cars entering WCC work shop was. In many cases, the car MTV delivered to the garage had been tampered with to make them look worse than they originally were.
A few instances of this include a production member “enhancing” dents to make them worse. The also used aircraft remover to make peeling paint look worse than it already did. Whether WCC knew about this tampering or not is a question for another day.
Not Everyone Liked Their New Car
One thing you never saw happen on Pimp My Ride was a participant see their new car and get upset. West Coast Customs would work on these cars for month, and needed the reactions to be positive for obvious reasons. Because of this, participants were coached on how to react for the camera.
Jake Glazier said that he was coached by mechanics on how to be more enthusiastic. As he puts it, a mechanic put his arm around his shoulder and walked him around the garage for ten minutes explaining to him what needed to happen on camera.