Jet Mechanic Turned HotRodder
For many years there has been an ongoing debate over indoor verses outdoor automotive events. Both venues have their place in the industry, and both cater to a specific type of vehicle and fan base, but times are changing. Over the last few years we are starting to see more patina’d type of vehicles and hot rods at indoor car shows as well as restored Duesenberg class types at outdoor events.
Mark Giambalvo-Creative Rod and Kustom
Whether you are into cars or not, everyone will always remember their first vehicle. It’s probably a combination of that feeling of freedom along with the first gimps into adulthood that makes the experience something that you never forget. For most of us car/truck enthusiast it’s so much more than just a memory. It’s finally being able to own a piece of the road, an outlet for which to fuel our automotive obsession.
A Fathers Legacy-Greg Cline Automotive
If you have been following our recent series over the past few weeks you might have already read about Greg Cline (Greg Cline Automotive) and the build up around his award winning 1960 Oldsmobile Wagon. Greg is one of the TOP automotive paint/body guys in West Virginia as well as an amazing husband and loving father of two. I have had the pleasure to get to know the Clines over the past year and have to say they are one of most inviting, caring and support group of folks I am fortunate enough to call friends. Below is Greg’s journey and the touching story about his father’s influence on his life and automotive passion.
“I started working on cars with my dad when I was about 10. I mostly disassembled and sanded what he was working on. At 13, I started painting and doing minor body work. My dad bought a 81 Malibu around that time that we painted black, dropped in 355 V8, redid the interior and lowered it. Dad was adamant about wanting it black lacquer. After doing the buffing on that build, I knew right then that I was not going to ever paint with lacquer again.
In 1988 my dad and I went to the Shades of the Past Show in Pigeon Forge, TN. That year we picked up a ‘70 C-10. It was basically a restoration with upgraded wheels and a little lower ride height. I guess we loved that build because we picked up our second C-10, a ’72 stepside that belonged to my grandpa. We did a full frame off, slicked the frame, tubbed the rear and dropped in a blown 468 Big Block. I was still in high school at the time and my dad worked full time for the power company. The truck turned out really nice, but we both wanted to keep pushing and take our skills to the next level.
Dad and I decided to order a ’33 Ford Vicky body from Downs Manufacturing. We bought a Lobeck frame and put TCI suspension in the front and rear. It had a lowered stance with a small block Chevy and a blower. I would like to forget about the tweed interior we did on that build but as you know they were unfortunately popular at the time. I graduated from HS during this build and took over running the body shop that my dad started in 1968. He opened the shop for supplemental income while holding down his day job working at the power company. The body shop allowed me to work on cars at night while I attended college during the day.
After graduating college in 1997, I turned the body shop into a full time job. I had one guy helping me, but I did most of the body/paint work while also trying to juggle the office duties during those days. My dad had retired from the power company by 97 and lent me a hand from time to time on the tough jobs.
2000 was a big year for us. My dad and I built a 57 Chevy Hardtop, and I got married to my amazing wife Trisha. She quickly learned to like cars and I think she actually loves them even more than I do at times. During that year I also purchased a 1948 Buick Roadmaster. It had that sloped back that I fell in love with. We did a full frame off on it, slammed it and added a big block of course. We had Paul Atkins put in a basketball colored leather interior that went great with dark exterior. The Buick won a Shades Award in 2004 then grabbed a Goodguys Pick that same year in Charlotte.
In 2001 with Trisha’s help, we decided to expand our collision shop into a larger building. A year after construction started, we had a brand new facility with better equipment and a much nicer customer lounge. This new building helped us expand to where we are today with our 11 team members.
By April 2007 we sold the Buick at Barrett Jackson and had grown our family with two beautiful baby girls. In the fall of ’07 I bought the Olds with plans for it be a fun family car. When I pulled the front clip to fix the factory air conditioning my dad suggested that we do a freshening of the engine. The engine had some major issues so it went off to the machine shop. Unfortunately that shop went out of business while they still had the block so my dad suggested we put an LS in it that we had in storage. It’s a common swap now in just about everything but eight years ago it was still fairly new. A weekend later we had mounts made and a rack and pinion out of a 2006 GTO mounted. Now that we were this far in I knew we had to go all out. By fall 2008, we had slicked the frame and floors, painted it green and were reassembling it. I started the wiring in February 2009 when my dad unexpectedly passed away at only 62. I stopped working on the wagon at that point and threw my heart and soul into finishing the ’37 Ford he was working on. Every day on that build was difficult for me. My dad had left notes on the build for me and even set the seat up for me, I am a little taller than he was. It was the first time I had ever seen him make detail notes on any build. It was like he almost knew I would need them later. I knew that if I didn’t finish that build I would most likely never build another one again. It was the only way I knew how to grieve.
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After we finally completed my dad’s 37 in the fall of 2011, we were back on track on the Olds. Scott Thompson and I were knee deep in getting the LS wired and running. My good friend Steve Tracy offered to let us debut the car at his kick off party for the Goodguys Nashville show, at his shop, Advanced Plating which we barely made that year. My good friend Dave Spangler went with me and we displayed the Olds at Steve’s place. There were four Great 8 cars along with a Riddler winner there that year. We were in great company at that show for sure. The car was well received and won a Pros Pick from Bobby Alloway. This was a great honor because I consider Alloway to be one of the greatest designer/builders out there today. While at the show, the producers of Stacey David’s GEARZ asked if they could use the car in a future episode highlighting wagons. We left the car with them on Saturday and the Olds made her TV debut. Later that same year, we received a Top 25 at Shades of the Past. This was an award I have wanted since I attended my first Shades show in 1987 with my dad.
Over the last coupe of years we have a ton of fun the wagon. The girls love to ride in the back during the shows and I have met so many great people because of this build. I really owe it all to my dad for teaching me everything he knew.”
Specs On The Vehicle:
1960 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 Fiesta Wagon
Transmission: 4l60E GM Built by Scott Thompson
Fuel System: Aeromotive
Rear Suspension: Custom leaf springs w/Ridetech sleeved bags and rear disk brakes
Front Suspenion: Shockwaves with 13 inch rotors
Steering: 2006 GTO
Paint and Body: Greg Cline and David Johns (PPG Bottom-Galapagos Green Top-Light Olive Metallic)
Wheels and Tires: Fronts – Billet Specialties Bonneville 18×7 Nitto NT555 Extreme 225/45R18
Rears – Billet Specialties Bonneville 20×10 Nitto NT555 Extreme 275/35R20
Upholstery: Chuck Hanna with leather supplied by Roadwire and cloth supplied by Miami Rubber
Cline Automotive: 304-755-1146
Photo Credit: John Jackson – NotStock Photography
Thank you Greg for sharing your story with us. Can’t wait to show everyone the next projects you have in the works. On The Ground Designs
The Road to SEMA
This journey starts several years ago when my best friend Kenneth and I attended SEMA and joked about building a vehicle for the show one day. Fast forward four or five years to January 2014 when On The Ground Designs was just coming together. Another great friend/previous co-worker Ross Tyler (ART Photography) and I were having one of our many brainstorming conference calls on what to do with OTG. During that call Ross said to me “I really wish you had more than just your 55 Chevy to help launch this company. Something big that drew people into the brand and let people know what OTG was.” Over the next few weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about Ross’s comments. I started planning, not about what I personally wanted, but about what vehicle I could build that would shock everyone, where I would get the funds, who would build it and how the hell I would get it into SEMA.
One night I came across the Slaughter House Facebook Page and saw the yellow f100 that they were building for the crew from Lone Star Throwdown. I immediately said to myself that was it! That was the truck I wanted to build with my own interpretation. After I landed on that truck and that generation I hooked up with Tavis Highlander to render it. Then I just needed someone to build it within a workable build budget. I had less than 10 months and knew I had to get moving!
After receiving the rendering back and convincing Boris from Street Machinery to build the damn thing I was still sourcing funds and trying to find some way into the show. So once again my good friend Ross helped me put together a vehicle/company proposal and I sent it off to 280 companies. At first I heard nothing back but then one evening I received an email from the team at Vortech Superchargers. The Marketing Team from Vortech and I exchanged a few emails and phone calls over the next few weeks while Boris was hard at work on the teardown and initial chassis work. Then one fateful Tuesday morning Vortech contacted me and informed me that they were in on the build and that we were going to SEMA!!! I could not believe it! I had never done anything this big and now we were actually on our way.
After talking to my wife we agreed that we were going to go big or go home and leveraged a lot of our savings on the build and the business. After that I thought we were home free and that the rest was going to be easy. Damn was I wrong. Over the next seven months I was faced with the largest obstacles and roadblocks I had ever encountered. After a few months into the build I realized that Boris and his team were so inundated with other projects that they were no where close to the SEMA timeline. Boris and his team were also having major issues with the engine bay, the Porterbuilt Chevy front drop member was built around a C4 Corvette set up and made the motor sit too high causing major issues. Boris called me on a Friday and told me the BOSS intake would not fit and we would have to run the stock intake as well as the power steering unit was not going to work. I was not happy to say the least. I knew there was no way the truck would be functional with a 22×9 inch front wheels and no powersteering. It was around July at that point and OTG was starting to take off. I was teaching myself photography at night with the help of Sam Young (Sam Young Studios) after my day job and searching for another shop to pick up the build with the time I had left. I did a feature on Josh Hart (co-owner of High Octane Hot Rods) in June. Josh has a very large reputation around this area as being one of the top fabricators and gifted metal craftsman. Both Josh, Johnny & Brian Ortiz agree to take on the build with the impossible time line. I wasn’t sure even Josh and the team could make this build happen in such a short period of time. All I knew is that I trusted the crew and knew they would try their best. Once you see the photos in the article of how the truck looked when it arrived back in Pittsburgh you will understand why no one thought a high quality build could be done within the time that was left.
90 days out from SEMA was absolutely insane! OTG was gaining even more momentum, I was doing photo shoots all over the country, and still working my day job while the team at High Octane Hotrods were busting their asses on the truck. We still had no idea if they were going to make it, but I could tell things were finally back on track. Josh called me a few days after picking up the truck and expalined that the Porterbuilt Dropmember would have to come out and a new custom set up would have to be designed by Scots’s Hot Rods N’ Customs Shop in Oxhard California. The guys at Scott’s built one bad ass set up, the truck actually turns a full lock to lock a few inches off the ground with those 22×9 inch front wheels. The crew then enlisted top local paint and body guru Jeff Volker owner of Volkers Autobody, Scott Zielinski from Sew It Seams Interiors, TJ Gefert from Innovative Autoworks, Tavis Zeigler, as well as a few other local hot rod guys to assist on the build. At this point the sheet metal bed was coming together and Josh was starting on the engine bay. I can’t even describe the amount of time, work and emotion that was put into the truck over the last 90 days. It really was something only a true Hot Rod builder can fully appreciate. All the overtime and reenginering of the front end along with everything else that was surfacing caused the build to run extremely over budget. I just had to dig deeper and figure out how to make it happen, failure was not an option. I knew that if we missed SEMA that it was most likely the end to OTG. The guys were all like walking zombies those last four-five weeks. They were functioning on little to no sleep. The last few months of the the build I started to send select companies photos as the Ford was coming together and I think a few actually finally saw what the truck was evolving into. Within a few weeks we had some incredible companies join us in our endeavors. I can’t say enough about the quality of products and the folks that run these marketing teams (Vortech/Accuair/Wilwood/LMC Truck /Performance Rod & Custom/PPG/Viair/B-Forged/Lucky Strike Designs).
I am leaving out a lot of the TV drama (additional engineering hurdles/mistakes that had to be redone last minute/along with constant money stressors) and will just paraphase with, it was a lot to take on, but we were on our way to Sema!!! Josh and Johnny drove the truck out to Vegas while the paint was literally still wet. So wet in fact that Jeremy Seanor from Lucky Strike refused to paint the Boss stripe along the side. While I was on a plane to Vegas I kept thinking about the Accuair video where Reno is talking about him and his brother Dustin driving to Vegas with no money to even put gas in the rental truck. It was somehow comforting to know that others had done this before and that although it was rough for everyone involved we were almost there. We literally rolled the truck out of the trailer a few days later, as it did not even run yet, I knew from the reactions of bystanders that we had something special on our hands. The rest is history! We managed to take a $2500 f100 from a field and turn it into an award winning, SEMA worthy vehicle in less than 9 months! Due to the incredible feat this is I would like to once again thank all those that made this build possible.
Vendors & Sponsors:
Wilwood / Dynamat / Ridetech / Cale Aronson Motorsports / Accuair / Tjin / Areomotive / Viair / Ididit /LMC Truck / PPG / Relicate Leather / B-Forged / PRC (Performance Rod and Custom) / American Autowire / Scott’s Hot Rods N’s Customs / Ring Brothers / Summitt Racing / Sadistic Iron Werks / Slam Specialties / Moser Engineering / Borla
Chris Thompson’s Southern Fried Garage
One of the benefits of starting and operating OTG is that we have the unique opportunity to meet and connect with many great automotive enthusiast. Some of the people we encounter are running the top hot rod shops in their areas, some are building a family project in their backyard, and some are just bench builders like myself who love to be around anything with a V8. Join us as we introduce one of these said people, Chris Tompson. He is a long time hot rod collector, builder and an over the top auto enthusiast.
OTG: Chris it’s great to finally meet you. Can you tell us how long you have been into custom cars/trucks and where you passion originated from?
Chris Thompson: I have been into classic cars and trucks for as long as I can remember. When I was 12 I had a subscription to Hot Rod and Truckin’ Magazine. My second car was a ’69 Camaro, and it’s been a constant hunt for the next project since then. I did the mini trucking scene for a while in my early 20’s with a Nissan hardbody. I had a few newer hot rods as well, such as Camaros/Corvettes, but I have always been drawn to classic trucks. The first vehicle I can remember from childhood was a 2 tone green and cream ’78 square body my dad owned. This could possibly explain where my addiction to trucks started.
OTG: What do you do for a living? We think our readers might be interested in hearing how you can afford all of these amazing customs. I know I am curious.
CT: My full time job is being the Co-Vice President, with my brother in a family owned business that my dad started from nothing in 1980. The name of our business is Ricky Thompson & Sons Heating and Air Conditioning. I have had a few other jobs in my life but HVAC is where I have spent the majority of my adult life.
OTG: How did you acquire some of the sickest trucks around and out of your fleet of vehicles which is your favorite?
CT: All of these trucks have unique stories. The 64 dually I own is definitely one of my favorites. Most custom truck guys like myself watched the 67-72 forum like a hawk waiting to see the next post by Dino while he was building this truck. I was just amazed by what he had done with it. One day I heard that the dually had been sold and couldn’t understand how someone could sell such a piece of art, but that was before I got to know Dino. I’m an avid eBay surfer and one night stubbled on to it for sale after Dino sold it. Bobby had purchased it from Dino and had enjoyed it for about a year and was ready to move on. I had never met or spoken to Bobby or Dino but I decided to call them both and inquire about the truck. I didn’t know what to expect but Dino spent an hour with me on the phone telling me everything about the truck and he hadn’t even owned it for over a year. Needless to say I purchased the truck and gained two great friends in the process. I just recently installed a nasty 6.0 LS Built and swapped by Landrum Gentry of Big L’s Speed Shop.
OTG: Chris we happen to know Eddie Dean (the previous owner and builder of the Chevy K5), how did you acquire that blazer from him? From what we heard the blazer had been in his family since new and there was a ton of blood and sweat into that build. Eddie is one of the nicest guys around.
CT: The k5 also has a great story as I am sure Eddie told you. I was looking on Instagram one night and saw that Eddie was thinking about selling it. I immediately called Dino to ask if he knew Eddie and the k5. Of course he did and got me in touch with him. We talked for about an hour and immediately I knew we were going to be friends. I was actually in Arkansas at a dog competition when we talked. I committed to the purchase on the phone and Eddie said he would save the Blazer for me. No deposit or anything just a quick phone call and Eddie held the vehicle for me, that’s just the type of guy he is. As soon as I got home I sent him the money and took delivery.
OTG: So where does the Pittsburgh native Ford f100 come into this bunch?
CT: The f100 is probably the black sheep in the collection and wasn’t even supposed to be mine. I had a ’71 C-10 that was an all Porterbuilt and laying frame that I traded to Boris at Street Machinery. I actually traded him for a ’64 Suburban but we continued to have issues getting the whole shipping thing worked out. I got sick of waiting and booked a flight to Ohio to pick up the Surburban myself. After arriving at Boris’ this green f100 laying OTG was calling my name and I had to have it. This proved to be a mistake, or a great calculation that only Boris really knows. After a few beers I talked my way into the f100 and the next day I drove it 700 miles home to South Carolina.
OTG: So Chris you help run a Heating and Air Condition business and you also train nationally ranked show dogs. How does Southern Fried Garage fit into the picture?
CT: Southern Fried Garage started out as just me and one of my best friends, Ray Mourning, wanting to occasionally drive and flip anything custom. Like everything else related to custom cars/trucks it turned into so much more. Ray is a very special person in my life. His wife, Laura, actually taught me Geometry in high school. I bought and traded a few cars from him time to time. He was my go to person before I would buy or sell anything. Unfortunately some health issues took him out of our buying/selling business a while back, but I’m excited to say he’s coming back next year! SFG is a couple of faithful friends that spend countless hours in the garage on nights and weekends trying to get the next project done. My cousin Jody Thompson and HVAC employee Paul Gardner, also share a love and passion for trucks and cold beer. Those guys are also part of the crew.
OTG: Chris what does the future look like for you and the team over at SFG? I heard you guys had a high profile build in the works, can you confirm or deny?
CT: Expect more trucks, trucks and oh yeah trucks. It’s what we all love to do so I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. As far as a “high profile” build, I guess everyone will have to keep watching SFG and maybe even OTG for more details.
OTG: Chris thank you so much for your time, before we wrap up can you give us a general overview and specs on all three trucks?
CT: Sure thing but before I do I just want to thank my wife Lydia Thompson, my crew at our HVAC Company and my close friends at SFG. Without these people in my life none of this would be possible.
1964 Dually built by Dino, modernized by SFG
Chevy 6.0 LS built and swapped by Landrum Gentry of Big L’s Speed Shop
ARP rod bolts
Texas speed 228 cam
Texas speed stage 2.5 heads
32 pound injectors
Victor Jr intake
92 mm Throttle body
4L80e with Kevlar bands and 2800 stall
dana rear 4:10 gear
JL audio amps and subs
22″ semi wheels
Ford 302 engine
Malibu front clip and custom back half
Ford 9″ rear end
1986 Chevy K5 Blazer (originally 4wd)
Stock motor with new carb , headers and electric fans
Porterbuilt arms, drop member, sway bar, and transmission mount
Airride equipment on the rear with a 4 link and Accuair
1996 Impala SS rear end
Repainted flat silver and a few upgrades to the interior
Thanks for sharing your story with us Chris and we look forward to your upcoming builds. Huge thanks also goes out to Cody Ringer of mrxphotography for shooting this feature and joining the OTG Team. — On The Ground Designs
Seth Rosa’s Dream Come True-1972 Chevy C10
To say that the c10 scene has exploded over the last few years would be an understatement. It’s arguably one of the coolest trucks ever made and gaining popularity every year. Just take a look at any automotive restoration catalog and you can see the volume of companies which are making aftermarket parts for these trucks. When you combine an iconic looking truck with parts from top vendors like Accuair, Porterbuilt, Billet Specialties, and SloshTubz you have an instant show favorite. Below is Seth Rosa’s journey into building one of the nicest C10 Cheyenne’s in the country.
Cambridge Springs is still a resort town if you’re a Hot Rodder
This year I attended the Goodguys 17th PPG Nationals in Columbus Ohio. For many of the 100,000 plus in attendance the event was once again one of the top Hot Rod shows and automotive cultural events in the country. It’s one of the nations only venues that actually allows you to get up close and personal with the vehicles and the creative minds behind the builds.
Founder, Automotive Enthusiast, & Photographer
Welcome to On The Ground Designs. We are group of passionate enthusiast that enjoy everything automotive. What started as an obsession around customizing cars has turned into a full blown media and marketing company. We are here to bridge the gap and connect consumers with products/services through organic storytelling. If you are looking for photographs of your vehicle, are interested in a ground up custom ride, would like to grow/expand your business, or you just want to share your build story with us then we are here to assist. Please feel free to contact me with any questions surrounding our services or ways that we may be able to help. Thank you for stopping by On The Ground Designs.
Nathan Leach-Proffer is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer with a background in ad agency account management. Cars were his first obsession and have shaped his life since hotwheel tracks started taking over the house as a kid. The love of photography was born from that obsession with speed, design, and the smell you only really get at the track. Attached is the link to more of his amazing work and how to contact him directly.
In 2012 Wuno Inc. was conceived launching him on a quest for knowledge and skill. He continues to develop and refine his skills while leveraging the skills of his team to provide creative designs for customers around the world.
Armed with a passion for shooting cars, fashion and commercial projects, Dale Zavala has an exceptional vision for making films that leave lasting impressions. He started as a video editor, learning the basics of creating cinematic stories. Dale then studied under one of the most well known fashion photographers in Dallas. Combining his knowledge of post production and cinematography, Dale is very passionate about his work and it shows in the end product.
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