• Ian Roussel is a renowned custom fabrication business, media personality, and triple threat in the automotive industry.
• He has his own reality show, “Full Custom Garage”, and an Amazon Prime spin-off, “Kustom Cars, Lead Sleds: Back from the Dead with Ian Roussel”.
• He has been customizing vehicles and making customers’ dreams come true for over a decade, and his creations have been shipped to countries around the world.
• His reality show is in stark contrast to other, more controversial car customization shows, like “Pimp My Ride”, which was scripted and had illegal customizations.
• Car customization was first done in the 1930s, and has changed drastically over the years with the addition of daring colors, designs, and aftermarket accessories, to optimize performance.
Who is Ian Roussel?
With his vastly successful reality show, a renowned custom fabrication business, and a steadfast personality that translates well to television, fans are right to describe Ian Roussel as a triple threat in the automotive industry. The media personality was born in Sunland, California, USA, in November 1970, and during his childhood spent plenty of time with his father, a devoted car enthusiast who helped nurture his son’s interest in auto customization, and eventually turn it into a million-dollar empire.
The premiere of “Full Custom Garage” and its subsequent Amazon Prime spin-off, “Kustom Cars, Lead Sleds: Back from the Dead with Ian Roussel”, have only helped to cement Ian’s position as a heavyweight in the reality TV lane. The established businessman capitalized on his success by launching a well-received merchandise line with help from his doting wife Jaime, a nurse and fellow car fanatic with whom he has two children named Jayce and Ava Love Roussel.
The animal lover and tattoo aficionado boasts over 150,000 followers on Instagram, and has been an open book when it comes to his passion for customizing vehicles and making customers’ dreams come true. Fans will be shocked to know that he is quoted as saying: “I love what I do. The funny thing is that I’m not particularly into cars, but it’s my addiction making them and creating all of these shapes.” Surprisingly, Ian, who is described as a “laidback craftsman”, doesn’t keep any of the cars he makes either.
The Netherlands, Germany and Japan are just some of the countries where Ian’s creations have been shipped to from Long Beach, thanks to the Californian’s global audience. Way back in 2003, Ian was asked to make a DVD which led to him inking a lucrative deal with MAVTV Motorsports Network after impressing the network executives. “It’s pretty crazy since no one ever envisioned this,” Ian said in a 2021 interview. “We’re not entertainers. We’re car people making the coolest cars that we can possibly make”, apparently not realizing that such is entertaining in itself.
Ian can also be spotted at car events such as the Spokane Speed and Custom Show, where he sells merchandise, signs autographs, and takes the time to chat with his fans.
“Full Custom Garage”
Since its premiere in 2014, 69 episodes of “Full Custom Garage” have been filmed over eight seasons. Due to the increasing demand for customised cars, Ian and his workmates Tom Flores and Victor Cacho have their work cut out, and sometimes face difficulties when executing their visions; luckily, teamwork makes the dream work, and the hardworking trio never let their customers down.
Before landing his own show, Ian was already making a name for himself thanks to his appearances in “Back from the Dead: Hot Rod Documentary”, “Back from the Dead II”, and “Car Warriors”. His loyal fanbase supports his every venture, and has been following his journey as he builds and customizes cars for well over a decade. The master fabricator has a knack for transforming discarded objects into stunning custom cars, creating each part of the car body by hand using just everyday garage tools.
When thinking of popular car customization shows, one of the most obvious would be “Pimp My Ride”. Between 2004 and 2007, the show was hosted by rapper Xzibit, and became something of a cult classic despite its brief shelf life, with some of the funniest clips still circulating social media to this day. However, in 2015 the Huffington Post interviewed former contestants about their experiences, and confirmed what many had suspected for years but never confirmed: almost everything viewers saw was scripted or exaggerated.
Former contestant Brooke Siegel left millions of Americans disillusioned by claiming in an interview that MTV rented the house where Xzibit came to meet her, faked her backstory for entertainment purposes, and instructed her to lie about her age, and claim to be 22 instead of 25. Fellow former contestant Justin Dearinger took to Reddit to share his side of the story years after appearing on the show in 2005; according to Justin, MTV took his vehicle away for five months but made it look like it had only been gone for a few days; meantime, the production teamed also failed to make temporary transportation arrangements for Justin.
Jake Glazer and Seth Martino are two former contestants who were demeaned and humiliated on the show, leading to allegations of emotional abuse. The storyline for Jake’s episode saw his car littered with cigarette butts, and he was instructed to say that his grandmother was a non-stop smoker – in reality, the unhygienic cigarette butts were placed there by the production team.
As for Seth, he was forced to play the role of a fat person who can’t stop eating – and to add insult to injury, his modified car came with its own cotton candy machine. In his interview, Seth said: “I know I’m fat, but they went the extra mile to make me look extra fat by telling the world that I kept candy all over my seat and floor, just in case I got hungry.”
Seth’s interview revealed even more tidbits of juicy information, such as that many of the modifications were useless or malfunctioning. The TV installed in his car stopped working, and the LED light installed on his seat heated up and was unusable. When filming wrapped up, the modified rear door of his vehicle was removed as it impeded the back seat belt functionality; the cotton candy machine was also unusable, as it had no dome.
Just a month after appearing on the show, Seth had to spend $1,700 on a new engine for his car, which has been the case for many contestants. The modifications on “Pimp My Ride” were purely for aesthetic purposes, and the cars always left the garage with the same mechanical issues they had at the beginning of the episode. Other contestants were forced to sell their cars when facing similar issues.
There was also no audition process for “Pimp My Ride” contestants, as most of them had connections to the show’s producers, despite not being paid actors. On a more positive note, it’s reported that Xzibit and the contestants got on well, and that the majority of contestants were happy with their vehicles despite the (mostly) useless and illegal customizations.
Other well-known and more realistic car customization shows include “Unique Rides”, “Wheeler Dealers”, “Fast N’ Loud”, and “RMD Garage”.
Here we’ll be focusing on some of the hosts of the aforementioned similar shows. Will Castro of “Unique Rides” landed his own show in 2015, after years of hard work as a Long Island-based celebrity car designer, with dozens of successful projects under his belt. The show’s premise was simple: to follow Will and his five employees at his Smithtown shop, as they designed, built, and revealed customized cars for their client base, made up almost entirely of athletes and other celebrities.
Will’s journey as a car designer for the stars began way back in 1989, when he was asked by rapper Erick Sermon, who attended high school with his brother, to customize his Mercedes-Benz for a prestigious event at the Apollo Theater. In an interview with the NY Post, Will reminisced: “Ever since then, they knew that we were the shop and the people to go to.” With Carmelo Anthony, 50 Cent, Donald Trump and LeBron James as just some of his clients, Will was never hurting for work – but paradoxically, his popularity took a hit when the show premiered in 2016 on Velocity Channel.
Will’s show was heavily criticized for its tacky customizations, choppy camera work, and lack of imagination. “If you want to view something just before you planning to got to bed [sic], do not view Unique rides, your brains will be on fire and your eyeballs will not stop rolling in your head” one viewer said, claiming that the cameras switched picture over 200 times in just five minutes, and gave him motion sickness. Another review reads: “When the cars are revealed, the owners seem to be polite, rather than show the disgust they probably really feel.”
‘Despite being described as a ‘loser’, ‘lazy’, and someone with a “holier than thou attitude like you’ve just cured cancer’, Will has almost half a million Instagram followers to this day, and is still customizing cars, so clearly he’s doing something right.
Richard Rawlings of “Fast N’ Loud”, which was cancelled in 2021, is another polarizing figure in the reality TV landscape. From posing in a thong for a disastrous publicity campaign, to allegedly insulting disabled fans and verbally abusing his employees, there’s no shortage of controversy surrounding the charismatic media personality.
After years of battling against lawsuits, complicated divorces, disgruntled former employees, and thousands of irate viewers as the show’s storylines became more and more scripted and ludicrous, Richard moved on to bigger and better things and is now focusing on his other business ventures, which include a bar and grill and restaurant. On a more positive note, there was never a dull moment on “Fast N’ Loud”, and none of the customizations at his shop, Gas Monkey Garage, were accused of being dull or unimaginative.
Finally, Mike Brewer and Edd China of “Wheeler Dealers” are far more wholesome characters, despite the somewhat acrimonious end to their professional and personal relationship. The shock departure of Edd, the show’s mechanic, from “Wheeler Dealers” led to Mike being sent death threats by fans who accused him – perhaps unjustly – of not standing up for his friend.
When producers suggested on cutting down Edd’s scenes so he’d barely appear in the show, the eccentric mechanic took a stand, and decided that it was time to move his talents to other platforms, namely YouTube and Instagram. This meant that Mike got far more screen time, which some viewers claim was his intention all along, as he was beginning to take second place to the talented and relatable Edd.
Never one to shy away from conflict, Mike became embroiled in a verbal war with a Twitter user, who said: “So people that stick up for @TheEddChina aren’t true fans? Only people who blow smoke up your *rse are true fans?? Says it all.” In his reply, which he soon deleted, Mike called Edd a traitor, and claimed that the mechanic left the show after 13 years without saying anything. The current state of their relationship is unknown, but Mike is still hosting “Wheeler Dealers”, whereas Edd’s YouTube channel is thriving.
— Edd China (@TheEddChina) September 1, 2014
The History of Car Customization
The phrase “custom car” was first used in the 1950s, although the actual concept of one has changed enormously in the last few decades. Car customization was actually a thing before World War II; the owners of 1929 to 1934 models would remove the fenders of their vehicles, or replace them with light cycle fenders for a new look, while owners of later models would alter the suspension, replace engines, and add fender skirts to name a few changes.
The early era of car customization was a far simpler time than it is today, with colorful paint jobs taking a while to emerge. In the late 1930s, the aim of customization was to smooth out and sharpen stock lines rather than make a car flashy and eye-catching. As the trend gained popularity, companies began advertising via car customization, by placing their logos on vehicles to sponsor racers.
Over time, custom builders pushed the limits of customization by replacing even more auto parts, such as taillights, grills, bumpers and headlamp housings. They also added chrome to the vehicles; often, chrome stripping was added to the sides of the vehicle, or painted bumpers were replaced with chrome bumpers for a sleeker aesthetic.
Body work had become one of car customization’s most important aspects by the 1950s, along with daring colors and designs. A decade later, huge creative advances were made, as custom builders began using metallic colors, flames, hand painted pinstripes, and scallops. As of today, there are hundreds of custom car builders around the world, who specialize in aftermarket accessories, enhancing engine parts, and generally modifying vehicles with their own personal touch. By replacing the engine and transmission, they also optimize vehicle performance.