Expand mobile version menu

What They Do

Insider Info

For some people, an ordinary car, truck or van just isn't good enough. Luckily for them, auto-customizers are ready to help. Auto-customizers use paints, wheels, spoilers, seats, body style changes, stereos and a host of other accessories and alterations to make the ordinary extraordinary.

Auto-customizers combine skill at bodywork and other mechanics with artistic flair. In fact, some of the most famous customizers are also well-known for their artwork.

For instance, Robert Williams, who went on to become a comic book artist in the 1970s, started his career painting flames and stripes on cars in Hollywood. Williams' art is well-known to modern music fans, since his work has appeared on several album covers.

Customizers face some tough challenges along the way. Clients either know exactly what they want their car to look like -- and they may have unrealistic ideas -- or they aren't sure. Either way, customizers say they spend almost as much time talking to the customer as they do working on the car.

Martin Lum owns and operates a car restoration company. His clients are generally wealthy people with money to burn. Collecting antique autos isn't a cheap hobby. "It's not even a middle-class sport. It's an upper-class sport economically because you can blow five grand real quick and that's just a warm-up!"

Customizers need a broad range of general knowledge about paint colors and how to best coat different surfaces, as well as an idea of vehicle design and construction.

Customizers usually work in garages or shops, sometimes around potentially toxic automobile paints and solvents. Most follow strict safety procedures to protect against the chemicals they encounter. Workdays and weeks are usually standard, but customizers who do their work on the side may work nights and weekends to get their work done.

Customizers find work because most automobiles are made in mass production. That means car-buying customers have a limited number of choices in terms of body design, paint color and other esthetic features.

Some car companies have tried to change that, allowing customers to "custom order" automobiles from the showroom. However, automotive industry experts have pointed out that attempts to create "custom" factories have largely failed. That's because customizing a car is an expensive proposition, one requiring long hours of preparation, design conception and painting.

At a Glance

Make every car unique

  • Formal education is not required in most areas
  • You need a broad range of knowledge about paint colors, vehicle design and construction
  • You can study autobody and mechanical studies or painting and art


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733