Story & Photography by Rick Amado
We all know at least one - the guy with the enviable garage. It's usually huge and packed full of the coolest junk on the planet: hot rod parts. Randy Clark is one of these lucky stiffs. As the proprietor of Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, California, he gets to build some of the coolest cars around - Chris Williams' M-80 Ridler winner is a prime example.
But the business of hot rods is different than the lifestyle of hot rods, though Randy is at ease wearing either hat. His addiction began with Harley's back in the 60's - in fact, the chopper he's astride in the lead photo has the first frame he ever fabricated. His bike interests slowly evolved into hot rods, and by 1980 he was fully immersed in building cars out of his home garage/shop. By 1989, he was building cars for so many other people that he outgrew the garage and opened a new facility. He called it Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, and he hasn't had an empty bay since.
Randy isn't one of those parts hoarders with 73 cherry Deuce shells that will remain untouched for the next three decades. No sir, the parts hanging from his walls inevitably find their way onto real hot rods. He's not collecting this stuff; he buys it for the purpose of putting it to good use, as you can tell from the cars he has in various stages of construction. Yeah, all those cars you see are his, except for the '34 roadster on the lift, which he put together from "spare parts" and recently sold to a friend.
The door is open and Randy has invited us in, so let's take a peek.....
(left) Here's where the magic happens. Room for two inside and the antique potbelly stove for those frigid San Diego winters. The lift just outside makes chassis work on completed cars a snap. (right) Dig the antique lathe - no fancy speed shifter here, ya gotta swap the belt around to change speed. Randy built cars out of this shop years before opening his current facility. Most of the machines were resident and stayed in place when he moved operations into the new location.
The ceiling beams are an even mixture of parts, souvenirs, and junk, which sorta gives the places a homey, lived-in kinda feel. The walls and ceiling beams bristle with miscellaneous stuff, some random, some useful, but all of it fun to look at. Randy doesn't have it arranged into categories (that would take up precious build time); he just hangs the new find wherever there's space.
(left) The south forty hides Randy's cache of old truck bodies; there are even a few panels and sedan deliveries waiting for their moment in the spotlight. (right) Here're flathead intakes ripe for the pickin'. What's your flavor: one, two or three carbs?
A man-sized shop needs needs a man-sized toolbox. That Mac rollaway is a full 6 feet tall and contains everything needed for proper wrenching. That little roadster is a project car for Randy's grandkids.... It's a mechanics Illustrated kit from the '50s that uses early 50's Crosley running gear. Randy picked it up about a decade ago at the L.A. Roadster show swap meet and has had it on the road, hitting a whopping 25 mph (uncorrected) in it. Randy plans to restore the roadster and let the grandkids barnstorm his ranch in it.