Just about every car builder and fabricator in the world would love to get their hands on some sort of instruction manual or guide outlining how to make it big in the custom car industry. It is nearly impossible to open a magazine, read a newspaper or turn on the television now without seeing the work of a few key designers. Craftsmen like Chip Foose, Steve Stroppe or Troy Trepanier don’t come along every day – but it seems as though most of the cameras in America are pointed straight at them right now, and it is easy to understand why. Customizing, even in its most basic form, is meant to make things beautiful and personal – giving the customizer a bond with a car that represents the best of him or herself. Ideas and innovations of how to make a car more functional or representative of the fabricator’s vision are what drive the hot rodding and custom car industry.
J.F. Launier grew up in the Sunny Okanagan Valley. The British Columbia native learned to fabricate early on, and as a young man worked for his parents or helped friends with their projects. When he was 16, a time when many teenage boys are chasing skirts, J.F. was chasing parts around for his 1951 Mercury Pick-Up. J.F. built hand-laid fiberglass running boards for the truck, rebuilt the engine and did the body work. That truck holds a special place in J.F.’s heart, and it remains part of his collection – undergoing many transformations over the years, and continues to garner praise and attention in any of its iterations.
In 2001 he decided to begin work on customer’s cars, and what has transpired since would color just about any car builder green with envy. His shop, JF Kustoms, employs five craftsmen, each one adding special abilities to the mix, allowing the small shop to build complete cars – from stem to stern. The award-winning shop’s turning point to the absolute stunning and extraordinary was during its build of a 1951 Kaiser 2 door Custom the shop named “Kontageous” that debuted at the Grand National Roadster show in 2006, winning the Chip Foose Design Excellence Award as well as 3 other top of class awards. Over the next year, the car toured North America, garnering JF and his shop more and more attention – and awards. Industry leaders were familiarizing themselves with the young builder from British Columbia – noting attributes of his vehicles such as their muscular stance, clean design and presence.
J.F.’s next project (R’Evolution) started life as a 1955 Chrysler 300C – the first of Chrysler’s famous “Letter Car” series. The 300C established Chrysler as a force to be reckoned with from both a performance and design standpoint, and the “300″ moniker stood for more than just the model designation – it is also the horsepower rating for the powerful coupe. Only available in three colors, black, red and white, standard power was MOPAR’s top engine – the 331 cubic inch Hemi V8 with two four-barrel carburetors, racing cam shaft, solid lifters, dual exhausts and PowerFlite automatic transmission. The Blue Streak racing tires were purpose built to take the big coupe places – fast (127.58 mph in the flying mile). Of the 1,725 Hemi 300C’s built in 1955, less than 160 are thought to survive.
None were station wagons with Hemi drive-trains and Pirelli tires.
None, that is, until now…
J.F.’s vision for the 300C included adding a wagon roof extension to it, giving the mid-fifties muscle car a new profile, and a second chance to be radical again – just like it was in ’55.
R’Evolution was designed and built as what Chrysler could have built if they marketed a sport wagon in the 1950′s. Pre-supposing what a Dodge Magnum might have been born of, the wagon is what J.F. likes to call, “…a vision of the past that never was.”
The 2 door 300C was joined with a roof from a four door wagon; the pillars were modified and shaped to give it a sporty look. The interior showcases a wood inlay headliner and decking in the rear. The gauge cluster, dash panels and center console were all handcrafted through countless hours of metalwork. JF sprayed the custom mixed color, Revolutionary Yellow (courtesy of DuPont Hot Hues), and made all trim pieces of brass then sent out for plating. The custom grilles, taillights and steering wheel were made for R’Evolution by Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed Equipment. Mike and J.F. met on the set of TV’s Overhaulin’ show, where JF was a member of 6 builds over the last 2 seasons. Baer Brakes provide stopping power and Foose Wheels provided the custom 24″ rear and 22″ front wheels that are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Nero 405/25/24 rears and 265/30 22 fronts. “To me, Pirelli is the upper echelon of tires,” said Launier, explaining why he chooses Pirelli tires for each of his cars. “They are world class tires and we’re building world class street rods.” R’Evolution’s body received a two inch chop, shortened rear quarters (by eight inches), a fifteen degree rake on the windshield and a full custom metal interior.
The project was finished just in time to compete in the Detroit Autorama, where it was voted a “Great 8″ finalist for the Ridler Award.
At the 26th All American Get Together in Pleasanton, California, R’Evolution was crowned the Goodguys West Coast Custom of the Year Award, giving Launier the first of what are sure to be many upcoming major awards for his creations. The award is open to all custom cars with build dates from 1936 – 1964.
“I’m very competitive, driven by the need to be the best at something,” explained Launier. “I think that in life and work, if you’re going to do something you should do it to the best of your abilities at that moment. The next time you do it, you’ll do it better.”
J.F. Kustoms, led by J.F. Launier has proven that it is a force to be reckoned with. Pirelli is pleased to be able to partner with cutting edge designers and builders such as Launier, and looks for great things to come from the young designer and his team of craftsmen.