Thursday, March 1, 2012

Motor Man: Custom-car pro from T.O. shares talents with national TV audience

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INTENSE—The high-speed creations of Ray McClelland, owner of Full Throttle Kustomz, have been featured in magazines around the world. This year he stars as one of two lead techs on “Car Warriors,” a show on the Speed network that challenges teams to build a custom car in 48 hours. 
Photo courtesy of Faran N./www.phocus.me INTENSE—The high-speed creations of Ray McClelland, owner of Full Throttle Kustomz, have been featured in magazines around the world. This year he stars as one of two lead techs on “Car Warriors,” a show on the Speed network that challenges teams to build a custom car in 48 hours. Photo courtesy of Faran N./www.phocus.meBy Dashiell Young-Saver

Reality television stars are known for being outspoken. Whether complaining, bragging or engaging in shouting matches, they find a way to fill air time with highvolume voices. But one emerging reality show star and Thousand Oaks resident prefers to let his precisely tuned, high-performance engines make all the noise.
Ray McClelland, owner of Full Throttle Kustomz, stars as a lead tech on the second season of Speed TV’s “Car Warriors,” which premiered on Friday. He’s built custom cars for more than 20 years, and the 41-year-old’s role in the show is a testament to the innovations he’s made in the industry.

SPEED DEMON—McClelland’s prized 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 can do a quarter-mile in nine seconds—and gets 22 mpg. 
Photo courtesy of Faran N./www.phocus.me SPEED DEMON—McClelland’s prized 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 can do a quarter-mile in nine seconds—and gets 22 mpg. Photo courtesy of Faran N./www.phocus.me“Ray has been a great addition to the show,” said Speed’s senior manager of media relations, David Harris. “He basically set the standard for a Mustang engine build, and he has all the credibility in his field.”
Building cars, a company and a career
McClelland’s cars and modifications have been featured in magazine articles worldwide. He’s tuned singer Will.i.am’s Corvette and worked with custom car legend Gene Winfield on a project they hope will break a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

There are numerous other accomplishments, but what McClelland is best known for is a groundbreaking 2007 Ford Mustang that achieves 1,243 rear-wheel horsepower and still gets an impressive 22 miles per gallon highway.
“There isn’t much of a car I can’t handle,” McClelland said. “I like to do anything with Americanmade muscle. I’m known for the capability of gaining horsepower, torque and fuel economy, whereas most just tune for a horsepower number, which is very dangerous.”
Growing up outside Pittsburgh, McClelland loved tearing into dirt bikes and cars. After graduating from technical school, he had a son, Ray Jr., who shares his passion for cars and bikes. McClelland said his son worked with him on cars beginning at age 3 and customizing cars for magazines as early as age 12.
“He is an inspiration and my best friend,” said McClelland Sr.
His son, now 20, attends technical school and plans to pursue a career similar to his father’s.
In 2006, McClelland Sr. started Full Throttle Kustomz in Los Angeles. He moved to T.O. in 2009 and is in the process of moving the company to Newbury Park.
“We started out small. But then we started sponsoring cars and events. We would build display vehicles for manufacturers to use in their booths at large-scale shows and do magazine articles. (The company) just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” McClelland said.
Steve Hock, the owner of Hock Precision Machining in Tarzana, called McClelland in 2010 to help tune his modified ’51 Ford.
He attributes the success of Full Throttle Kustomz to the quality of McClelland’s work.
“Reading about this motor, I thought it could do 400 horsepower, but Ray told me it could do 600-plus. I thought they were lying to me,” Hock said. “Sure enough, he did a fantastic job and it hasn’t skipped a beat. I’m kind of a perfectionist on the stuff I build, and it’s nice to meet someone who is at the top of his game.”
Life as a lead tech
Speed contacted McClelland in June about being one of two lead techs in “Car Warriors,” and filming began in October.
In each episode, two teams create a custom car in just 48 hours. McClelland helps one team, and tech Brad Fanshaw helps the other. The team that creates the best car, as judged by host Jimmy Shine, gets to keep it.
“They needed a guy who was knowledgeable and could do everything to help these teams do a complete makeover of a car . . . in just 48 hours,” McClelland said.
The competitive nature of the participants combined with the severe time constraint makes for high drama.
“Under that pressure, tempers often flare. In order to do this custom job, which could take months or even a year under normal circumstances, teams often never take a break or sleep on the show. You never know how people react with sleep deprivation,” Harris said.
McClelland’s leadership style week in and week out helps calm tempers and get the job done, Harris said.
“(Ray) allows them to get their work done, make their mistakes and showcase their talent. But with about three hours to go, he will get in and evaluate where they are and push really hard to make sure they get every section done. It’s a trustand verify leadership style. He’s a quick judge of character and a really strong leader.”
McClelland said the workload extends beyond the 48 hours of building. All told, the build, the after-show interviews and the judging made for a grueling work schedule. But the end results were worth all the effort.
“By the end of the day, we can’t even complete a sentence we are so tired,” McClelland said. “But to get the chance to meet people from shops all around the country with different ways and styles of working and to see their faces when their car is complete makes it all worth the effort.”
For the next 12 weeks, at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, Speed will show new episodes of “Car Warriors.”

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