The Evolution of Custom Cars
Even though cars have been modified for competition since the early days of automobiles, it wasn’t until mass production that the custom car scene truly thrived. Hotrods emerged as the first popular genre of custom cars, starting as race machines in the California desert during the Great Depression and later becoming street-friendly. Over the past 90 years, the custom car industry has developed into a complex ecosystem of specialized shops.
The Best of the Best
Among the countless custom car shops in operation today, a select few stand out as world-class experts in their respective fields. These shops offer designs, performance, and craftsmanship that rival the most prestigious automotive brands. In this guide to the best custom car shops, we will explore these exceptional outfits.
Photo: Hennessey Performance Engineering
An Obsession with Detail
While each shop on this list has its own unique expertise, there is one crucial common element that sets them apart – an unwavering focus on detail. The best custom car shops meticulously consider every inch of every project, resulting in unparalleled craftsmanship. From exquisitely upholstered engine bays to world-class performance capabilities, their attention to detail is evident in every aspect of their work.
In addition to their meticulous approach, the top custom builders devote extensive time to researching and optimizing their donor vehicles. Instead of simply selecting expensive aftermarket parts, these renowned shops carefully choose each component to ensure optimum performance and ride characteristics. Whether they are working on off-road trucks or high-performance supercars, every part is thoughtfully selected to create a harmonious whole.
The Cost of Perfection
Creating world-class custom cars comes at a price. The extraordinary level of detail and the use of high-quality materials and components make these builds expensive. From highly-massaged engines to bespoke carbon-fiber accents, every element contributes to the exorbitant cost of producing a truly exceptional custom car.
The Different Genres of Custom Car Shops
While all the shops on this list deliver objectively outstanding work, they specialize in various styles and genres within the custom car industry. To simplify the landscape, we have divided the world of one-off automotive transformations into seven main categories:
Paint & Cosmetic
These shops focus on aftermarket paint, vinyl wraps, body kit installation, and other cosmetic modifications. Considered entry-level customs, they can be found in major cities.
Coachbuilders upgrade existing production cars, restyling exteriors and creating bespoke cabins. Some specialize in executive-grade limo-style coaches or even armored vehicles.
Race shops build track-only cars engineered for competition, prioritizing performance, lightness, and efficiency over comfort and amenities.
Photo: Singer Vehicle Design
Tuner shops enhance the performance of already high-performance sports, super, and hypercars through performance packages and aftermarket parts. Many also provide custom interior conversions.
Off-road shops cater to customers interested in off-roading, rock crawling, or racing. They specialize in ruggedized turnkey machines, upgrading suspension, adding auxiliary lighting, and offering enhanced interior packages.
Continuation car companies produce modern, period-correct versions of classic car models, often with the approval or ownership of the original manufacturer. Some modernized continuation cars combine vintage appearances with contemporary running gear.
Resto-mod shops blend restoration and modification, modernizing classic car models while preserving their character. Renowned shops deliver upgraded powertrains, modern interiors, and restyled bodywork, often using carbon fiber.
Introducing the Best Custom Car Builders
Now that we’ve covered the different genres within the custom car industry, let’s explore our top choices for the best custom car shops:
ARES Design, founded in 2014 by ex-Lotus employee Dany Bahar, gained recognition as a coachbuilder. While they initially upgraded prestigious makes like Bentley and Land Rover, ARES has recently produced their own world-class supercars, including the Wami Lalique Spyder, S1 PROJECT, and Panther ProgettoUno.
Learn More: ARES
ASD Motorsports, made up of a team of New Zealand mechanics now based on the American East Coast, is a highly-regarded race and tuning shop. They specialize in preparing cars for the Formula Drift series and have built iconic vehicles like Ken Block’s 1,400hp “Hoonicorn” Mustang.
Learn More: ASD
Classic Ford Broncos
Classic Ford Broncos is a renowned restomod and off-road shop that transforms the iconic American SUVs from 1966 to 1977. They combine modern reliability, emissions, and performance enhancements with the timeless design of the original Broncos, offering customizable builds.
Learn More: CFB
Hennessey Performance Engineering
Hennessey is known for delivering world-class vehicles across multiple genres. They modify modern muscle and sports cars, create rugged off-road vehicles, and even produce their own hypercars like the Venom F5, capable of reaching 310mph.
Learn More: HPE
Established in 1996 by a husband and wife team, ICON 4×4 specializes in restomodding Toyota FJ’s and Ford Broncos. With a focus on enhancing performance and adding modern amenities without compromising the iconic appearance, ICON’s builds are a perfect blend of old and new.
Learn More: ICON
INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing
INKAS, a Canadian company with extensive experience in producing armored military vehicles, has become a prominent force in the luxury SUV market. Their executive-grade SUVs feature bulletproof windows, blast protection, and other top-of-the-line security features.
Learn More: INKAS
Mansory takes already exclusive supercars from prestigious brands like McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin and elevates them to even higher levels of performance and luxury. Their additions include body kits, upgraded exhausts, and other performance enhancements.
Learn More: Mansory
Mil-Spec Automotive initially gained attention by creating the ultimate Hummer H1 restomod. Their expertise now extends to offering ultra-high-end Hummer builds and F-150-based trucks. These thoroughly engineered machines provide incredible off-road capabilities and feature highly upgraded interiors.
Learn More: Mil-Spec
NOVITEC specializes in taking already impressive high-end supercars and elevating their performance and aesthetics. By adding lightweight aero kits and upgrading mechanical components, they enhance acceleration, top speed, and overall driving experience. They also offer custom-made wheels, suspensions, and exhaust systems.
Learn More: NOVITEC
As one of the most celebrated restomod outfits, Ringbrothers has gained recognition for its modernized takes on classic muscle cars. Their builds feature high-performance powertrains, luxurious interiors, and restyled carbon-fiber bodywork. Ringbrothers sets the bar high in the custom car space.
Learn More: RB
RUF Automobile GmbH is renowned for its expert Porsche tuning. With a rich history dating back to before World War II, RUF enhances performance and design, delivering top-notch custom Porsche vehicles. They stand among the elite within the custom Porsche tuner community.
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Founded by racing legend Carroll Shelby, Shelby American is an iconic custom outfit that enhances Ford models’ performance capabilities. They produce continuation versions of classic cars like GT-40s and Cobras, as well as modern vehicles such as the Super Baja F-250 and the Mustang-based Super Snake.
Learn More: Shelby
Singer Vehicle Design
Singer Vehicle Design is synonymous with excellence in Porsche tuning. Their high-performance restomodded 911s are a love letter to the iconic sports car. Singer excels in potent engines, flared wheel arches, and meticulously crafted interiors, making them one of the greatest custom car shops.
Learn More: Singer
Speedkore, located in Wisconsin, specializes in producing world-class restomodded classics. Their builds blend vintage appearances with modern performance capabilities. With an impressive client list including Kevin Hart, Robert Downey Jr., and Chris Evans, Speedkore’s work speaks for itself.
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Superformance, based in Southern California, manufactures and distributes replica car kits and continuation cars. Their vehicles are built under official license from Carroll Shelby and faithfully replicate iconic models and racers from the 1960s. With exceptional attention to detail and a rich history, Superformance stands out in the replica car market.
Learn More: Superformance
Remember, for more information about custom car builders, visit Ratingperson.