Hello, and welcome to another jam-packed edition of The Hot Seat. In case you missed last month's story, each month we take a person that has been a vital part, a mentor, or made some significant impact in the scene, and expose him or her and make them blush for your reading enjoyment.
So sit back, light a match, do a courtesy flush, and enjoy this month's installment.
* If you have an idea for someone you want to see in The Hot Seat, email email@example.com with your suggestions, questions, or comments, and maybe your favorite person will be our next victim!
This month, we bring you Bill Carlton from Ekstensive Metal Works; if you don't know him yet, you're about to know it all!
Name: Bill Carlton
Age: Over 30 but less then 40
Place of Birth: Nawfside Houston, TX
Current Residence: The Woodlands, TX
Daily Driver: '06 GMC Kodiak
Q: Who are you?
A: Bill Carlton, The owner of Ekstensive Metal Works, husband, and father of two kids.
Q: Tell us one thing people either don't know about you or would be very surprised to hear?
A: I'm actually a Hollywood stunt double for the Jonas Brothers.
Q. Do you have any tattoos? If so, do you regret it?
A: No tattoos at all.
Q. Do you consider yourself "regular"?
A: What does that mean? Do I feel that I'm any better than others, hell no! Do I feel others aren't as good as we are at Ekstensive? No way either. When you believe you're better than others then you will never be the best. If you're not trying to better yourself your work will always fall short.
Q. What got you into the scene?
A: My dad had a welding and fabricating shop so I have always been using welders and cutting stuff up. I really started doing cars when all my friends in high school would want something done because I had the tools. My driveway was the spot to get your springs heated up or air shocks put on. After doing all my friends stuff they would tell others and that's how Ekstensive got started. It went from jackstands in my gravel driveway to one lift in my dad's shop to what we have now. I never thought it would get to where it is today. Not only my business but the entire scene and the everyday people that know what airbags are; it's definitely come a long way!
Q. What is your favorite show of all time? Why?
A: My favorite show was Showfest held in Greenville, Mississippi. The main reason would probably be the number of people that came from all over the country West, East, North, South, all there hanging out together. You would see rides that would only come out for that show. My next favorite would be the old West Coast Nationals, for some of the same reasons.
Q. So how many cover trucks have you turned out of Ekstensive?
A: I'm not exactly sure but I would like to thank all of our customers for the support they've given us over the years and helped us bring out many cover vehicles. There is no way possible we would be where we are if once we finished their rides they didn't complete the build and take it to all the shows.
Q. You have obviously set a high bar for other shops and your reputation speaks for itself. Where did you acquire all your knowledge?
A: I'm from a family of welders, my Dad and older brother always had me helping and fabricating something with them. From that I took it into the car and truck world. All the stuff we do is from experience. That is one thing I've learned over the years. Diagrams, parts, suspension design; it could sound like the best idea on paper but when you put it out on the street how long does it last and how well does the customer like the end result, that's what is most important.
Q. When you had long hair were you ever mistaken for a member of Van Halen?
A: Ok, ok. I will say it proudly that I had long hair and would go to a stylist to get it cut. Hey the ladies loved it and that's how I got my wife. I guess with 2 kids I needed to have it shorter so they would be able to tell me and my wife apart from behind haha. No, it was just too hard to always put up when I was working so I finally cut it off a little at a time to prevent the shock factor.
Q. Were you ever considered a "skater"? From what we heard, you sure had the look.
A: I did skate a little but I was mostly into bikes. I have a half-pipe at the shop right now. Damn, I hope my insurance doesn't read this. We ride them all the time after work and at lunch.
Q. Where did you get the Astro Van from that was featured in the late '90s? Some say it was an old flower shop van you bought and built up?
A: I traded a little work with Cope Kessler for it. We built his blue one that made the cover of Mini Truckin' and mine at the same time. Mine started off as an old phone company van.
Q. With all the vehicles you have built over the years, which was your most memorable/favorite build?
A: Without a doubt, the H2. It was built for a customer who turned out to be a great friend. We 'bagged it for him and always talked about doing all this crazy over the top stuff to it and before we could get started he passed away. I ended up buying it from the family and building it with what we talked about to see it done. I know he would have been very happy with it, and I think about that a lot. RIP Ken Caminiti.
Q. You seem to be on the cutting edge (no pun intended) of being the first to slice up a perfectly new car or truck. Are there any builds that you second guessed going in?
A: Hell no, I don't get scared. I love it. We did one with only 17 miles on it. He picked it up at the dealer on a trailer and brought it straight to us telling me he didn't want to drive it until we were done. We always say that we build them the way the factory should have.
Q. Your motto is "Baggin' the best, fixin' the rest." We always hear the talk about how many bad shops are out there. To hit this theory home, what percentage of your jobs are actually spent "fixin' the rest"?
A: Well It's hard to say this, but we do a lot of repair jobs. It could be anything from airline redos to new frames. If you come to the shop our parking lot looks full but most of them are repair jobs. There are a lot of shops out there that do top-notch work and this isn't directed to anyone in paticluar, but we do hear a lot "My work is better then Ekstensive and cheaper..." and when the customer goes to them and soon after we have to fix something they end up paying more in the end. Sometimes we aren't the cheapest but we don't cut any corners and never push anything out just to get it done because that will come back and bite you in the ass.
Q. We have seen an artistic looking metal structure behind your shop? What is it?
A: Ah, the tree of shame. It's something we just started one day. We used to make signs that went in the bed of some of the really messed up trucks saying that it wasn't our work. After fixing them we would scrape the sign. Then one day I had to keep this notch and looked around and just stuck it to the tree and now we have about 15-feet tall and 6 foot base all the way around a living tree full of hacked parts. It fell over during the hurricane so we had to cut up the tree but we kept the pieces and it will have it back up soon.
Q. What is hot on the burners over at the Ekstensive camp right now? Don't worry, your secrets are safe with us, we won't tell a soul (except our readers all over the world)!
A: We are really pushing the products that we make and sell. For over 10 years we have been building and selling parts, but a lot of people don't think about us as a manufacturer of air suspension parts or that we offer wholesale accounts. We have a sales staff and stock a lot of parts. But we only sell what we install. If I don't trust them to have on my family's vehicles then why would I sell it? Sometimes making money isn't worth the sacrifice. We also have an in-house paint and body shop.
Q. And now for the plugs, of course. Anyone you want to thank?
A: I know a lot of people out there hear the name, Ekstensive Metal Works, and associate it with me, but I would also like to give credit to the others at the shop who bust there ass day in and day out for me. They are the ones that make Ekstensive what it is today, so thanks to Eric "Denim Dan" Rankin, Derek "5 dollar fade" Kruse, Rudy "Poo" Mora, Chris "C to the G" Gilbert, Mitch "Office" Rahl, Eliud "What's up Then" Reyes, and Blackie the dog. See you all at the shows!