From left: Standing near their award-winning SEMA Mustang are Phillip Skelton, sales and marketing manager; Zac Thureson, lead technician on the Mustang project; and Brandon Knowles, shop owner.Working on the next SEMA project, a 1953 Chevy pickup, are Technicians Zac Thureson (left) and Chris Rice.

Brand-X builds bread-and-butter reputation as top custom vehicle specialist

Everett shop takes on 10 to 15 projects annually, augmented with general collision repair, firearms coating

Everett, Wash.—Simply said, Brand-X Customs does not fit the description of a typical collision repair shop for several reasons. While the facility does provide collision repair, it offers much more, said Phillip Skelton, who handles marketing, sales, and does coating work at Brand-X.

Founded 12 years ago by Brandon Knowles, Brand-X has developed into one of the top custom vehicle specialists in the Northwest, and perhaps in country, Skelton said. Its most recent honor was showcasing a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback at the 2016 SEMA Show, noted by Valspar Automotive as one of the top customs in the country and awarding it second place in the annual Matrix Automotive Finishes contest and calendar.

With seven employees, and more to come, Brand-X shares a 7,200-square-foot space with D&L Restorations, a longtime Everett vehicle restorer. While collision repair was the foundation of the company, Skelton and Knowles said about two-thirds of the company’s annual income currently involves custom work. “Some of our collision repair customers actually become custom customers,” Skelton said.

The shop uses the Valspar family of paint products, though occasionally will use PPG products, Skelton said. “We like the House of Kolor, Matrix, and De Beer products from Valspar and use them almost exclusively. They are easy to use and can create custom colors for our projects.”

Knowles added that the shop uses solvent-based paints, though he has experience with waterborne paints. The two-and-a-half year, $500,000 Mustang project used Matrix Automotive Finishes to create the True Blue Pearl color that helped make it an award winner, Skelton said. “It involved 18 layers at a cost of about $10,000 that was graciously donated by Valspar.”

While Knowles worked at his father’s former collision shop for many years, he began building custom trucks in the 1980s and has since won numerous awards, had his custom trucks in more than 20 magazine features (including well-known Filtherado, Body Bag, and Sideways), and has had both his custom cars and trucks featured in several films and television shows, including Amazon Prime’s “The Man in the High Castle.” Several vehicles have also been featured at SEMA.

“In an average year, we will work on or completely build anywhere from 10-15 custom projects, with one or two of those being complete nut-and-bolt custom builds,” Skelton said. “The remaining customs are paint and body work or mild fabrication for a suspension system or something that doesn’t take a year-plus to build.”

During a recent visit by Parts & People, Knowles and Skelton showed their next SEMA project, a 1953 Chevy pickup with chassis number 0001. “Two techs are working on this project full time for a local owner who wants it as a tribute truck for his father,” Knowles said. “It’s a year-long, $300,000 project that we hope to finish in July or August so it’s ready for SEMA in November.”

Another aspect of Brand-X Customs services is the specialized coatings for firearms, said Knowles, an avid rifle and pistol owner who also offers practical firearms training. “We will do between 100 and 300 custom coatings on guns each year, ranging from $300 to $2,000,” Skelton said. “We’ve done a couple of guns that have reached the $2,500 mark,” he added.

Skelton, who worked for Knowles’ father many years ago, has known the younger Knowles for almost 18 years and has worked at Brand-X for just under four years. “Brandon is like family. He attributes all of his success over the last few years to the team we have managed to assemble, but he has created this amazing business where we also treat our customers like family and make sure they are involved in build process of their vehicles.”

He noted that new customers have contacted the company since its successful showing at last year’s SEMA Show.

One of those key people at Brand-X is Zac Thureson, the former owner of West Coast Restoration in nearby Snohomish, a company in business for decades that focused on Mustang restorations. “With his 25-plus years of experience, and multiple features in magazines, Zac was a natural to be the lead on the 3,500-hour 1967 Mustang project for SEMA. He has known Brandon since childhood and used to build mini trucks with him.”

The SEMA Mustang, whose owner lives on Mercer Island near Seattle, was Thureson’s first SEMA showing, Skelton said, “but it was obviously a huge success for us, especially since we’re known for lowered and heavily modified trucks.”

That car, with 1,000 pounds of steel (no fiberglass), was a total restoration and rebuild that included dozens of modifications such as handmade front bumpers, air extractor fender scoops, fabricated quarter extensions on the body, shaved drip rails, a custom radiator cover, Borgeson power steering, dropped rockers, full custom interior, F.A.S.T. fuel injection, plus multiple other creations.

 

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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