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Ray McClelland of Full Throttle Kustomz in Oxnard, Southern California, is perhaps known by most for his appearances on the T.V. shows, Car Warriors, Motor City Masters and now, Wheels for Warriors, but away from the T.V. screen, there is a man as dedicated to his craft as anybody, somebody who has grown up with solid work ethics and values, a true gentleman who believes in giving back, especially to the youth and a great example of how hard work and dedication pays off.

I called Ray at his shop for a quick chat and ended up having an almost one hour conversation, shared some laughs and learned a few things about him that some of you may not know.

TM: Good afternoon, Ray, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to Torqued Magazine today, especially as you are so busy.

RM: Hi Neil, thanks for the opportunity, it’s a real pleasure to talk with you.

I want to spend some time today, chatting about Ray McClelland, rather than Full Throttle Kustomz or the T.V. shows, although we will touch on those. If you had to describe yourself to a total stranger, somebody who has no idea who you are, what would you tell them?

That’s actually a very difficult question, I’m not really sure. Hmm, well I am a car guy all the way, I eat, sleep and drink cars, trucks, bikes, anything automotive. I have had businesses since the 1990s, worked with a lot of great companies in the industry and I am also a consultant who has written a technical curriculum for a couple of colleges’ automotive programs.

I am also a family man, having had custody of my son since he was six months old and raising him. He’s 23 now and I am very proud of him.

You have a pretty hectic filming schedule, how do you balance that with running Full Throttle Kustomz?

It’s really difficult. The T.V. schedules are crazy and often get pushed to later dates, so planning is not always possible.

When I am out of town, my nephew, Brian, who works for me, carries the weight of the business and does a great job, he is learning very well and is becoming better all the time.
When we are filming in town, it does get crazy; I will be shooting all day, then go back to the shop and get on the computer to answer emails, check projects, get spares ordered, do some tuning work and everything else that needs to be done before I go home.

Race cars or custom builds, which do you prefer, what really excites you?

Well, when we moved to California, we really cut back on the restorations as they are really difficult to manage.

I really prefer to work on high horsepower street cars, getting as much power and reliability out of them as I can. I used to go racing at the weekend and I love to build a car that can be used to do that, but can then be notched back for the owner to drive to work during the week. A thousand horsepower motor that does 26 miles per gallon on 91 octane fuel, we have done that before and it makes me very happy.

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What is your favorite build you have done?

I am a Chevy guy and I love building Fords, so we mostly do those these days, but I would have to say I love building the Tri-Five Chevys, keeping them old school and original, looks wise, but really ramping up the performance with as much modern technology as we can use, getting the most out of them.

There is something about taking an old classic and getting a new engine in, fitting nitrous and blowers and getting crazy horsepower but making it driveable, reliable and efficient.
A lot of the knowledge of the old classics is being lost to the kids nowadays, how they ran, how they were put together, so I try to help the kids with programs to pass that knowledge on before it gets forgotten forever.

Classic American cars were brilliant, unique, they had character, they were American, not like the cars today that all look the same. I want to preserve that and for the future generations to do that also.

How do you keep fit and healthy to carry on with your hectic life and what is your favorite food?

For a very long time I practiced martial arts; I got my first black belt at 10 years of age, in Taekwondo and these days I love Muay Tai. I also spend time teaching kids martial arts, so that they can get the discipline they need in life, so that they can defend themselves when they need to. It’s very important for kids to get this kind of attention and it also makes me happy to pass on the experience I have and teach the lessons I have learnt, that is why I go to a lot of shows, to teach as many kids as I can.

Favorite food? (laughs), that is like my music tastes, it changes every 3 or 4 weeks, they are both the same.

I might listen to rock for a couple of weeks and be totally into it, then it may be country, then classical music. With food I may be addicted to sushi for 3 weeks, then I will suddenly get addicted to Italian food. It all goes back to my OCD. Once I got hooked on Mountain Dew and was drinking six 2 litre bottles a day, at the moment I am crazy about Powerade Zero – no calories and a great taste. In a couple of weeks it may be something else, so yeah, it’s pretty much all over the place.

It all started out with bicycles, then motorbikes, when you ripped apart your brand new dirt bike. Do you still ride and what bike, if you do?

Absolutely, I love bikes. I was always a sport bike guy, especially as I have a drag racing background and I just love the power of them and being able to push them to the limit out on the road, through twistys. These days I ride around on a nine and half foot long pro custom, with a 96 inch motor and custom paint job. I plan to buy a Harley Street Glide soon. There is such a difference between riding a Harley and a sport bike, I love them both in different ways, but with the Harley, it’s all about the freedom, the lifestyle.

If money was no object, what would be the ultimate build you would want to do?

I would want to build a twenty five hundred horsepower Tri-Five Chevy that could be driven back and forth to work, with great consumption, but could be taken out to the track and raced at the weekend.

You are building the shop for Ray Jr. to take over, where do you see the business being when he takes over?

Actually he is back out East now. He came to California after college, but we have set up a shop to deal with the large amount of diesel work out East, plenty of kids have money to spend on diesel trucks and vans, so Ray is setting that business up and taking care of it. He is also doing a great job with that.

Southern California is so difficult for small businesses, there are so many regulations, crazy taxes, all sorts of permits that are needed – I even need a permit for the compressor at my shop. It really is very difficult for a small business and the worse thing is, we don’t see any benefit from the taxes we pay.

To be honest, if it weren’t for the accessibility of the celebrity clientele here, I would pack up and go back to Ohio or Pennsylvania. The great thing about being in SoCal is that there are so many celebrities who have money to spend and love cars and bikes. Many of them have been to the wrong shops, so I love to show them how things really should be done.

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What do you do to get away from it all and relax?

We hit the canyons, get out there switch off the phones and just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

I also love going out to Rock Store, such a cool place and everyone there speaks the same language – bikes mainly, but cars also. When we are on the road, we try to take one day off in the week and just go somewhere alone to be quiet and recharge.

Gene Winfield and George Barris were idols of yours growing up and you were also lucky enough to have worked with both of them. Is there anybody else you would love to work with?

I am very lucky, I get to work with a lot of cool people, but what blew my mind was having the chance to work with Tim Allen. I always loved him on T.V. and in movies and I used to watch all of his stuff when I was a kid. Bodie called me one day and asked me if I wanted to meet him and also go on Jay Leno’s Garage.

It was so surreal meeting Tim and sitting chatting with him like you and I are chatting now, he was such an idol of mine when I was growing up. We hung with Jay and then I had lunch with Tim and Bodie at Rock Store.

I also did a job for Mike Helton, the Vice Chairman of NASCAR. I was never a NASCAR fan and one day a couple of guys were asking me if I knew Mike. Well, of course, I had no clue who they were talking about and they told me they couldn’t believe somebody so into cars didn’t know him, but anyway, they told me who he is and told me to get in touch with him as he wanted me to tune his car for him.

Has the T.V. fame brought any memorable or funny moments with fans, any girl stalking you or the like?

No really. Most people are very respectful and are really well behaved. One moment does stick out in my mind though: I was at show signing autographs, posing for photos and so on and I had my Shelby GT500 Mustang there that I was also doing a photo shoot with. Anyway, I had one shot where I was kneeling down next to the car and that photo was also one we signed and gave to fans. So a Lady gets on of the phots and I sign it with a message for her kid.

A couple of weeks later, I get a photo in the mail. The kid had knelt next to his Mom’s car and had a photo taken and printed, he signed it and sent it to me. I really loved that, he was copying somebody he looked up to and that meant a lot to both him and to me.

Ray, this has been a great chat, it sure lasted a bit longer than we expected, but it has been a lot of fun and it has been a real privilege and pleasure. Thank you so much.

Ray can be followed on Twitter twitter.com/FulThrottlKstmz or his website fullthrottlekustomz.com and should be back on T.V. screens soon in Wheels for Warriors, although no date is set for that just yet.

Pictures courtesy of Faran Najafi

 

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