5 Minutes with Dave Kindig
Dave Kindig is known for designing and building bitchin’ rides both in his shop, Kindig-it Design, and on his MotorTrend reality TV show, appropriately named “Bitchin’ Rides”. With his wife, Charity, and team by his side, Kindig has built himself a great life – one he says he’s careful to never take for granted.
“Growing up very poor, it was easy for me to imagine having more than I had because I had nothing!” Kindig said. “We are very fortunate and happy and we worked hard and it paid off.”
Dave Kindig says he was nervous to risk the successful life his hard work had earned him by putting himself and his shop on television. He was unsure if doing a reality show could result in him losing everything he had worked for. “I was a welfare kid growing up and my 401k is what I cashed in two weeks after my second kid was born,” he said.
“I had two kids, a wife, and a business, so I had to be very careful. We were 14 years into it by the time ‘Bitchin’ Rides’ started. I didn’t want to ruin my business and reputation because of that show. I went through all this, built this team, had everything set into place and if something went wrong, I’d lose it all because we’re filming a TV show.”
Luckily for Kindig and his team, things went very right. The show was an instant hit when it premiered in 2014 and, by 2018, was Velocity’s number-one show. We slowed Kindig down long enough to talk to him about how he found his way to reality TV, his love of bugs (both the VW and creepy crawly kind) and why he’ll never go on a cruise ship again!
Goodguys Gazette: How did you get into the car business?
Dave Kindig: I have been into designing since I was a little boy. My very first love for designing was insects. I loved to catch them – bugs of all kinds. When I got a little older, I figured out I couldn’t design and build them to how I wanted them. That’s when I focused on my second love which was cars. I loved Legos and Hot Wheels cars, and that morphed to putting together plastic model cars. I loved drawing, too, so I went from drawing bugs to drawing hot rods.
GG: What’s one hobby that you love to do in your spare time?
Kindig: Golf! I don’t keep score, that’s why I enjoy the game so much! We get out any time we can. My wife and I will go on vacation with [my shop foreman] Kevin [Schiele] and his girlfriend and we’ll go hang out and golf.
GG: How did your reality TV show, “Bitchin’ Rides” come together?
Kindig: Over the 20 years we’ve been in business, we had the opportunity to appear on episodes of other car shows. We were doing well and growing and starting to actually make money. We put out a media blitz for a project and somehow it had landed on the desks of the guys who used to be at the Speed Channel, and they reached out to us. They asked us if we’d be interested in putting together a sizzle reel, which is just like a five-minute video to show who we are, what we’re like on camera, how the shop is laid out, that kind of thing. We did it and I guess we must have checked off all their boxes because they loved it.
GG: You were initially hesitant to get into reality TV. What made you decide to give it a try?
Kindig: Part of my deal was that the network knows that we get the time needed to build the car we want to build. We’re not building cars for a TV show, we’re building them for our customers. They agreed that they’re here to capture that process and be a fly on the wall. We don’t start and stop for sake of TV, which makes us different from some of the [car] shows out there.
I’ve been adamant that we’re not airing our dirty laundry on national TV. Our show airs in 192 countries so we want people to have respect for us wherever we go. We don’t want to be known as those clowns with the TV show.
GG: What is your all-time favorite car that’s been restored on the show?
Kindig: I always say I don’t have a favorite, that the next one is my favorite, but…if I have to pick it would be the ’55 Mercedes Gullwing. I love that car’s shape and color. Everything about that car is exactly what I would build for myself.
GG: What are you building right now?
Kindig: I have a ’67 Volkswagen Type 2 Double Cab bus that will be on this season. I have a ’68 Ford Econoline panel van, that’s going to be cool. I have been dragging around a project VW Beetle for 20 years, and right now it’s sitting in my second building in storage, so that’s kicking in the wings.
I just bought a ’67 Chevelle for my wife to replace the one of hers I sold 28 years ago. We were struggling with our $230 apartment rent payment when we first got together and she had a ’67 Chevelle that I couldn’t afford to put gas in so I sold it and got enough money to buy the Beetle. She had built it with her dad when she was in high school. My wife doesn’t want to put it under the knife right away. She wants to drive it and enjoy it before we tear it apart.
GG: What’s your ultimate dream car?
Kindig: A car I can design for myself, build it, and drive it out of here. It would be hand-built, and be my design top to bottom, inside out…and it does not exist…yet. I have potential candidates that I have drawn. I’ve got shapes and designs and themes. It will have the feel of a really high-end hot rod. Eventually I will build it. It may be soon, or five years from now, but I will be building it.
GG: If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Kindig: I would definitely go to Maui. I love it there. I can tell you where I would never go again, and that’s a cruise! Over New Year’s we went on a three-day Mexican cruise and it was awful. You’re on the ship, and you can’t get away from the guys who [recognize you from the show]. Some people don’t have that switch that makes them realize that I’m on vacation, so you’re trapped on there with them. I love boats, but I’ll never do a cruise again.
GG: What excites you when you walk into your shop every day?
Kindig: I love going to work, I love what I do, and I love the people I work with. After 20 years we’ve created a great place to work that’s clean, exciting and high-tech. There’s not one place in building that you don’t see the excitement of the guys. They’re excited to work on the stuff, and there’s excitement from the showroom, all the way through the shop. That’s what I love.