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Avant Garde Design Palm City Florida – Not your father’s Trim Shop

Avant Garde Design is not your father’s trim shop. And definitely not your grandfather’s. Probably not your older brother’s either.

The Palm City, FL, based shop is just a few years old, but it’s already racking up major awards (not the kind that come with a lampshade-on-a-leg trophy) and redefining the art and science of crafting high-end custom interiors.

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Consider some of the industry recognition earned by the small crew at Avant Garde Design in just the past couple of years:

• 2017 Goodguys Street Machine of the Year.
• 2016 Goodguys Gold Award at SEMA.
• 2016 Mothers Excellence in Automotive Design at SEMA.
• 2016 Ford Special Recognition Award at SEMA.
• Avant Garde interiors in five display vehicles at the 2017 SEMA show.

Add producing the interior for a Detroit Autorama Ridler Award Great 8 finalist and you have an idea of the high-quality work being created in their state of the art facility in South Florida.

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The success of the relatively young operation is the teamwork of the staff and the varied experiences they bring to each project. The core crew – Jeremy Carlson, Jeff Gardner, Rod Rogers, David Cruz and Seth Paton – come from the 12-volt industry, paint and body, metalwork, trim and design. Matt Gauronika helps in all areas of the shop.

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Because of these diverse backgrounds, the team tackles interior design without the burden of a “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way tradition.” This allows the customer’s initial ideas for the interior to evolve resulting in a finished product that exceeds the customer’s expectations.

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David Cruz may function as the primary idea generator, but that’s just the beginning of the process.

“I will do a rendering on my iPad,” Cruz says, “then I shoot it over to Jeff (Gardner).”

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After Gardner works his magic on the computer, the others get involved to determine how the design will fit the project vehicle, how it will come together as a finished project.

Once the design is finalized, the high-tech aspects of Avant Garde’s approach come into play. Virtually no wood of any kind is used in the interior work. It’s to susceptible to dampness and water.

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They rely on extruded PVC sheets in various thicknesses. Impervious to water, the pieces are also cut and routed on the CNC platform. A little rough sanding and leather is easily glued.

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Until their recent move, cutting the PVC sheets was limited to flat panels. But their new equipment allows thicker pieces to be cut in different curves and shapes, increasing the design options.

Another benefit of using the CAD design: Thickness of materials and desired gaps are programmed into the project, so when door panel inserts, for example, are finished and assembled the gaps are precise. No tweaking necessary.

The equipment is also used to cut all the interior detail pieces, such as chrome trim highlights in door panels, etc. These are designed in the CAD system and cut on the CNC table, then polished or chromed.

Final assembly is where the innovation of the Avant Garde crew shines. Traditional trim fasteners – sheet metal screws, push-in plastic anchors, etc. – are nowhere to be seen. All panels and many other components are held securely in place with small, round magnets.

That’s right, magnets.avant garde design palm city florida, Fuel Curve

“Everything we do is serviceable,” Gardner says. “It can be taken apart, cleaned, rewrapped or remade.”

A recently finished project – a stunning red interior for a 1963 box Nova being built by Street Metal Concepts in Sanford, FL. – illustrates the functionality of magnetic fasteners.

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All of the various panels in the trunk are held in place with magnets, except for a couple of anchoring clips. This allows easy – and safe – entry behind the panels.

The custom console, too, is assembled and installed with magnets.

The gas filler treatment on the Nova shows off the versatility of the newest piece of equipment: a 3D printer. The gas filler was located to a recessed portion of the trunk floor. The functioning gas cap is covered by a magnetically attached piece that was designed on the computer, printed in 3D and then painted.

Gardner: “We just got the printer so I haven’t had too much time to work with it. It let’s us make things in more organic shapes.

“I was going to make it (the gas cap cover) out of acrylic, but someone suggested make it on the 3D printer, so we did.”

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It will also help with rapid prototyping of interior pieces to make sure they fit or function properly.

Because Avant Garde’s work is almost exclusively high-end, expensive work, marketing the shop’s abilities is different than most interior shops. They rely on word of mouth, award-winning exposure at shows and industry events as well as a network of top-shelf builders who recommend Avant Garde.

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And because of the team’s professional backgrounds, they all bring a network of connections.

One of their major clients is Roadster Shop. They also work with fellow Floridian Jeremy Miranda of Mirandabuilt.

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“We get to work on many of their projects,” Gardner says. Next in line behind the box Nova job was an early ’70s Chevelle from Roadster Shop.

Avant Garde’s new shop has more than double the current space and the design of the new location makes the shop layout much more functional. And it allows the crew to work on several projects simultaneously.

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The new equipment, combined with the results of data collected through a time-use app, will improve estimating jobs, particularly as new equipment makes some tasks more efficient and allows for more creative approaches to others.

avant garde design palm city florida, Fuel Curve

avant garde design palm city florida, Fuel Curve

One new piece of equipment expanding Avant Garde’s design possibilities is a multi-head, CNC sewing machine that sews a wide array of stitch patterns, embroiders and perforates. The perforation options include multiple shapes and sizes of the holes.

The shop’s focus on high-end custom car and truck interiors doesn’t mean they won’t tackle something a bit outside the norm.

While the Nova build was underway, off to the side was a vintage travel trailer that is being outfitted with a new interior to create a mobile office space for the owner.

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Like everything the Avant Garde Design team touches, you can bet it will be award-winning

Dave Doucette is a long-time Goodguys member with a career in newspaper, magazine and website journalism. He was one of the founding editors of USA TODAY, editor of two daily newspapers and co-owner of a magazine publishing and trade show company. He owns and operates Real Auto Media. His first car was a 1947 Ford; he has owned Camaros, Firebirds, El Caminos and a 1956 Chevy that was entered in shows from California to Florida before being sold last year. He was one of the original Goodguys Rodders Reps and served as president of two classic Chevy clubs. Doucette grew up in South Florida, avidly following the racing exploits of local hero Ollie Olsen and, of course, Don Garlits. He remembers riding his bicycle to Briggs Cunningham’s West Palm Beach factory to peak through the fence at his Sebring and LeMans racers.

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