DuSold Designs: Good-Looking Performance
When you grow up in a family where your dad and granddad are welders, you’re going to learn skills that will serve you well as you get older. In Mike DuSold’s case, that early exposure to manipulating metal paid off. DuSold Designs in Lewisville, Texas, is one of the more diverse shops in the country, working on hot rods, customs, motorcycles, AutoCross race cars, and more. More as in airplanes and even a SmartCar. Yes, a SmartCar, but we’ll get to that later.
As much as he learned at home, Mike knew he needed to know more. His early career painting motorcycles expanded when customers wanted metal modifications on their bikes. So, Mike learned to shape metal. Then customers brought cars to his small shop, which meant he needed mechanical help. “We needed to get mechanics to help take stuff apart and put it back together,” Mike said. “That lead to doing mechanical work, then full builds.”
As more work came in through the doors, Mike taught himself additional skills: metal forming, TIG welding, working with aluminum and then carbon fiber. “I worked out a trade with an airplane company that we did painting for,” Mike said. “Their carbon fiber people trained me to work with it and I trained their people how to paint.”
Doing more with carbon fiber is a shop goal for this year. “To get the quality we want we’re learning the molding process and the materials,” Mike said.
The shop’s current 12,000sq. ft. location near Dallas usually has 15-20 vehicles in house at any one time, from smaller mechanical projects to full builds. DuSold’s versatile staff handles just about any automotive task, from metal forming to fabricating custom suspension components. Because of the extensive menu of services, DuSold Designs is able to work with its customers to create a vehicle that matches their expectations.
“Our racing (Goodguys AutoCross, Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge) has been a huge influence in our business,” Mike said. “It’s taught me to ask people not what they want something to look like, or how much horsepower, but how do you want the car to feel, how do you want it to drive.”
“We’ve done a lot of work on our cars and our customers’ cars to learn how to create a specific experience that is beyond just visual,” Mike continued. “You may think, for example, that you want a certain type of motor, but that motor may come with downsides that you may not like.”
That means working with the customer to answer the critical question: What exactly do you want your car to look like? Is it a show queen, is it strictly a track car? Is it also a regular driver? “If you want to drive at autocross events, look good at a show, and drive it to work a couple of days a week, what does that kind of car look like?” Mike said. “It should be natural. It should feel that all the controls are reachable and work correctly.”
Managing the Financial Equation
Once the design and style questions are answered, the financial equation is the next challenge. “Planning the finances of a major build is one of the most difficult aspects of our business,” Mike said. “You’re always doing something a little different. You seldom get to do the same thing twice.”
Because of that, typical ground-up builds happen in stages. First, the car is initially built and running before any cosmetics are attacked. “Many times we do that so the customer knows what it feels like and if they want to change anything we aren’t dealing with a painted car,” Mike said. “It also helps people feel like the project isn’t a bottomless money pit.”
However, a lot of builds are organic and scope creep can happen. In those cases, Mike sometimes to tell a customer that what they want in a finished car can’t always be built for the budget they have in mind.
DuSold tries to keep the billing process pretty straightforward. That typically means billing for time and materials, usually in $5,000 increments or every two weeks. “We keep the billings small so the customer is getting a lot of information updates,” Mike said. “They stay behind the wheel, driving the project.”
DuSold Designs is building a reputation for producing top-performing track cars for events like Goodguys AutoCross and the Ultimate Street Car Challenge, which the DuSold team won last year. Mike credits the Goodguys Lone Star Nationals a few years ago for initiating his exposure to AutoCross. “I thought that was awesome,” Mike said. “I put together one of our older cars well enough to run it the following year and I had a blast.”
That lead to Mike doing a full build on the Camaro that he now campaigns. “That car continues to evolve as we go further into it,” Mike said.
What started as a hobby has opened a new, expanding line of work for the shop. Because of the success of his Camaro, new customers are showing up to have Mike build track cars. “It’s changed our business quite a bit,” he said. “It gives us an edge over some other shops because if you want a car that is fast and can handle, we can do that.”
In addition, now competitors are bringing their track cars to DuSold Designs for upgrades. “We know what is going to break and what isn’t,” Mike said. “We know what to use. We can set up the power steering so it doesn’t blow up on the course.”
The SmartCar, Airplanes & more
Browsing the DuSold Designs website, a tricked-out SmartCar catches your eye. So does an airplane with custom graphics and custom painted motorcycles. Mike said the SmartCar belongs to a regular client who likes to do things differently. “He wanted to go crazy on it: paint, custom interior, body kit, wheels,” Mike said. “He calls it the Not-So-Smart Car.”
Custom graphics for airplanes are a staple for the shop. For smaller aircraft, that usually means removing the wings and hauling them to the shop. For larger aircraft, Mike travels to an aircraft paint facility in south Texas, where he applies the graphics after the base coats are applied.
Looking toward the future, Mike and his crew are seeking ways to work more closely with customers to better balance dreams and dollars. Mike also says they are looking into developing products to fill what they see as gaps in the aftermarket.
But the broader mission for Mike is constant: “We want DuSold Designs to be known as the shop that builds good-looking performance cars,” he said.
1491 N. Kealy – Suite 35
Lewisville, TX 75057
Photos by Steven Bunker & DuSold Designs