Exceeding Expectations – A Quest for Quality Led to the Launch of Provost Motorsports
What do several drive-through coffee shops and a walnut farm have to do with launching a successful shop that has built its reputation by producing a string of eye-popping pickups and SUVs?
If you’ve met Sean Provost of Provost Motorsports in Woodland, California, you already know the answer. While operating a large walnut farm and building a string of Dutch Bros coffee shops, Sean also found time to feed his passion for pickups.
With help from Bill Ganahl and Joe Compani of South City Rod and Custom, Sean debuted a stunning blue ’70 Chevy C10 in 2018 that was a Goodguys LMC Truck of the Year Late finalist and made trips to the 2018 Mooneyes show in Japan and a major automotive event in Saudi Arabia at the end of 2019.
Bitten with the bug to own his own shop, in 2017 Sean hired an outside firm to manage his walnut farm, cleared out a 5,000 sq. ft. agriculture building by selling off his farm equipment, and started building the business with the help of one other employee.
In the early months much of the work that was subbed out to other shops didn’t meet Sean’s expectations. “I was getting really frustrated with most of the people we were working with when we couldn’t do things in the shop,” Sean says. Time, cost and quality were issues.
Decision to Specialize
After experiencing the high-level work at South City Rod and Custom, Sean decided to expand and add the skilled employees to meet his – and his growing customer base’s – quality expectations. Sean decided to find specialists who excelled in their fields.
“Instead of having people who can wrench and do other things, we went more for whoever was good at a particular field,” Sean says. “I have one guy who does all he does in wiring. He does everything to military spec, with the right connectors, etc.”
Sean’s crew does everything in-house, except for paint and powder coating. While Sean’s early work focused almost exclusively on pickups and off-road vehicles, the shop these days is packed with a variety of projects. For example, sharing space in the new 14,000 sq. ft. shop with an array of pickups, ’80s and ’90s Blazers, Jeeps, and Broncos are a ’61 Impala, a Mach 1 Mustang, and a 21-window VW bus.
Marketing: Getting Involved
Sean has used the early success with pickups and SUVs to become involved in that segment of the hobby as part of his marketing strategy, and because it’s fun.
Sean wants his customers to leave with sharp builds that are reliable, competitive on the track or the show floor, and fun to drive. To prove that his builds meet those standards, Sean likes to take his personal vehicles on the road. The goldRush Rally, for example. The event is a 10-day blast on a pre-determined route. It’s limited to 100 cars, most of them big-dollar super cars. This past year Sean participated with his tricked-out Chevy Blazer. At the end of the event, barely half the cars were still running. Much to the chagrin of the European car crowd, the Blazer was still chugging along.
The word-of-mouth and social media impact of events like the goldRush Rally help promote the business, Sean says. “I like to prove it [the shop’s work] on the track, prove it driving to shows,” Sean says.
He’s also involved with the C10 Intervention, which attracts hundreds of passionate C10 owners. “Meeting more people who are passionate about the scene opened up more doors for us,” Sean says.
Meeting Customer Expectations
Regardless of the vehicle, customers often give Sean free rein on design decisions after initial consultations. But he is making greater use of professional renderers. “To not get ahead of us or skip important steps, renderings have been important so that everyone knows the end goal at the beginning of the work,” Sean says. “It smooths our processes.”
“It saves money if you do that,” Sean continues, “so recently we’ve decided to do that on full builds. Our customers love it because we’ll turn it into a build book for them when the project is done.”
Adding qualified specialists to handle the growing workload is a constant challenge for most shop owners and Sean faces that same issue. “I’ve struggled with finding people that are great to work with,” Sean says. “We’re looking to add to our crew; team players who are also talented. We’re going after those guys that know what they’re doing right away. All of our guys are long term and they care about the guys they work with.”
One future goal: Starting an in-house apprentice program. The idea is to match each specialist with an apprentice who wants to master that skill set. “If you want to be an expert in wiring, you’re going to assist this guy [our wiring specialist] for a year and a half,” Sean says.
Another future endeavor: Engineering some of the parts that Provost Motorsports custom makes for specific builds and selling them.
More Than Full Builds
In addition to creating full builds for customers, Provost Motorsports also performs work for other shops. For instance, Sean says it’s not unusual for another shop to send a vehicle that’s in final paint to Provost for interior, wiring, and stereo work.
Upgrading cars and trucks to ride and perform better is expanding. Customers are bringing in older vehicles for powertrain, suspension, and interior upgrades. Often that involves lifting the body off the stock chassis, installing a modern engine/transmission combo on an aftermarket chassis, then bolting the body back to the new chassis.
As he plans for future growth, Sean says the best part of the job is working with his team to build a vehicle that excites the customer. That also includes the never-ending process of learning lessons for future builds.
“We beat our heads into the wall a few times during these first couple of years,” Sean says, “but I feel that now our team keeps getting better so we’re dealing with better problems.”
“My goal is to build badass cars that can go on a racetrack anywhere and get there and back under their own power.”
Photos by Steven Bunker