South End Kustom in the News
On July 28 2013, Keith was inducted into the KKOA ( Kustom Kemps of America) Car Builders Hall of Fame at the Lead Sled Spectacular in Salina, Kansas.
Car Kulture Deluxe
Automotive customizing wizard, Keith Dean of South End Kustom (Hemet, CA) is called “The Kid” because has been fabricating cars since childhood. He is one of the sons of legendary fabricator, Dick Dean, but can hold his own when making magic out of metal. At age of 11, Keith worked on fabricating car parts (radar antenna) for James Bond’s Moon Buggy for the film “Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and at 14, it was Tommy machine guns and switchblade for Machine Gun Joe’s car (Black Manta) for the film “Death Race 2000” (1975). In 1982, he designed and built the orange “Supra-truck” that won him the 1982-1983 ISCA Achievement Award. Other credits include film/TV projects such as Romancing the Stone, Beverly Hillbillies (the movie), Fletch II, The Rivers Edge, Knight Rider, Hardcastle and McCormick, & Remington Steele. The number of Mercury’s, custom mini trucks and VW’s he has worked on is countless. He has done R&D work for Kawasaki, SEMA cars for Troy Lee Designs and restored two bicycles for the Schwinn Museum that were sent to the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2010, Keith was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Grand National Roadster Show. Other credits include The Worlds Longest Limo, Barris projects (Munster Koach II, Dragula II, Hulk truck, Ninja Turtle car), Green Hornet’s “Black Beauty” and paint and finish work on the stunning “Atomitron”, John Saltsman’s radically customized 1949 Studebaker pickup that has won 16 top awards & now sits in the Daryl Starbird Automotive Museum.
CKD: What is the #1 design flaw you see when you judge a car?
KD. It depends on the car. If its a manufactured car, it might be something the factory did. If its a custom, it’s usually that the design is incomplete. The builder didn’t think through the total design and it doesn’t “flow.”
CKD: Define”an original” idea.KD. “A lofty dream”. When you think no one has done it before, search 40 -50 years back. You may tweak an idea to fit your needs. But the basis of the idea has been done before.
CKD: What inspires your custom tricks?
KD. I grew up in the “60s and I had a crazy dad, with crazy friends.
CKD: Describe a technical problem and how you solve it.
KD. Whatever problem I’m dealt, I approach it the same. You start with “A” and you want to get to “C”. So, all you have to worry about is “B”. Makes the problem a lot smaller.
CKD: What is your favorite custom car and why?
KD. I don’t know if I have just one favorite. I like the cars of the late ’50s and early ’60s. Builders of that time were building cars for the future. We were going to be driving spaceships. Well, we’re still on four wheels. I think we’ve lost that dream.
CKD: What’s your opinion of the custom car industry today. How can it be bettered?
KD. I think the custom car industry is fighting an uphill battle with bureaucracy. Everyday there’s a new regulation, saying you can’t do this or that. It would be nice to modify a modern car, but do you dare? You can’t touch a modern car without violating a law. And the older cars numbers are getting smaller and smaller. You can’t properly register a new “old car body” with a modern “old frame.” Our independence is slowly slipping away. We have to fight for our right of independence. The law makers want to put us in a box and label us all the same. Once they do, there will be no going back.
CKD: In conclusion a good custom is:
KD…. An extension of the builder’s soul.