Quint Walberts, owner of Kustom Kolors Collision Repair, Inc. in Avon, IN, drove home from Detroit, MI, in March as one of the top eight custom car builders in the world.
What started eight years ago as a continuation of his lifelong hobby resulted in a 1941 Willys, with four-stage pearl paint, hand-fabricated interior and an AA5 engine backed with a TH400 and Moser Wavetrac rear with 4:11 gears.
The 67th Meguiars Detroit Autorama has been widely recognized as one of the top car competitions in the world. Out of the 21 cars eligible for the Great 8 recognition and ultimately, the Riddler award, Walberts placed in the top eight.
“I couldn’t believe it. When they pick you for the Great 8, you’re already a winner," Walberts said. "I was competing against $1 million-plus cars and didn’t have near that in my car. I relate it to the Grammys in Hollywood; there’s nothing better. I don’t think anyone from Indiana has ever made the Great 8.”
Walberts has owned and operated his own collision repair shop for the past 28 years.
“Ever since I’ve been a teenager, I’ve been doing it," he said. "I just like taking something and making it look like something great; something most people can’t do. I like working with my hands and my hobby, more or less, became my job.”
He’s always enjoyed bringing his custom builds to local hot rod shows and the Danville Cruise-In Fridays, but this is the first time that Walberts created something he thought was ready for the big time.
“I had been up there to the show just to check it out," he said. "I started thinking about competing and thought maybe I’d have a chance. A lot of them in competition are guys that have hired someone to build a car, just to win the Riddler. A lot of them couldn’t believe I had built it myself and I was the owner of the car. The rumor was that the car that won the Riddler took 12 years to build, and they put about $3 million in the car.”
Building it himself, Walberts said, allowed him to have a little over $100,000 in the car, but if he had built it for someone else or hired someone, it would have cost closer to $500,000.
The Great 8 was announced in late March before the Riddler (top prize) was announced a few days later. Walberts wasn’t even in the room when his car was “flagged” as a winner.
“When we walked in the door Friday morning, the flags weren’t displayed yet, so we sat by the car for about a half-hour or so, and I didn’t know if I wanted to sit there and watch the judges put the flags in the displays," he said. "We left and went to breakfast and when we came back an hour later, I had a flag in my display. That’s when the media started swarming.”
He rests on knowing he’s one of the best custom car builders out there. The accolades have also helped his business.
“After I made it, it opened a lot of doors," Walberts said. "McGuire’s Products wants to sponsor me for a year and I was invited to the Builders Showcase in Louisville, KY, in a few weeks. If you receive an invite, you can advertise your shop.”
Walberts created a custom color by experimentation.
The blue/violet color of the Willy stands out. Walberts said, “People just gravitated to it. I’m even impressed with it. I knew it looked neat but didn’t really grasp how neat it would look on the car.
“It’s crazy how it works; inside it looks like a blue or violet color but outside it looks violent and magenta when the sunlight hits it. It’s from the different pearls that I used to create the four-stage effect.”
Now that the car has been in competition, Walberts said he’ll continue the indoor circuit for a year and eventually switch to outdoor events, but he’s already got another project in the works.
“Eventually, I’ll enjoy this one more and drive it down the road," he said. "At that point, in a few years, I’ll be ready for a new one.”
Kustom Kolors is at 9233 E. U.S. 36, Avon, IN.