I have been in the hot rod interior business since 1977 and have been
involved in hundreds of hot rod and custom builds as well as some
antique automobile restorations. It was always a challenge to find
cool door handles and lights as well as other necessary items to use
when I was designing an interior. At the time there were only a
couple of manufacturers of billet aluminum interior door handles but they were the type that fit on the original equipment door handle shaft and they were not even that nice. I would find myself looking inside every type of car I could find as well as scourer junk yards looking for just the right door handle and even interior lights that were easy to install and were a little more modern and cooler than what was available in the aftermarket. In 1998 I was contracted to do an interior in a state-of-the-art 1957 Chevy that was being built by Mike Adams Rod Shop here in Florida for a high profile NFL player. While sketching out several interior designs for the client I decided that none of the door handles that I could find were quite what I was looking for so I decided to design my own. I started drawing up different ideas and shapes and finally settled on an oval. I mocked up all of the door handle pieces in wood to get the size and geometry correct then I took what I had to a friend who owned a tool and die business and explained what I wanted. He drew it up on the computer then wrote the program for my handle and asked me how many I wanted. I said just two. After he stopped laughing we decided to make five pairs. The handles were beautiful right off the machine but I wanted them to sparkle like jewelry on a beautiful woman so I enlisted the help of a good friend that owned a wheel polishing business to polish the outside bezels for me. The 57 Chevy wasn't ready for the rest of the interior and I wasn't quite sure what to do next with my new handles but with the urging from my hot rod friends I decided to send a press release to Street Rodder magazine. It took three months for the magazine to hit the news stand with my handles listed in the new products section . The first day it hit the news stand my shop phone started ringing off the hook. People asking questions and wanting to order my new handles. That first day I received orders for twenty five pairs of handles. The crazy part was I only had two pairs left from the initial run. To say I was over whelmed would be an understatement. I didn't have a credit card terminal or know anything about shipping but I took the orders over the phone and acted like I knew what I was doing. I had always been a hot rod interior guy and suddenly overnight I'm a manufacturer. We ended up receiving orders for almost sixty pairs of handles that week and thus a new business was born. Realizing the potential of my idea I proceeded to designed a matching dome light, courtesy light and a/c vent to compliment the design of my handles. When the 57 was finally in my interior shop I installed the handles and my new dome and courtesy lights as well as my a/c vents. They were a big hit with everyone that saw them including the customer so I decided to take my products, all four of them, to The Street Rod Nationals in Louisville. Since it was a last minute decision to go I was given the last booth in the very back corner of the side building and I even had to rent a table and chairs but I felt lucky to be there. I had manufactured as much product as I could and shipped it all to Louisville and I flew in. The response from everyone at the show was amazing and I pretty much sold everything I brought. I was the first to produce an all billet aluminum universal interior door handle as well as matching dome lights, courtesy lights and a/c vents. I created a whole new market that never existed before and I have since designed many more matching products for hot rods and custom cars. Today there are many copycat products on the market from manufactures that don't have the imagination or skill to come up with their own ideas. Most of them have outright copied my original ideas and geometry and some have even copied my design almost exactly however my handles and matching oval interior accessories were the first and the original on the market and I'm very proud of that. I have a lot of new products in the works right now so keep an eye out for them. They will soon be copied by manufactures everywhere.
Phipps Rod & Custom was started in 1998 with just one product. One original idea.