by Clint Burgess

The best hint that Extreme Customs in Otis Orchards isn't just any normal-looking local business? The flames painted on the front door. Once inside, you discover that you have just been inducted into an exclusive club, one where steel and custom paint jobs reign supreme.

Extreme Customs is the darling of a couple of young Spokane entrepreneurs, Chris Ledgerwood and Russ Freund. The company is every bit as hardcore as their name, and they've got the skills and results to back up their imaginative approach to custom creations. For Freund, the logical progression into doing custom hot rod work started early on.

"I grew up in it, I had no choice," Freund says. "My first car show, I was just a couple of months old." Over time and through his high school years, Freund learned the business and developed his chops in the garage. When it came time to make his way in the world, he went for it and opened Extreme Customs.

The company has been around for three years, but the partners have made good use of their time. Extreme Customs has the distinction of being the shop that turned out the car that fetched the highest price ever paid for a custom rod. It was a '38 Lincoln Zephyr which sold at auction for $432,000. This shop is all about cranking out street rods that push envelopes.

"If you're not pushing boundaries, then you're not coming up with a different approach," says Freund. He's only 25, and all of his coworkers are within a few years of that. "I think that really gives us an edge in this business. We've got new and fresh ideas, and the work speaks for itself."

If you're not convinced that a small group of young upstarts can have this kind of impact on their trade, consider the multiple framed magazine pieces hanging all around the shop as proof. "We're in magazines all the time," says Freund. "We've had five cover stories and tons of other pieces. It's nice to get the recognition, but I do this because I love cars."

Extreme Customs is all about combining the vision of their customers and their expertise for a one-of-a-kind vehicular experience. "Not just any body shop repair guy is gonna fly here. You have to pay a lot of attention to detail. We're not dealing with collision work -- we're building these things from the ground up sometimes. These guys have to be

very creative."

One project in particular has set Extreme Customs apart from the rest. What started out as a 1936 Chrysler Airflow two-door coupe -- one of only four remaining in existence in the United States -- ended as the Chrysler Airflow "2010." Owned by Jack and Sue White of Spokane, this car personifies what Extreme Customs is all about. The fellows at the shop did a total custom body package -- they shape all metal custom pieces, with no fiberglass anywhere -- dropped a Dodge Viper V-10 into it and finished it in a magnificent silver. While diehard street rod guys weren't thrilled with the customization of such a rare vehicle, there's no denying the sheer coolness of this car. And Street Rodder magazine was impressed enough to put it on the cover with a huge spread inside.

"Sometimes with jobs like this, you get stressed or uptight," says Freund, "but I was sitting there one day doing a set of flames on a car, and I thought to myself, 'I'm getting paid to do this. This is like a dream.' I'm pretty lucky."

Publication date: 07/29/04

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