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Philip Eiselin, the owner and President of LA Custom Coach Inc. with his signature pink Dodge Challenger stretch. No vehicle model represents the LA Custom Coach approach more than the pink Challenger, which was the go-to scene stealer on the trade show floor of the International LCT Show Feb. 5-7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
FONTANA, Calif. — The shop floor of LA Custom Coach Inc. looks more like a high-end car lot, except the variety of vehicles are in various stages of overhaul and conversion.
A hollowed-out Chrysler 300 stretch getting reinforced side doors stands in front of a Dodge Challenger stretch with newly installed seats parked across the floor from a Ford F550 Freightliner stretch frame being fused together with seam welding. Nearby, a 2013 Range Rover, a Dodge Viper GTS and a classic ‘57 Chevrolet are getting refurbished and upgraded, while other SUV and stretch models are being converted.
Presiding over these unique exhibits of customized construction is Philip Eiselin, the owner and President of LA Custom Coach Inc. On a recent visit, he traversed the production floor several times, readily pointing out and explaining in detail all the mechanical nuances that go into his manufacturing approach. He described body details that strengthen his vehicles and underscore safety. Since he started the company in 2001, he has grown it into a top-quality independent limousine manufacturing operation known for eclectic designs coupled with rock-solid construction.
“Everybody wants something individual,” Eiselin says, reciting a lesson learned from his decade-plus experience in custom limousine manufacturing. “A customer sees what is cool but then wants something different or better. Customer expectations push the imagination.”
A common question he gets from potential clients is: “’What can you do that hasn’t been done before?’”
SEE LA CUSTOM COACH PHOTO GALLERY OF UNIQUE LIMO VEHICLES HERE
No vehicle model represents the LA Custom Coach approach more than its signature pink Dodge Challenger stretch, which was the go-to scene stealer on the trade show floor of the International LCT Show Feb. 5-7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The 140-inch stretch with a V-6, 3.6 litre engine and an OEM-built police-pursuit heavy-duty alternator has proven a big revenue generator for operators raising funds for breast cancer research and catering to a younger, adventurous clientele.
“It talks to you. It has character and is not just another box going down the road,” Eiselin says of the pink Challenger.
While still a small market niche, the Challenger stretches actually have more width than a Chrysler 300 and more headroom than a Lincoln Town Car sedan, Eiselin says, not to mention its more stylistic body lines and hipper curb appeal. The Challenger has proven popular for Quinceaneras, weddings, nights out, Valentine’s Day outings, birthday parties and bachelorette parties. [On the subject of whether men ride in a pink Challenger stretch, Eiselin mentions that a group of single women typically will rent a pink limousine and then may pick up their boyfriends, who willingly ride along].
Eiselin knew he was on to something with the pink stretch when he converted a Hummer into a pink stretch limousine in 2008 for a Florida client and the model outsold the operator’s other three stretch limo models combined.
Mix of Models
The Challenger stretches are among the top sellers at LA Custom Coach, as well as stretch versions of Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers and various luxury SUV brands. It converts about 30-40 vehicles per year. The company also designs and installs limo bus interiors, many of them inspired by the latest interiors from posh nightclubs. “It’s never the same every year,” Eiselin says of the workflow.
A Chrysler 300 takes about six to eight weeks to build, while a Challenger stretch about eight to 10 weeks. Cost-wise, the 300 stretches range in the $70,000s; the Challengers average in the low $80,000s; and a F550 or F650 stretch, which are even longer and wider than typical SUV stretch models, can run about $185,000.
Of all LA Custom clients, about 35% are VIPs and individual customers and 65% are limousine companies.
In 2011, with the effects of the recession still lingering, LA Custom derived about 80% of its business from China, Africa and foreign clients — a situation common to other custom limo builders. In the last two years, the domestic and foreign client mix has balanced out, with about 40-45% of LA Custom’s demand coming from U.S. limo operations and clients. The builder has strong demand from the Las Vegas market, still one of the custom stretch limousine capitals of the world. LA Custom is also seeing strong business from Chinese corporate clients who want customized, ultra-luxury SUVs. Inside the plant, a 2013 Range Rover with an all-welded aluminum frame sat ready for a conversion job for a Chinese client.