Hot Rods by Dean, Dean Livermore

5 Minutes With Dean Livermore

Over the past two decades, Dean Livermore has gone from the new kid on the block to one of the industry’s most established and consistent hot rod builders. His shop, Phoenix-based Hot Rods by Dean, got a fast start in late 2001 and within a few short years was building magazine project vehicles, a Great 8 finalist, and a World’s Most Beautiful Custom award winner. Dean himself earned the Goodguys Trendsetter Award at the 2005 SEMA Show.

Dean has turned those early successes into a thriving, successful business that has withstood the test of time and turned out a steady stream of clean, award-winning, road-ready rods, customs, and street machines. “I’m a traditional guy,” Dean says. “I like traditional cars.” Which explains the timeless quality of so many of his shop’s builds.

Dean has also been selecting the Builder’s Choice Top 10 at the Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale for more than a decade. We caught up with him recently to talk about his award selection process, his business philosophy, hot rod trends, and…gardening.

Goodguys: What was your first car?

Dean Livermore: A ’70 Nova. I think I paid $500 for it. I bought it when I was 14 and I was driving it by 16. I did all the mechanical work. A buddy of mine taught me how to do bodywork. That’s when I realized I wanted nothing to do with body and paint work!

I built the Nova into a nice car, and then it got totaled. That’s when I bought my ’68 Camaro, which I still own.

GG: How did Hot Rods by Dean get started?

Livermore: The shop got started because I needed a job. I worked in the aerospace industry with my dad, where I learned a lot of my trade skills. But I always loved cars, so I worked at a dealership for a few years. Then I worked for Arizona Street Rods and loved it.

I was in-between jobs in late 2001 when I started Hot Rods by Dean with a five-year plan. I had one customer vehicle – a ’67 C10. Within five years I owned a building, was profitable, had a customer base, and made it to the Great 8 with that C10. I never looked back. Every five years I put together a new plan, and now I’m in my 22nd year.

Hot Rods by Dean, Fuel CurveGG: You worked with hot rod legend Dick “Magoo” Megugorac early in your career. What are some lessons you learned from him?

Livermore: That relationship was really the best thing that happened to me. I met Magoo when I was at Arizona Street Rods. We became very close. He was a mentor. He would open doors and throw me through them.

One of the biggest things I learned from him was time management and who’s using you up. There comes a time where you just have to fire certain customers. He also taught me about finding the right people and knowing who’s got your back and who’s worth having.

GG: How has the Phoenix hot rod scene changed since you opened your shop?

Livermore: It’s gotten bigger because so many people from California are moving here. We’re spoiled. We can be car guys all year round. The weather is never an intrusion into what we do.

GG: What is your favorite part of a build project?

Livermore: I enjoy the final assembly. If my guys in the shop did what they were supposed to, it should go together pretty easy. When it doesn’t, it’s easy for me to determine if it’s a fabrication problem, a body and fitment problem, or something else. It helps me diagnose how things are going in each department. I get to critique the car as I’m putting it together.

GG: What’s the biggest difference in running the shop now versus when you started?

Livermore: Understanding the wheels are going to figuratively fall off something all the time, and not getting wrapped up in that. In the beginning, I was always waiting for it to get easier. I told myself, ‘it will go smoothly tomorrow.’ And tomorrow never came. Now, instead of fighting it, I’ve learned to roll with it, and it makes it so much better. I stopped stressing about the things I have no control over.

Hot Rods by Dean, Fuel Curve

GG: Do you have any non-car hobbies?

Livermore: I love photography. I have an Instagram page where you wouldn’t even know I’m into cars. It’s all pictures of flowers and sunsets. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I love seeing what the eye can see if you’re actually paying attention to the little things.

I do a lot of gardening. It takes my mind away from everything. You just get focused on what you’re doing. I enjoy that. I do that to get away from cars.

Hot Rods by Dean Builders Choice Top 10, dean livermoreGG: You’ve been selecting the Southwest Nationals Builder’s Choice Top 10 for years. How hard is that?

Livermore: Every year I could pick 30 cars, but I can only pick 10. So, I categorize it. I pick a truck, I pick a hot rod, I pick a muscle car. I pick a custom. I categorize it so that I pick the best of those. What makes my life hard is there are some cars out there that I could pick every year just because I love ’em,

GG: What trends would you like to see emerge in hot rodding?

Livermore: I’d like to see the whole industry somehow get back to some sort of basic car, and I don’t even know what that means anymore. It just feels like every time we build something, we’re trying to outdo some other build, and I just don’t think it’s good for the market.

Back in the day, less was more. And now it’s not. Now, more is more, and even more is even more! We need to get back to some type of reality. We can’t always be pushing the envelope.

Hot Rods by Dean, Fuel Curve

Editor, Goodguys Gazette

Damon Lee began snapping photos at car shows when he was 10, tagging along with his father to events throughout the Midwest. He has combined his passion for cars and knack for writing and imagery into a 20-year career in the automotive aftermarket, writing for titles like Super Chevy and Rod & Custom and, more recently, working for respected industry leaders Speedway Motors and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.