5 Minutes With Scott Sullivan
Twenty-five years ago, Goodguys named its first Trendsetter during the annual SEMA Show. These honors were a way to recognize the younger builders that were up and coming in the industry. If we would have started the award a few years earlier, Scott Sullivan would have certainly been on that list. In fact, many of the Trendsetters we’ve recognized over the past quarter century count Sullivan’s builds as being a huge influence on their style.
Scott has been building hot rods of all sorts out of his 26×26-foot garage for 50 years and has been at the forefront of many styles and events through the years. He was one of the first to popularize the pro street style with his ’67 Nova. He showed that a pro street car could be driven by rumbling his iconic Cheez Whiz ’55 Chevy from Ohio to Los Angeles where he proceeded to rip off a 10-second drag strip pass. Paint and graphics, brushed metal finishes, the perfect dropped stance, daring to be different with a wild Henry J or Studebaker build, even the Power Tour and fastest street car events can be traced back to Scott’s involvement with hot rodding.
In short, Scott Sullivan has been there and done that – and continues to push the hot rodding envelope. We tracked Scott down after the Pro Street Roll Out cruised around the Ohio Expo Center grounds during the 25th Summit Racing Nationals in Columbus.
Goodguys: When starting a new project, where do you begin with your vision for the vehicle – color, wheels, stance, drivetrain?
Scott Sullivan: They all play a part for the vision. Generally, I listen to the customer’s ideas and work from there, adding my own thoughts and make sure everything flows together.
GG: What is your favorite part of a build?
Sullivan: I love fabricating all the one-off handmade details that give a project character. I also love the challenge of building the suspension at a ridiculous ride height while maintaining good travel and clearance. It’s hard work but a fun challenge!
GG: How many full builds have you done over the years? Any that you’d like to have back?
Sullivan: Beats me, you gotta remember I’m much older than I act! I’ve been building stuff for almost 50 years! I don’t really have many regrets. I love that the Nova has been well taken care of. I DO hate that the black ’57 got away this time but truthfully, it’s in better hands than if I had it. It’s difficult to maintain these cars you know!
GG: After all those cars, you still have the ’55 Cheez Whiz – what has made you hang on the that one?
Sullivan: I’ve only had three people try to buy it over the years and I priced it reasonably. They’re ALL regretting not following through now! Meanwhile, regardless of the history, it’s a really fun car to drive.
GG: Does it surprise you to see the attention the ‘original’ pro street cars are getting today?
Sullivan: Not at all, what goes around…plus, it IS hot rod history!
GG: There are a lot of contemporary builders that name you as an influence. Were there any builders that you admired early on – or how about today?
Sullivan: Early on, Fat Jack Robinson – the man could do no wrong! John Buterra – talk about turning hot rodding upside down! Pete Chapouris – craftsman, engineer, businessman! Bob Bauder – my friend Bob always looked at things differently than I did, and it always worked! Contemporary: Rick Lefever – far and away the most talented man I’ve ever met ! Dave Lane – every nut, bolt, every thought is PERFECTION! Doug Jerger – I think we’re related! Lastly, Ray Bartlett at East Coast Hot Rod Garage – if they built it I’m gonna like it!
GG: You still work out of your backyard shop and continue to build cars based on your passion for hot rods. Was there ever a time that you thought about opening a larger commercial shop?
Sullivan: I’ve always built cars for customers out of my garage. Initially, my excuse for not having a bigger shop was that I’m a little light in the businessman department. Now that life has unfolded before our eyes, I LOVE how this has played out! Yes, it’s inconvenient at times, but I don’t have all of the hassles of a shop and don’t have to build stuff I don’t care for.
GG: What advice can you share with today’s DIY rodders?
Sullivan: Have no fear. Try it. Someone told me once, “it’s only metal!”
GG: Are there any styles or trends that you really like – or don’t care for?
Sullivan: Not particularly, one way or the other. I like hot rods! You know it when you see it.
GG: Any words or wisdom to share with the next generation of enthusiasts and builders?
Sullivan: Gee, there’s an answer that requires responsibility. Don’t let trends dictate what you like. Build YOUR passion!
GG: Let’s end on a Quick multiple choice:
EFI or carb(s)? Both!
LS or big block? Probably big block. I have an LS, love it, but don’t need another.
Stick or auto? Stick, but it depends on the vehicle.
Pro Street or Pro Touring? HOT ROD!
Buy a rolling chassis or build your own? The aftermarket stuff is absolutely amazing, but I prefer to tailor the chassis to the specific car I’m building.
Forced induction or nitrous? Forced induction. Unless of course you were trying to drive a car across the country and ensure a 10-second time slip at the drag strip!