HS Customs – From Small Town to the Spotlight
HS Customs is one of those inspiring American success stories we love to share. The tale’s setting is Logan, Utah, city with barely 100,000 people. It’s quiet, beautiful, and not necessarily the type of place you’d expect to find a renowned hot rod shop. But thanks to steady and consistent work by Cam Miller and his crew, it has become a go-to destination for those seeking well-crafted hot rods, customs, muscle cars, and trucks.
The story starts during the mid- 1990s, when Cam Miller had been working for his dad at their family convenience store and lube center for almost ten years. Having a passion for four-wheelers, the drags, and all things fast, Cam began building engines and doing paint for friends. In 1997 his side job became a full-time gig when he rented a 1,500 sq. ft. space and began doing custom work on motorcycles, off-road machines, and snowmobiles. A friend’s backyard lean-to served as a makeshift spray booth. Made of two Amada press brake shipping crates attached to a shed, it was resourceful and effective.
Cam’s first significant build was in 2002. It was a ’63 Buick Riviera and it was then that Cam realized he wanted something more. “I wanted to move to the custom car world and become a respected and reputable builder,” he said.
As Cam’s aspirations grew, so did the shop and his crew. In 2011, he brought on more employees as the shop began to expand and prove its capabilities. Within a few years Cam had five employees at HS Customs and was raising the level of quality and complexity with each of the shop’s builds.
A breakthrough came in 2014 with a ’58 Ford Thunderbird built for Alex Short. Having never been to a show outside of his hometown, Cam and crew loaded the trailer and headed to the Goodguys Colorado Nationals at The Ranch in Loveland. The T-Bird received a Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year finalist nod – a major accolade and the incentive the team needed to get back to the shop and push the envelope even more.
Customer Alex Short returned to provide the canvass for the shop’s next masterpiece – a ’69 Camaro appropriately named “Under Pressure.” “So many well-done ‘69 Camaros already existed, so we wanted to make our customer happy and make a statement…create a clean and ultimate driving machine,” Cam says.
The build consumed two-and-a-half years and the white Camaro debuted at the 2016 Detroit Autorama, where it contended for a spot in the Ridler Great 8 before arriving at Cam’s hometown show – the Salt Lake City AutoRama. That summer, Under Pressure successfully landed a Top Five finalist spot for Goodguys Street Machine of the Year and caught the attention of executives at Mother’s Polish, who invited Cam and Alex to bring both the Camaro and the ’58 T-Bird to be feature vehicles at the 2016 SEMA Show. The trip would launch the team and the Camaro to the forefront of hot rodding.
“To say the 2016 SEMA Show was a big experience would be an understatement,” Cam says. “We felt like kids sitting at the adult table for Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. When the idea to enter SEMA’s Battle of the Builders came up, we decided to go for it, thinking we were kind of out of our league alongside the industry’s top builders, who we had looked up to for a very long time.”
Cam’s decision was a good one as the car was immediately accepted to the top 21 of the competition. “I was good with that” Cam says. “I mean, I was standing on a stage with the Ringbrothers, the guys from Roadster Shop, Jesse Greening, and others. We have these guys’ posters on the shop wall!”
As the competition moved forward, the Camaro made top 10, then Cam found himself on a stage as one of the top three. And when the name HS Customs of Logan, Utah, was announced as the Battle of the Builders winner, complete with television cameras on and flashes going off, time just stopped. “I was completely overcome with emotion and was just trying in my head to make sure that I thanked everyone involved, especially my client Alex and my incredible team who made it all happen,” Cam says. Under Pressure’s win at SEMA proved the “little guy” from a small town can still take the well-deserved spotlight.
What happens after a win like that? “We move on to the next project and keep focusing on making our customers happy while hopefully contributing new, interesting and innovative builds to an industry that we truly love and respect,” Cam says.
One element that has helped the shop advance in recent years is the in-house ability to design, engineer, and build parts. This begins with Cam, who sketches car and part renderings by hand, which are then digitized so they can be refined using CAD and CAM processes before parts are machined or fabricated. “My vision and the customer’s vision get shared immediately,” Cam says. “It’s amazing how much more we get done, and how much money it saves the customer. It makes a world of difference.” Cam says the shop is already starting to branch out and offer its design services to others.
The HS Customs crew is now up to 10 members and has turned out some killer projects in the years since the Camaro conquered SEMA. Among those have been Scott and Sherrie Cooper’s incredible ’70 El Camino, which won the Goodguys 2019 LMC Truck of the Year Late title, and Cody Veibell’s ’81 Chevy K2500 four-wheel-drive, which just earned a Goodguys 2020 LMC Truck of the Year Late Finalist nod at the
RaceDeck Salt Lake Nationals. The shop’s next “big” build is a serious ’68 Chevelle street machine that Cam hopes to debut sometime next year.
The success of HS Customs has been well earned and comes after years of paying dues and growing steadily. The shop has many valued industry partners, but Cam says he’s especially grateful to PPG Refinish for being there with incredible support before any awards were won. He’s also very grateful to Bill Williams, owner of Automotive Spraying Equipment Technology, who found Cam in his backyard and has continued to give him and his crew the kind of support necessary to keep moving forward and chasing their dreams.
“The hot rodding industry can be crazy and incredibly challenging just trying to keep the lights on sometimes,” Cam says. “But I get to work with artists – not just co-workers – whose passion rivals mine. That makes it very easy to go to work every day.”
2790 North Main, Logan, UT 84341
Story by Sherri Candland. Pictures courtesy of HS Customs and John Jackson