Javier Shorty Ponce Shorty's Garage

Five Minutes with Javier “Shorty” Ponce of Shorty’s Dream Shop

In 1997, Javier Shorty Ponce followed his passion for custom cars by leaving a secure job at a well-known dealership in the Dallas, Texas, area to start his own his shop, Elite Autoworks. Little did he know that his leap of faith and support from his wife, Lupe, would lead him to national fame with his own TV show, “Shorty’s Dream Shop,” after spending time on another show, “Iron Resurrection,” both a part of MotorTrend TV.

Shorty got his start working on classic cars with his family when he was just 12 and has been at it ever since. He enjoys working on customer cars that have a family history or a neat backstory. His team is ready to tackle any sort of project, from custom paint to full builds, and you can still see and hear his passion for the craft. “I never thought the car industry would bring me where I am today,” Shorty says. “It is truly a blessing. Some days I wake up and think, is this really my life?”

We caught up with Shorty for a few minutes between filming and car show appearances.

GG: How did you get started working on cars?

Shorty: My father bought my brother a ’59 Impala four door when I was 5 or 6 years old. It was as if I was looking at something from another planet and love at first sight! My brother-in-law, Carlos, who is no longer with us, is the one responsible for getting me started in the car world. He loved working on them and took me under his wing, teaching me everything he could.

GG: What pushed you to open your own shop, Elite Autoworks? Javier Shorty Ponce Shorty's Garage

Shorty: Shortly after high school, I was fortunate to land a job with one of the most prestigious dealerships in the country, Sewell Cadillac. After a few years, I felt like there was something more I wanted to accomplish. The passion for working on classic cars and the dream of having my own business is what pushed me to have my own shop. At age 30, I gave myself three years to open my own shop. I told my wife, Lupe, about my dream and with her help we saved enough money to buy a piece of land and build a small shop. My dream became a reality. Thank God! I can’t say that enough.

GG: Any tips on what it takes to start a custom shop?

Shorty: If someone asked me about opening their own business, I would tell them to do it! Don’t let the fear overcome and take away your dreams. Have faith in yourself! You will never know what you might achieve if you don’t try.

GG: Do you have a favorite car to build or customize?

Shorty: I think my favorite car has always been a ’59 Impala but I am a fan of all makes and models. I like the unique challenges that come with every car.

GG: After leaving “Iron Resurrection,” did you think you’d return to TV?

Shorty: When I left “Iron Resurrection” my only intention was to come back to my family and tend to my business that I worked so hard to build. I never thought or was even looking to have my own show.

GG: What is a typical work week like when filming for your show?

Shorty: OMG! There are so many elements. Best way to describe it is that we are Always On The Go! There is always something that needs to be done. A reveal, a new build coming, what B-stories are we putting together with the A-stories, the reveal, and deadlines. So many elements. The producer keeps a schedule and we stay as close as we can to be able to get through the season.

Javier Shorty Ponce Shorty's GarageGG: You seem to like the customer stories behind the builds – why is that?

Shorty: I like the history because of the memories the people bring. Cars become a part of the family. You’re fortunate if you still have the same car your parents dropped you off at school in when you were a kid, then passed it on to you when you graduated. It’s like being in a time capsule that lets you go back and re-live the most beautiful days with you and your loved ones. Cars are time machines that take us back to our youth and remind us of our past, the trouble we got in, the best times we had.

GG: Do you have a favorite car that’s been featured on “Shorty’s Dream Shop?”

Shorty: All the cars on the show are my favorites – I can’t pick just one! They all have a special place in my heart because of what each build meant to the owners and us. Every story was very interesting, some happy others sad, but they all touched our hearts.

GG: Paint technologies continue to evolve. Do you have a favorite color or style?

Shorty: The paint industry has changed quite a bit since I started – for the best. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with the best brands in the industry and they have done a great job keeping me up with the technology. As far as style, I like using colors and combining colors that are subtle, but catchy – colors you never get tired of looking at. Colors that look classy.

GG: You started at a very young age and even left school for a bit. What would you share with young people who are interested in the hot rod industry?

Shorty: I love sharing what I know with kids, since the only reason I stayed in school was because my high school offered a paint and body program. It’s very important to show the youth that we care, that we want to keep the trade alive and that they are the future of industry. I want to give them hope and the opportunity to succeed in this profession. This is how I kept on going. I got a chance to make something of myself and a chance to succeed.

Todd Ryden is first and foremost a car guy and admits to how lucky he is to have been able to build a career out of a hobby that he enjoys so much. He’s owned muscle cars and classics, raced a bit and has cruised across the country. With over 25 years in the industry from the manufacturing and marketing side to writing books and articles, he just gets it.