Rapid Rise – South Dakota-Based Revision Rods and Rides Gets off to a Quick Start
Overnight successes almost never tell the real story. Sure, every now and then a true overnight success pops up in sports, entertainment, or building high-end hot rods and customs. In reality, though, it’s usually years of behind-the-scenes hard work that give birth to what’s outwardly seen as an overnight success.
Count Tyler Nelson and Revision Rods and Rides in that category. With a shop full of high-end builds and nearly two dozen more lined up to keep them busy over the next few years, the Rapid City, South Dakota shop is doing just fine in its third year in business.
The path to overnight success? Training and time. After high school in Rapid City, Tyler spent a year at Wyoming Tech, then returned to Rapid City to help the owners of G3 Rods get started. “I did all the bodywork and fab for 10 years,” Tyler says. “I decided it was time to do my own thing. My wife Katie was a big influence.”
His years at G3 had nurtured good industry relations – with both customers and suppliers – that helped make launching Revision Rods and Rides easier than many start-up shops. “I was lucky enough to meet all the clients to learn,” Tyler says. “I was able to travel the country and get my name out on the circuit.”
Early Efforts Fuel Strong Start
That networking paid off with waiting customers when Revision’s doors opened in 2018. “I had five builds to do,” Tyler says.
In the short time since then, Revision has grown in shop size, staff, and work. Revision’s first home was a rented 3,000 sq. ft. shop on the outskirts of Rapid City. It was far from plush: no running water, no bathroom. “There was a community bathroom that you had to walk to,” Tyler says. “When we wet-sanded I hauled water in five-gallon buckets.”
That spartan existence changed quickly, though. After just 18 months in the cramped quarters, Tyler bought a 12,000 sq. ft. building that now houses Revision’s seven employees and a wide array of projects.
Setting the Stage
Revision’s first major build was a gleaming red ’56 Chevy pickup truck that debuted at the 2019 SEMA Show. Named Blood Money, the Chevy garnered awards at SEMA and was scheduled to be on the 2020 show tour until the virus intervened. It did manage to nab a Builder’s Choice Top 10 Award from Roger Burman at the Goodguys 2020 Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals in Des Moines.
The range of projects in the shop now includes:
- A highly detailed ’58 F100 called Ford Frigid
- A tweaked ’68 Camaro
- A ’51 Henry J sedan being converted into a pickup
- A ’69 Plymouth Road Runner with a 1,000hp Mopar Hellephant engine
Revision’s work on the Henry J will involve fabricating the firewall, floor, wheel tubs, pickup box, chopping the top, and adding a new roof. The hand-built tailgate features Revision’s custom designed and built hidden hinges.
Even at this early stage of the shop’s growth, Tyler has a group of repeat customers from around the country. “We get clients from all areas and I think one of the factors is that being in the Midwest, especially in South Dakota, our shop rate is $60 an hour,” he says. “We build cars just as nice as those (shops) in California that charge $100 an hour or more.”
Making it Work Smoothly
Tyler and his crew perform every aspect of the build, except design and the actual stitching of interiors. Tyler says he works regularly with designer Eric Brockmeyer to translate the project ideas into a concept drawing that works as a blueprint. More than just an exterior view, the drawings usually include engine compartment and interior designs.
“I tell a lot of customers that you don’t build a house without a plan, so we need a plan so we can keep moving forward,” Tyler says. “Once you (the customer) sign off on that rendering, we know what you want. We can just do it. We don’t have to wait for a customer to come and look at what we’re doing.”
Tyler and his team fabricate interior elements, then those and other pieces are usually shipped to Weber’s Custom Interiors in Alexandria, Minnesota, to complete the stitching. Once returned to Revision, Tyler’s crew completes the installation and assembly.
Like many shops, Tyler hopes to diversify Revision Rods and Rides by eventually offering products. One custom-designed and fabricated piece that is destined to become a shop-produced item for retail sale is a shifter bezel that incorporates power window switches. Tyler says the bezel solved the challenge of where to put power-window switches in highly customized interiors. Future plans call for custom products like the bezel, hidden tailgate hinges, and single-pivot hood hinges to be produced in-house on CNC machines and marketed to others in the hobby.
Good Teamwork, Happy Customers
Tyler faces the universal challenge of finding and hiring good people to work in the shop, especially since he says many people want to fabricate but few are interested in paint and body work. “It seems like no one wants to touch a sanding block,” he says.
One trait Tyler values highly is work ethic. “You can’t teach work ethic,” he says. “But you can teach skills. It’s cool to build cars, but it’s a job. It’s an awesome job, but it’s still a job.”
What’s ahead for Tyler and the Revision team? Introducing a high-end build each year (it takes 18 months to two years to complete) to be used in promoting Revision Rods and Rides and its product sponsors. The 2020 show season was cut short by COVID, but Tyler hopes to be able to display at more events in 2021.
Every business owner knows there are parts of the job you love and some that you loath, but they still need to be done. For Tyler the worst part is the commonly dreaded bookkeeping work like calculating bills and sending invoices. The good part, though, offsets the office chores: The customer’s reaction after waiting many months to see their dream build.
“The most satisfying part of the whole job is seeing their reaction when they see it for the first time,” Tyler says.
Just like the shows on television, but it’s even more rewarding because it’s your work and your happy customers. You can’t beat that.
Revision Rods and Rides
Rapid City, South Dakota
Photos by John Jackson