By Ashley Reyes
Dutchboys Hot Rods’ award-winning '69 Chevrolet Camaro (interior).
Dutchboys Hot Rods is the latest company to be recognized by the SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) member spotlight program. Widely acknowledged for the company’s ’69 Camaro that displayed at the 2019 SEMA Show, the vehicle received the Goodguys 2020 Street Machine of the Year Award, a GM Design Award and was also a Top 40 contender in the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.
Company owner Paul VanNus recently shared the story of how this father-son business came to be, provided details on the build that defined their breakthrough moment and shared what new projects he is currently working on.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your shop. How did you start?
Paul VanNus: My dad Joe and I started out in the collision industry and always had side projects going on in the hot-rod arena. One day I decided I wanted to do more and expand my projects beyond a “hobby.” I wanted to start a business in the craft, and so in 2010, I rented a building and Dutchboys began. We got busier and busier and the word was getting out about Dutchboys and their quality work. My dad left the collision business and joined me.
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment and who helped you along the way?
PV: In 2015, Dutchboys built a ’71 Camaro and displayed it in the Holley booth at the SEMA Show. The visibility and contacts grew exponentially after that show. Dutchboys was now on the national map. Working on Mark Stielow’s projects has also been a catalyst for the business. The folks at BASF have been great business partners over the years with Dutchboys.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now in 2020. What cool projects are you working on?
PV: Dutchboys is busier than ever. With eight guys in the shop, seven of the eight are working on Gen-1 Camaros (Dutchboys Hot Rods specialty). Today in the shop we have two ’69 Gran Torinos we are building for brothers. Pretty cool. We have a number of Gen-1 Camaros in various stages of build.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young folks contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
PV: Stay focused and stay in your lane; don’t let social media distract you. And don’t get wrapped up in what others are doing. Stay with what makes your shop special.
Dutchboys Hot Rods’ award-winning '69 Chevrolet Camaro.
Dutchboys Hot Rods in Vicksburg, Michigan.