By Ashley Reyes
D&P Classic Chevy is the latest SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Member Spotlight company. In this week’s feature, SEMA speaks with company owner Darryl Nance, as he shares his story about the build that introduced him to the business side of car building and resto mod work, and what projects his company is working on in 2020.
Having built, upgraded and worked on thousands of classic cars and restomods for more than 30 years, D&P Classic Chevy’s numerous satisfied customers and media coverage has grown. Enthusiast magazines regularly feature D&P build cars while popular television programs, such as “Overhaulin’”, “Rides,” and “Chop Cut Rebuild,” have chronicled the shop’s magic.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your shop? How did you start?
Darryl Nance: It started in the early ’70s. I built a ’31 Model A in my driveway and eventually got married in that car! My wife (Peggy), whose family were successful farmers in Minnesota in the late ’50s, moved to California in a ’56 Bel Air—still her favorite car today. Meanwhile, I grew up turning wrenches in Southern California and cruising Van Nuys Blvd. on weeknights and weekends. There were also cruises on Hawthorne, very close to where the Beach Boys (and Peggy) grew up. The rest is history.
D&P Classic Chevy is a family-owned business.
I worked at Pep Boys during the day and worked in my garage at home. In the mid-’70s, I entered a career in law enforcement and worked for almost 20 years—all along still working on cars every minute I was off work. One day, a gentleman approached me to do a ’56 Bel Air frame-off restoration. In those days, frame off meant he had to call his buddies to come over and lift the body off the frame and place it on saw horses in his driveway. There were no lifts or rotisseries back in those days. The car brought in really good money back in that day and I started to acquire car parts at every swap meet I could attend. I then built Peggy her ’56 Bel Air Convertible. From there, I started selling parts via mail order. I liked the parts business but saw the real opportunity in building and restoring cars. The rest, they say, is history. Our builds are made to be driven and enjoyed. It’s our goal to have our customers drive our builds to car shows, not trailer them. They are built to be enjoyed.
D&P is particularly skilled in the art of “modernization.” I believe that some of the most popular vehicles ever built were GM products from the ’50s and ’60s. While the style of these cars is timeless, their mechanicals are rudimentary by today’s standards, lacking the advancement of a half-century of automotive progress.
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment?
DN: The breakthrough moment was seeing what people were willing to pay for good work. The ’56 Bel Air frame off was my introduction to the business side of car building and resto-mod work. I was doing GM musclecar and classic modernization back in the ’70s. Today, they call it “resto-mod.” That is where I started.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now in 2020?
DN: At any point in time we have 40-50 projects in our shop. I’m going to be 65 soon and our two sons are deep into the business. I will soon start to have a little fun and enjoy life a bit, maybe only working four or five days a week rather than six or seven. I still love the business and will slowly turn it over to my boys to carry on the tradition and D&P legacy.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young professionals contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
DN: Pick your focus and immerse yourself in the area of the business that most interests you. If it’s diesel, learn everything you can about diesel. If it’s Jeep/off-road, do the same. There is no wrong answer. Once you know the area, then find every opportunity to educate yourself in that area. Even if it means volunteering so you can learn. Do it. Work hard, live it and breathe it. Just focus on your area.