Outcast Kustoms: The Reality Behind the Reality

This past December, we showed you how married couple April and Kelvin Locklear, owners of big rig customization shop K&L Chrome Shop/Outcast Kustoms and stars of their company’s self-titled reality series on the Discovery Channel’s Velocity Network, recently wrapped up season one with a challenging design for a thirty-eight-foot-long RV wrapped inside and out for the Bristol Motor Speedway.

April and Kelvin started up Outcast Kustoms back in 2000 in Florence, South Carolina as a collision repair shop, but realizing they needed bigger space to do customization work, they expanded to a 44,000-square foot facility in Mooresville, North Carolina (also known as “Race City USA” due to it being the home of many NASCAR racing teams and drivers).

The Locklears grew up in the trucking industry, and while they didn’t want to own a trucking company nor drive trucks full-time, they decided to get into the customization aspect.

They’re very “accustomed” to television exposure, already appearing in CMT’s Trick My Truck, Speed’s American Trucker, and Travel Channel’s Outrageous Rigs. (Note: They and their work has even made it onto German TV! “The people of Germany are very intrigued by the custom side of things,” says April.)

They gained their first television experience on Trick My Truck, when the produces had Kelvin build them some custom parts while filming their first season and they liked Kelvin’s “never say no, I can do it” attitude.

“We started just kind of fixing up trucks and putting on bumpers,” says April. “And then we [expanded] to a paint shop because we had several people who wanted their trucks custom-painted and next started doing custom metal fabrications because people were asking us for some different things.”

Their first machine was a twenty-four-inch Roland plotter, and several years later, they upgraded to a forty-five-inch printer. To handle the additional production needs of their show, they recently started using a Roland SOLJET XC-540MT 54-inch printer/cutter with metallic ink. “The SOLJET is fast and reliable, and the sparkly silver ink is great,” said April. “It looks awesome! It adds a ‘pop’ that you can’t get from the CMYK mixture. And doing the trucks and the chrome shiny side of things we do every day, it adds a lot of intense to the decals and graphics that the regular inks don’t add.

“We don’t use it on everything, because it is fairly expensive. So I patch it in on a couple of things it will look awesome on. But when you show it to people, it’s easier to sell it to them then than just telling them you have it.”

A majority of their work is in vehicles. “Although we have done signs for some facilities and some counters for some of vendors,” says April.

Outcast Kustoms employs fifteen people during the filming season. April is the lead designer, working with two other designers to complete the graphics. The remainder of the staff handles vehicle customization along with graphics production and installation.

After doing two seasons of doing the slightly exaggerated Trick My Truck, the Locklears wanted to do a show using truck designs, remodels, and wraps that made sense and people could actually use. “It took several years to get thing put together right,” says April. “The Discover Velocity folks liked our shop and our ideas and the concept for the show, so they gave us the green light.”

Outcast Kustoms 2In addition to the Bristol Motor Speedway, other projects showcased on the first season were trucks and vans for corporations like Krispy Kreme (a touring vehicle celebrating their seventy-fifth anniversary), Jack Link’s Beef Jerky (an eighty-inch TV installed on the back of a truck that travels to fairs and football games), and Detroit Radiator (a custom truck to exhibit at truck shows and vendor events).

Since a lot of work is for corporations, this has meant really strict guidelines. “For Jack Link’s, we wanted to do blacked out wheels and a matte-black version, but they turned that down really quick,” says April. “So they came back wanting a bright red with their bag on it. We were able to add some flames and get a little bit [of our vision] in there.”

One project April was excited about featuring on the first season was nostalgic car hauler out of Peterbilt for the World of Outlaws and ArmorAll group. “We ended up doing flames for it, and it’s really far out,” says April. “We kept it a classic look because you have the nostalgic haulers so to take it this wild, crazy 2000-looking truck didn’t make much sense. So we took it and made it look classic.”

The first season of Outcast Kustoms ended up being a baptism by fire, as the network pushed up the premiere of the first episode from April to March. So thirty days were cut out of the production schedule. “We were still building the last few vehicles when the first episodes aired,” says April. “Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much. Everyone was here working late on Christmas Eve.”

Behind-the-scenes: Due to the rushed production schedule, Outcast Kustoms had everybody go out with their vehicles for a week or two and then return them so they could recheck and see that they didn’t miss anything. “They’ll still come back in now periodically for checks because we want to make sure that everything is still good and decals are still on,” says April, “because it’s our name riding around. So we take pretty good pride that the stuff is done right to start with and then it’s all kept up.”

Outcast Kustoms 3Outcast Kustoms starts filming season two this January. One thing they plan to do is get more technical on the builds and provide more information about prepping for wraps and why they need a laminate. They even plan on featuring one project over two shows. “In season one, we started filming in November, but it was hard to go through the holidays and people want to be with their families,” says April. “Everyone was having to work 24/7 for weeks at a time just to get everything done. A lot of these designs started small and as they’d come in while we were building, they’d go, ‘Wow, that’s awesome, now we want to add this and this and this,’ and we were like, ‘Okaaaaaaaaaaay.’

“Inside we were thinking that you now added a week to our schedule and we only had two days left.”

Another reason for their move to Mooresville is that in addition to more talented shop guys nearby (welders, fabricators, decal installers, etc.), NASCAR and Bank of America are in nearby Charlotte doing TV commercials, so there was a greater pool of production talent in the area. “We bought the building in August, did some clean-up and remodeling, and started filming in November,” says April.

Despite the extremely tight deadlines thanks to the compressed production schedule, Outcast Kustoms has found it’s been a great experience working with the Velocity channel. “It’s been really easy working with them back-and-forth and with us being able to have control on the creative side,” says April. “I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Some of the bigger channels want to just come in and take over your shop, and this way, we were able to do our collision work and the TV show.”

The exposure from the series has been interesting (if not funny) for the Locklears as well. “Every week, there’s at least three or four people, couples, or groups that stop in and tell us, ‘This is so cool!’ They’re surprised to find Kelvin and myself working,” says April. “People who are big fans they just think we just hang out all day, but we still have to operate like everybody else.

“We’re not actors. This really is what we do every day.”


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