The third and final installment of our interview series with Ish Jimenez, master trimmer and former star of MTV’s hit show “Pimp My Ride,” is the most personal.
Ish opens up about why he left West Coast Customs to launch his own shop, Royal Auto Designs. He also shares his thoughts on the current state of the auto upholstery industry — which he says isn’t dying, but “moving in slow motion.”
Most intriguing, however, are his thoughts on success, and how his understanding of it has changed since “Pimp My Ride” first aired more than a decade ago. While he was once enamored with fame, today he’s more focused on doing quality work, leaving a positive impact on the industry that gave him a second chance, and balancing it all while raising a family.
What follows is a transcript of our conversation.
You’ve been working in auto upholstery since the age of 12. During that time, you completed a lot of custom interiors. Which project is your favorite?
I would say the last interior that I did for West Coast — that was the Maybach Landaulet. Those cars, they’re like super expensive, like over a million dollars.
The car, it was a regular Maybach 62. … It wasn’t a Landaulet. We cut the car, we made it convertible. … I re-did the whole interior in all white leather. That was a big accomplishment for me. Like I say, when people approach me and say, “Ish, you’re the best.” “No, man. I’m just lucky.” I’m blessed because I get to lay my hands on a car that people will only see on TV or in magazines. I get to lay my hands on those cars on a daily basis.
Did you have to make a convertible top for the Maybach?
Yeah. We made the convertible top and headliner. [It was] some work, [but] that’s satisfaction to me…like a big paycheck.
When you’re breaking your head doing things, you get to the point that you regret what you’re doing. Then, when you see the final product, you ask yourself, “Man, I did that? ” Yes, I did. Like a paycheck, there’s satisfaction.
You’ve done a lot of interior jobs for big-name celebrities. Who did you like working with most?
The one who I really liked the way he approached me was Mark Wahlberg. I’m a big fan of Mark Walhberg and his movies. … We did an Escalade for him. When I saw him, like, “Oh shit, Mark Wahlberg! What’s up Mark Wahlberg? I always watch your movies.” He said, “Man, I always watch your show, and you make me laugh!”
I felt he was happy to see me. I was happy to see him, that’s a big movie star. People like him come up to me and say, “Damn, man. You’re a funny motherfucker. You always make me laugh.” Like I said, this is satisfaction that is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. That’s when, I said, “Man, I’m the luckiest upholstery guy in America.”
You’ve worked on all kinds of cars, from A-Z. What do you drive, and what have you done to the interior?
You know what? Right now, I’m putting a car together for myself. But 10 years ago, I stopped fixing cars for myself because I never had time to fix them.
I love low riders, I grew up in the low rider city. My last car that I fixed was a ’96 Cadillac, that was my low rider. I sold it, then I got me an ’87 Monte Carlo Super Sport. But for the last 10 years, I was buying new cars and all I did was put on some rims.
Now that I’m on my own and I got time to do my own thing, I’m working on a ’69 Chevy Caprice, it’s already painted. I’m working on the interior. I’m doing it really simple. I told my oldest kid who’s worked with me: “I’m finally going to be driving something that I created, that I designed. Something that I can show people what I do for a living.”
You said the interior will be simple. How do you mean?
It’s going to be black leather with black inserts, Alcantara suede. It’s going to be really simple, but it’s going to be catchy. I painted the car candy tangerine, I got 22s in the back, 20s on the front, air suspension. It’s going to be all black with orange double stitch and Felix the Cat in orange.
Is that how you describe your style, simple?
Simple. I’m a simple guy, I don’t like to be complicated. … I’m not into graphics, and this and that. I like it, I love it, but it’s not my style.
I got a couple of Harley Davidsons, both of them are black. All chromed out to the fullest. People ask me, “Why didn’t you did this?” “Why didn’t you do that?” I say, “No, man. I like it, but not my style.” I like to see that on other people’s bikes, not on my bikes.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your career. Looking back, is there one moment in particular that sticks out to you as a game-changer? That moment when you felt like you made it?
Being at West Coast Customs was the best thing I ever did. When you get to a point where people think you’re the best, and where people show respect to you because who you are, I think that’s a big compliment. I can name a few people that I really have respect for in the car industry, and that’s because I know they’re legit. Some of my favorites, besides Ryan [Friedlinghaus, owner of West Coast Customs], are George Barris and Chip Foose. I know they’re people who were laying hands on cars before they made it.
Honestly, I don’t think I have accomplished what I really want. It’s hard to have the balance between [work and family]. That was one of the reasons I left West Coast. It was so much time-consuming that you don’t get to enjoy what you have, what you accomplished. I don’t know if I’m getting old or I appreciate life more than ever, but to me, when you have what you’re looking for and family on your side, I think that is priceless. That’s one thing, to be honest with you, that I haven’t accomplished.
Family is the thing you’re still working towards?
Yeah. I got four kids altogether. My three kids from my first marriage, they grew up without me because I was always busy. I thought I was supplying money, buying nice things for them, whatever they needed, but that’s not [enough]. Then, I got divorced.
I got married with another woman. I have a little girl now, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I left West Coast. I said, “Man, I’m running in the same direction.” I don’t want my baby to grow up without me. That’s one thing that I haven’t accomplished, work and family balance. The day that I can balance work, that I’m financially secure, and my family, I can say I finally found what I was looking for.
Do you think that opening the new shop will help you achieve that?
I think so. … Now, I got control of my life. Like I said, money is not good yet, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction. I can manage my shop and my personal life.
Some veteran upholsterers have described our industry as a dying trade because of the lack of young trimmers learning the craft. What would you say to them?
You know what? It’s up to us, people like you, who put all this [The Hog Ring] together. It’s encouraging a lot of people. On Friday or Saturday, my kid sent me a picture. … I guess he found you guys on Instagram and he screenshot it and sent it to me, like, “Hey, look Dad!” I replied, “Guess what? I’m going to have an interview with them on Monday or Tuesday?” He said, “Oh, shit!”
I don’t think it’s dying, the industry, it’s not dying, but it’s moving in slow motion. To me, upholstery is like makeup for women. You can have a nice paint job, you can have nice rims, but if you don’t have nice upholstery in your car, the car is not complete. That’s what I try to do is make young people understand.
Not right now, but down the road…I’m going to try to partner up with a couple of other people so I can do free seminars for kids. Bring your own car, wrap your own dashboard, do your own carpet. Just buy the material. I supply the glue, I supply the air, I supply the shop to encourage young people to do their own thing. I hope I can come across a few people that have the same vision that I have.
What’s the best advice that you’d give to a rookie just starting out in the craft of auto upholstery?
Never give up! … Sometimes you’re going to get frustrated. I’ve gone through that a few times, [even] to the point I said: “Shit, man. I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be doing something else.” Then, when I accomplish what I’m doing, it gives me satisfaction. Bottom line, never give up. If this is what you want to do, just put your heart and soul [into it]. This is a good trade, trust me.
What does the future hold for Ish Jimenez?
I just want to be happy. To do what I’m doing, try to establish my own shop, my own name. Honestly, I don’t want to be [like] West Coast. A few people have asked me that question, like, “You want to be like West Coast, have a shop like West Coast?” Honestly, no. I want to have a peaceful life. I want to be one of those guys that work, do the best I can. Work five days a week, and as long as my bills are paid and I have extra time to spend with my family, that’s what I want.
I chased a dream. I won’t say that I caught the dream. Literally, the dream came to me. “Pimp My Ride” and TLC and all the shows, that was good. It gave my life a chance to be in another position. Now, people who drive Lambos, Mercedes, they have no doubt I can do the job. They say, “Oh, shit! I saw this guy breaking Bentleys, Ferraris, Lambos on TV. Like shit, here, do my shit.” I got the trust with people. So now what I really want is to establish my shop, have happy customers coming back and forth, and make decent money.
Most of all, have time for myself to enjoy with my family. As long as I have my bills paid, my mortgage paid, and the things that I need, I’ll call it even.
Thanks Ish. I really appreciate you taking the time to, talk with The Hog Ring today.
My pleasure, brother.
Despite his celebrity, Ish remains a down-to-earth guy with a passion for cars and his craft. Sure, he’s seen and achieved a lot — much more than many of us could ever dream. But the way Ish tells it, he’s nowhere near finished. In fact, he’s just getting started.
Check out Ish’s new shop Royal Auto Designs online at RoyalAutoDesigns.com, and follow them on Instagram.
Special thanks to Anthony Salazar of Top Stitch Upholstery in South El Monte, California, for setting up this interview between The Hog Ring and Ish Jimenez.
Brent Parker motor trimming says
Great 3 part article guys! It was a nice read.
The very best trimmer is gabe from gabes customs, first class quality year after year, ish wouldn’t know where gabe started, he can trim but nothing like gabe.
Love watching West Coast Customs. Now it’s Season 5 but what happened to the old team members from previous seasons? Especially Ish..
They got fired since the lawsuit 15-16 people sued for underpayments and he got sued 150 thousand lol 150,000.00$ he had enough for a Rolls Royce but not enough for some fair wages LOL
I too was looking for ISHMAEL aka ISH in season 6 and the last time I saw him was when Ryan said Ish chose to take his family on holiday to Mexico then he never appeared again. I kept watching but then realised Ryan had a new guy. ISH definitely adds a unique element to the show. I enjoyed ISH messing with his son for not wanting to go college. C’mon networks, give ISH his own show or something involving his family and the job.
Yes. I agree
Yah where’s Ish’s show? I watched from the start to see him.
He lightened the feeling in there and was super funny no matter what pressure they were under.
They’ve lost the satire on West Coast, I think Ryan lost the heart of the workshop, losing Ish.
It’s sad to see the guys who were there when Ryan had nothing and rose up to Burbank and suddenly guys are left behind.
It’s a big move from Corona to Burbank when you have kids and 1Hr.20 travel time.
His work was always fantastic and I noticed in season 5 he wasn’t getting deserved credit on all the work he did, not just seats but headers etc Ryan didn’t try hard enough to keep him.
He never addressed it in season 6 at all.
Here we call it a burn.
Ish, best of luck with Royal Auto Design’s.
Networks give him a show!
I second that. He should have his own show
Juan Rivera says
Kenny was good too
Elicia Coltman says
Ish was always my favorite guy on that show. he always did an amazing job and he is funny as hell.
Rubin Collazo says
He’s not that good all the custom work look like somebody else was doing I stop watching after the season.
any man that’s been doing his craft since 12 years old is one of the best but you no what if there weren’t haters like you it wouldent motivate a homie like ISH to keep doing great jobs like hes been doing to prove your hatin ass is wrong and this msg is brought to you by the one and only aka boy!!! KEEP HATING HATER are you mad……..
For someone to comment on auto customizing and don’t have a clue about what your talking about their are many good Trimmers out in the field I’ve done lots of work for Joe bortz concept cars maybe you can look at the LaSalle roadster,or the Biscayne.
Man..so you’re just jealous of ish’s work since you’re in the same industry. That’s low man.. pathetic, weak, and even caught a scent of stupidity on your side. I pity u brahh. And btw, your English grammar is bad. Go back to school dude.
Angelica Ramos says
@Boy totally agree, Ish is one of the best at his trade! He proved it by working where he did, worked under Ryan’s wing long enough, he had a taste of fame meeting celebrities & working on top of the line cars. What I most admire about Ish is keeping grounded, chasing his own dream, & trying to balance work & family. Love Ish funny guy with a great personality. Signing off Angelica R.
Juan Rivera says
I just started watching on Netflix, but when he opened the burbank place you can tell Ryan wasn’t happy any more
I miss Ish man! He was my favorite smh
La Cisneros says
The west coast customs show was and is a great insight into the imagination and talent these artist have. Ish, in my opinion had an easy job since you could tell he loved what he did. His work always seemed spot on due to his life long dedication to meet the clients and his personal high standards. A machine could never give leather life the way ish did……. Was he Italian in a past life cause he could of easily had established leather working in the style of the great masters.
ish is one of the best in the world
Raul Y says
I followed west coast customs for along time from the beginning to now and I wish I had the talent like Ryan ish Kenny and all the other guys there I don’t care who hates on them even though I never meet them I consider them family to me
To the hater “haters gonna hate” I have watched Ish since Pimp my ride. The guy is the best. No job was ever too big or too small, plus he is funny as heck. I wish Ish nothing but the best!
I really miss him
Vinicio Rivera says
Ish! God bless you brother….hope all ur dreams come true….hope we’ll see you in the future….
Loved watching you on WCC! Wish you the best on your new venture!
Rob T says
I’ve just watched WCC from season 1 to season 6 in five days. I love the show but I was gutted when Ish didn’t appear after season five. The shop had a real family feel before it moved to California. All the best Ish keep the pimp slap going.
Real Nygg says
I miss Ish like a mofo!
“Two quesadillas and a side of Pepto Bismol please” lmao
Dave V says
Apart from all the guys at WCC, Ish,,your the man
Good luck for the future
Ryan,, Awesome job
Edward Jaimez says
I’ve been in the custom auto and restoration business 38 years now, Ryan is an innovator with a vision, Ish was, and is still a very rare breed of craftsman, he is right when it comes to priorities, your kids are only kids once! I hope for your continued success in all that you do Mr. Jimenez! Gods blessings upon you and yours!
Chris Bowen says
I think he made a good decision.. Cause family is the most valuable thang.. It is to get lost in that money and forget who your doing it for… What good is it of you dont get to see the smiles and hear the laughs of your family.. I am at a cross road with my current job cause the same reason..
Wish you well Ish.. The show isn’t the same without him.. The new guy sucks..
Terry Duffy says
Ish, Loved you on TV but you are right. Take care of your family first. Good Luck. Terry Duffy
Alonso Cantu says
Good luck on your new adventures in life may you continue doing great interior work and don’t forget the Lord is always first good luck in life continue your good work
Hmmm.. isn’t Ish new place permanently closed now? Anybody knows what happen?
Joe Mendez says
Thanks I was wondering what happened to Ish
Great read! Hope all works out for you. I was kinda the same, put myself into my work for the money and provide my kids with everything they wanted. Now they are in their mid twenties and I have stage IV cancer with not much time and I can’t make that up to them for not being around when they were young. So good for you man. Find that balance and god bless with your craft. It is truly amazing.
Ryan seem to be a prime asshole
I can see Ish with a tv show of his own…WCC isn’t the same without him… Wish Ish nothing but the best…
JAMES JIMENEZ says
I miss you ish… I don’t watch the show since u left . You da man !!!! you always made me laugh . Ryan is a money hungry asshole. He pushed everyone to hard.., always making the workers stay late so he could make his rediculous deadlines…. And the workers getting underpaid…. start your own show ! Everybody will forget about wcc……
ish really enjoyed watching your work like most people saying your a miss this is true
The program is not the same with out Ish and the builds are not the same shame I think went down hill from series 6
Jack Davis says
The trim business isn’t dying it’s getting harder especially in seats with all wiring.
And guys you shouldn’t be cutting wires instead of unplugging them.
I have had customers wanting to sew their seats back up with the old air bag still in that exploded .
Are you ready for jail time?Please don’t..
Herbert Phillips says
Anthony Salazar of Top Stitch upholstery is a scam artist. He defrauded my dealership of $2,500 for a gwagen upholstery kit and took our money by wire transfer and never sent us the kit. Don’t order anything from this guy. He will take your money and disappear.
Carol Nordling says
This was a great read. I , too, was disappointed when Ish didn’t return to the show. He really inspired me and reminded me of my craft. As a single Mom, raising 2 kiddos, I had my own upholstery shop so that I could spend as much time as possible with the children. Retired now, I became a lazy couch potato until I started watching Ish. He inspired me to get up and get busy. So now I’m renovating my place, stripping wood floors, making curtains, re-doing the kitchen and bath….and looking for that upholstery project as well. I seriously owe a debt of gratitude to Ish. At age 75, I’m not ready to give up. Thanks Ish!!!!
JJ Svensson says
Have to agree with most of the posts. WCC without Ish isn’t the same at all. I’m lucky to have Netflix so I could watch the shows here in Sweden. I really hope Ish the best, from watching you on the show and reading articles you seem like a great guy.
Mark Hetero says
Ryan can’t hide the fact he is a major ice head especially from season 5 onward.
The FBI should have an eye on that joint the whole set up is SUS AS.
Fried by name fRiEd by nature…
Or meth in this case.
miss ish he made wcc the best hes family to the shop and show bring him back Ryan you need him
Aq haroon says
Just finished season 6, i think 6 was the worst season till date. I had big expectations for 6 since they moved to a bigger and a nicer place, but all the old guys have with simultaneously in the same season, i don’t know what happened there tbh, but just wanted to say ish was my favourite in the whole show after him i guess kenny, he left too in the same season, man the first 5 were the best.
Greg Sr. says
I may be late but i just like to say thank you to ish he treated me and my son like family,I hope everything is good with him. It would be nice to see him again.
Ingvar Ingolfsson says
Ish was not fired he decited to quit since WCC is a Hugh demanding work place.
Yes there was a settlement for some sallarys but that was only lower workers not guys like Ish, Kenny, Alex and others key workers.
Bmw2002 tii touring says
So sorry to see Ish leave he was the best upholsterer I had ever seen . He always kept his cool in really hard situations and working long hours . He had a great team around him .
Kenny leaving as well must has been a shock for Ryan as Kenny was the most intelligent guy because he always came up with all the ideas .
I would have Kenny and Ish work on my car all day long . They are the best in their fields and untouchable and should have been appreciated.
You never know what you have until it’s gone . Keep safe everyone.
Oh man I feel bad. Yeats later and all. But damit Ish. This just made my heart hurt. However on the Latina side I’m like hell I wish you the very best. We need more Latinos to make it.
Juan Rivera says
Yes , he was lying. Even before I Google it I knew he quit. Good for him
Those guys made the show at get kicked to the curb when Ryan makes it they worked there ass of for you not to share in the game I won’t watch you again if you agree give me a shout out email@example.com it’s Ron
Now, more than one year after the last post I am sitting here in Germany, having old Pontiacv Fiero in the Garage outside, now watching all the episodes one after the other wondering why Ish and Kenny are no longer showing up in episode 6…
As a mechanical engineer I appreciate Ish and his coolness, but missing Kenny for his mechanical ideas.
Long time watching the episodes I was missing information about the budget of the projects, the
deals with thew clients are shown quite fast… not mentioning any budget sum.
But on the contrary I liked to watch Fast’n Loud – but after watching all episodes you see where all the
$$ thinking leads to…… There was no other idea than $$.