Jake Shelton has done everything from designing and running a retro diner on the East Coast to co-owning the now-defunct Ziggy's rock club in Tempe, but he's probably best known for the custom car couture furniture he's been making out of vintage car parts since 1988. His company, Jake's Chop Shop, on University Drive in Tempe, includes International Freestyle Motocross, Vans, and members of the metal band GWAR amongst its clientele. Each of Shelton's pieces reflects a retro/rockabilly aesthetic, decorated with flames, chrome skulls, cobwebs, eyeballs, and other gore-garage images. His current works-in-progress include a '62 Falcon bed, and a pool table made from a '39 Studebaker truck bed.
Recycling the Wrecks
I won't take a nice car and cut it up. It's gotta be a really mangled unit. I like my stuff to have a very natural patina. I want the faded car emblem on the front, [and] some dings and dents. I don't want perfect chrome. I want it to be a real piece.
How Arizona State Senator and Congressional Candidate Harry Mitchell's Old Mercury Became a Jake's Chop Shop Bed
Harry Mitchell and his sister drove this car around when they were in high school. And it was just sitting in his backyard, so I asked if I could take it and do something with it. He's one of the coolest people I've ever met. I love that guy. He stops by the shop from time to time.
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One of These Things Is a Lot Like the Others
I'm starting to do some light mass production. If you're on MySpace, there's a girl named Dayna Delux she's like a top '50s pinup model and we're gonna be doing coffee tables. We just did a photo shoot with her, and it'll be her on this table, and we're going to sell the tables on her MySpace page [www.myspace.com/daynadelux] and on mine [www.myspace.com/jakeschopshop]. And those will all be the same. And I'm working with another company to start producing '49 Mercury beds.
The Biggest Compliment He's Ever Received
Red Harden is probably my idol of all idols. Red Harden is the guy who actually built Dragula, which was Grandpa Munster's dragster. He's the be-all, end-all of car customizers. I'm painting his son Garrett's bike, and Garrett actually brought Red into my shop. He could have been like "Your stuff is shit," and walked off, and I'd have been like, "Oh my God, that's so cool." But he actually liked it, and he hung out for about two and a half hours. To have somebody from this [custom car] world come to my shop and like what I'm doing is probably the hugest compliment, just because it's not regurgitated.
Why There Are Guitars, a Bass, and a Drum Set in His Shop
Occasionally, people will stop by and we'll play. I haven't been in a band in 15 years, probably, but if I were, it would kinda be like Herman Munster and Jed Clampett's Mexican, surfing love child.