We're Into Custom Classics

Custom vehicle builder Murray Pfaff, in his own words. “We’re in Royal Oak, Michigan, located just outside Detroit, and I’m...

March 11, 2020

Custom vehicle builder Murray Pfaff, in his own words.

“We’re in Royal Oak, Michigan, located just outside Detroit, and I’m with Pfaff Designs,” said Murray.

“The car behind me is a 1956 Cadillac, pretty well-known as FireMaker. It’s a car that I’ve had for over 25 years

and put a lot of fun miles on that machine.

“It’s been through three different transformations from the time that I bought it for 600 bucks.

“It’s kind of like owning a great suit but changing up the tie and the shoes and keeping up with the times, although now I like to think that it’s kind of transformed into its own style.”

500-cubic-inch Caddy

“Under the hood it’s got a 500 cubic-inch Cadillac motor backed by a turbo 400. I’ve been down the drag strip with it. It’s got 525 foot-pounds of torque, so it really takes off in a hurry.

“The car features a 1960 Cadillac instrument cluster, 1960 Cadillac steering wheel and full leather interior.

“We’ve got custom skirt treatment on there where we filled in the skirts. We brought the body line right out the back of the car.

“Another cool little feature that a lot of the old-timers know about: the gas cap from the factory was right there under the tail light. That just keeps all the lines of the car nice and clean.”

Makin’ fire

“And then we’ve got flame throwers, kind of the feature that gives FireMaker its name. And under the trunk lid are twin fuel tanks to power all that.

“Then, of course, a big mega sound system.

“The flamethrowers have been with me a long time. I’ve been through I don’t know how many different systems, injected and pressurized.

“And now I’ve got it to a point where I just turned the igniters on, I hit the fuel pumps and I have fire. It’s a pretty simple and swift way to do it.

“It’s a true road warrior. I love the car to death. It’s been with me forever.”

’59 Imperial

“But what I really want you to see is right over here. It’s a 1959 Imperial Speedster.

“It started life as a four-door sedan. So, it was 4 feet 3 inches longer.

“In this garage we shortened it in four places, and then we cut it down the middle and we narrowed it 8 inches.

“And then we cut the car all the way through from front to back and took three inches of height out.

“Being that the car was sectioned, we pushed the headlights up into the fenders to kind of cut off the top of the eye to give it that kind of evil-eye furrowed-brow look.”

425-horse HEMI

“Under the hood is a 6.1 liter HEMI making 425 horsepower. The instrument cluster is actually out of a 1960 Imperial, one year newer. This car is a ’59.

“I just like the style of it so much better with the bullet shapes and the big round gauges.

“And then in the center is a tachometer that was a ’38 Chevy taillight housing.

“The seats are chopped down Toyota Celica GT seats, all wrapped in Connolly Brown Rolls Royce leather.

“The back end features the tire blister, original taillight housings. The bumper, of course, was narrowed 8 inches.

“Our goal was to just create something that Chrysler might have built in ’59.”

Inspiration is all around

“As far as personal builds, you know, maybe there’s a dozen or so cars I have designed. That’s a whole other gamut. There’s probably over 400 cars out there that I’ve done designs for.

“Inspiration is just simply all around us, whether it’s organic and it’s a tree or a flower or plant or there’s a client who says, ‘I want to do this car because of this reason.’

“So, your job is to transform their dream into a vision, you know, on paper for them to say, ‘Yeah. That’s kind of cool. I never even thought of doing that.’

“And, so, you take that blend and you put it all together. You take all those concepts and you work it to where they ultimately say, ‘Oh, my God. That’s exactly what I want and can’t wait to build it.’

“So, to have people like that invite me to be part of their dream and building their vision is really some of the coolest payback for everything that I do.”

More like this