Take a Quick Cruise with the mind behind Pure Vision Designs
Photos courtesy Pure Vision and SRL
If you read any car magazines or get out to many events, you’ve probably seen the rides of Pure Vision. Steve Strope is the proprietor, visionary, and man behind the builds that roll out of his Simi Valley, California, shop. This year, Pure Vision is celebrating 20 years of crafting ground-breaking automotive vehicles, while earning some incredible accolades and features, as well as setting some trends through the industry.
Steve started building cars as a business after taking his ’66 Charger known as Skully on one of the first Power Tours. People, including staffers at Hot Rod, Mopar Muscle and others, took note of the unique styling of the Charger and the car ended up being named one of Hot Rod’s top 10 cars of the year. Little did anyone know that the car was built in the basement parking garage of Steve’s apartment building then finished in a borrowed garage (Steve traded garage space for labor and time on a friend’s ’68 pickup). That road tour was the beginning of Steve’s own road map into business.
Hot Rod tapped him for a project El Camino with Gumout, then came Challenger X which was also chosen as a Top Ten of the year in 2001 by Hot Rod (and driven on Power Tour) followed by Dust ‘Ya, a ’71 Duster (another HRM top 10 of the year) and a striking red ’72 Plymouth known as the GTX-R. The cars shared a common theme of simplicity, detailed engine compartments and restraint. Nothing over the top, yet stylish and smooth by doing more with less. By the turn of the century Pure Vision was a name to be reckoned with as a builder, fabricator and designer.
The Pure Vision team hasn’t slowed down. In fact, at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show they were awarded the Best Street Machine of the Show for their amazing Black Ops ’67 Ford Fairlane. We were able to corner Steve to pick his brain about getting started in this business and what he thinks about the hot rod industry.
SRL: When did you know that designing and building cars was what you wanted to do for a living?
SS: I never planned on doing this, but I’ve always been and will always be a car guy. My first goal was music and I did the recording, the touring, the playing for a few years, but when you’re in a band you have to rely on other people and their visions. That’s tough. I finally ended up going for a job in the hot rod world, packed up all of my belongings, and made the move from upstate New York to California. Problem is, when I got to California, the place I worked for closed their doors in just a couple months, leaving me with nearly nothing.
Eventually I built a ’66 Charger, did some groundwork by marketing it to the magazines with a rendering and the goal of taking it on the Power Tour (this is in ’96 or ’97). Hot Rod ran the rendering, we took the car, it was a hit on the trip, and made the cover of Mopar Muscle plus it was one of Hot Rod’s top 10 cars of the year. That Power Tour was key as I met a lot of people on that trip that helped get me started. The next thing I knew, I was building an El Camino for a Hot Rod project giveaway car and that’s when things started rolling.
SRL: Do you have any mentors or main influences that sent you down this career path?
SS: I’d have to say that my main influence is Scott Sullivan. He is the man. No one can make a car sit and look right like Scott can. Just look at his Cheeze Whiz ’55 Chevy. It’s just a big ball of taste. The way he approaches a car is just right. He pays attention to what he wants you to see and what he doesn’t want you to see. All of his cars are just right.
SRL: What do you think about the influx of car-building shows that are on these days?
SS: As a business owner and builder, I don’t see much TV. However, what shows I have seen, several are passable. The rest seem scripted, fake, and phony. That said, I understand why they’re like that and why they’re on. I liked the show Rides when it was on years ago and how the show documented the entire build of a car. That was cool, which is why I agreed to film with them in the build of Hammer, a ’70 Road Runner.
SRL: What advice would you give a young designer or builder today?
SS: To be successful at any job demands a lot of work and sacrifice. In the car world, you need to master two sides: You need to be an artist for the car, and you need to be a businessman for the company. It’s a never-ending battle on managing time and money with a build. Unless you have a partner that keeps up with the business side of things, be ready to wear a lot of hats other than just the builder.
When I was shooting for success in the music business, my dad made me take business management courses in college, which was a good thing to do. I highly recommend anyone learn the management side of things. It will help immensely with accounting, employees, shop insurance, and more. Another important aspect, and yet another hat to wear, is marketing yourself and the cars. Get professional renderings made with details about the build for the media — and follow through.
SRL: Do you have a favorite car that you’ve built — and a favorite one that you haven’t built yet?
SS: It would be hard to name a favorite build, how can you choose? It would be like saying which of your kids is your favorite. As for cars that I haven’t built yet, I have two in my head that I really want to build. They’re two “what ifs” and one is a bookend to the Martini Mustang. The other, you’ll just have to wait and see.
SRL: We haven’t seen your latest cars embracing modern engine architecture (the Fairlane, Martini, TT Camaro, 515 GTB all had vintage or traditional engines). What gives?
SS: When I design a car, each one has a theoretical back story. There’s a reason for every piece and part on these cars and newer engines just don’t fit the bill. Take the Martini Mustang for example: The back story is that Ford had recently had success at Indy and during the Tour de France in the mid-’60s. What if some big-wigs at Ford wanted to get some endurance testing done with their new 4-cam Indy engine? We put together a vehicle designed with our vision of what Shelby and Ford may have developed as a race/development car to run across Europe. Would a Coyote or Mod Motor work with this vision? No. Look at the ’67 Fairlane as well. The concept is a covert R&D vehicle from ’67. It just had to be an SOHC engine. The engine MUST go with the theme of the car. Old engines are cool and have a heritage that is lasting.
SRL: Do you have any favorite builders these days? Who and why?
SS: Dave Lane of FastLane Rod Shop is bad ass. That ’34 he did for Poteet is just how to do it. The execution, the restraint, and the Nailhead for the engine choice is just right on. That car is just a sweetheart.
SRL: Building a complete car for a customer can be a fairly personal experience. How do you go about coming up with a theme or design for a customer?
SS: It depends entirely on the customer. I’ve gone through both directions. The Mustang I had planned in my head and explained it to a few guys, and out of the blue someone called and said let’s build it. The other way is when a customer comes in with a car and knows the combination they want, then we work it from there. For the Fairlane, the owner wanted that car and an SOHC engine. We didn’t want to do another AFX car, and after sleepless nights the concept of the hidden R&D car just struck me.
SRL: Does anything surprise you in the world of street rods and muscle cars anymore?
SS: There are certainly still things that raise my eyebrows in our industry, but mostly it has to do with the details and amazing fab work that go into a build more so than the complete car. I prefer restraint and knowing when to say when over some of the more over-the-top builds and details you see on some cars. I understand the place for it, but when I see subtle done right, it’s just right. One thing that is very important to me is to build cars that cannot be dated. I like to think than when you look at the Martini Mustang in 15 years, someone would have to guess at what year it was built. I don’t want them to be dated by the styles and popular looks of the day. That is very important.
SRL: If you could build a car for yourself, no holds barred or budget, what would it be and how would it be built?
SS: It’s in my head, but you’re going to have to wait for it. I’ll give you a hint, it’s a Buick and it’ll be built someday.