When you drive your truck off the showroom floor, you may be ready to put the pedal to the metal, but if you want to get mud on your tires, you may need to make some after-market adjustments to your SUV.

Fabworks Rock ‘N’ Roll Cages

Making your ride off-road ready shouldn’t require you to sacrifice your style. SMP-Fabworks marries form and function for even the most monster of trucks.

Serious rough riders will want to upgrade their bumpers, add lights, and maybe even throw in a roll cage. Hell, even urban cowboys may want to renovate to achieve a more one-of-a-kind ride. And for L.A.’s weekend warriors and devoted daredevils alike, there’s no one better than Steven Parks, SMP-Fabworks’ master craftsman.

“I used to stay late and use the high school facilities to build stuff for people and make money,” he explains. “I’d work till two in the morning in the shop and come to school the next day and go through my classes and then work on stuff during my class and use all their equipment, which was really cool. It was a good opportunity.”

Now, Fabworks has become known for giving clients everything from sleek customizations that would be at home on Rodeo Drive to badass extras that would make off-roading in a zombie apocalypse a piece of cake.

“I hate to do the same thing twice,” he says, noting that every build requires some out-of-the-box thinking to combine form and function in any customer’s budget. “I’ve never been one of those guys who I consider a fake. Like, [guys who can make] it look good, but it ain’t going to do what it looks like, you know? And second, I think what they like to come to me specifically for is the fit and finish and the styling.”

A quality custom vehicle can cost upwards of $400,000, Parks explains — peanuts for some of his Hollywood clientele, but a bucket-list purchase for the rest of us. But most of his clients, he says, start out smaller. A bumper, a roof rack. Then they work their way up to a roll cage. And the next thing he knows, they’re back for more, with a bigger budget and more creative requests.

But even those looking to keep their tires solidly on the asphalt have found results at Fabworks irresistible. They’ve rebuilt classic cars and a particularly badass ’67 Ford Bronco that even the most eco-conscious urbanite would want to tool around the desert in.

For those hoping to up the ante on their own cars, Parks says the first thing to understand is the time it takes. “Most people, they don’t buy a car because they want to change it,” he says. “They buy a car and then want to enhance it. And that kind of work takes time because of all the little details. Those details that make it good take time.”

It’s important to be open to change, too, Parks notes. “I [design] as I build, and there are things you just don’t know until you see it right in front of you,” he says. “There are things that look good on paper but then in real life, it doesn’t work.”

So, if you’re ready to take your dream car out of the ether and into your driveway, and keep an open mind, maybe you’ll luck out and Parks will create the perfect car you never knew you always wanted. 

Up to now, we’ve pretty much put in the story as it appeared in Penthouse Magazine. The topic tweaked the interest in one of our own budding off-roaders — currently possessing substantially less than $400K to play with, to be clear. We contacted Steven who agreed to contribute answers to a few follow-up questions.

What has been your most “fun” Fabworks project so far?

Jamie's 1963 D200Fabworks: My most fun project thus far has to be Jamie’s 1963 D200. The build turned out to be a non-stop, 1-year-straight adventure. It honestly required a complete meshing with my team to contribute to the overall perfect build. Jamie, the owner, has a very keen eye for styling and brings his own visions as input. Usually most customers come to me and just let me do me, but when you have a customer with specific vision it really makes it challenging. Obviously as a professional I always respect this input, channeling it as competitive motivation. Quite simply in this case, I just wanted the build to blow his mind and really show off our Fabworks skills. Probably the best part of building for someone would be surpassing the expectation.

What has been your most challenging?

Fabworks: The most difficult build I have had recently has to be a 1975 International Scout. I’ve never wanted to bail out of a build more than I did on this one; I can say that. First off, the customer bought this truck sight-unseen at auction. They had zero idea what they were getting into. They just loved the look, and sadly they paid a lot for it. To add to the tension, I wanted to please a higher-end customer of mine, just wanted to make everyone happy, but the more I peeled the truck, the more stuff I found that was very bad.  I bought a bunch of parts to redo the suspension prior to seeing the rig, and although the frame was decent. The rust in the body was terrible. The worst part of it all was that the previous so-called “builder” just covered all the rust with their work. Long story short, every time I went to fix one thing or section, I’d find ten more. I found myself in an uncomfortable circle, constantly having to make “bad news” phone calls. Luckily the client had a budget that allowed me to save the Scout, but only at a cost extremely over the value of the truck. Our time on the build turned out to be triple what I could have ever guessed.  I saw more messed up, half-assed work on this rig than all the other projects combined through my years. I don’t know how he didn’t die just driving it to the shop. At least we finished, and now you can scope the final product…

Without naming names, can you tell us about your most difficult client?

Fabworks: So I can’t say I’ve had terrible clients, but I have had many that you have to baby. It can be extremely difficult to give them insight on why things cost what they do or to have to explain how bad someone screwed them prior to Fabworks, and they’re going to need to spend more with me to fix it. Giving clients too much info also has backfired on me as well.  Explaining steps in a large build to a person who’s never built a thing can end up being a hard bridge to mend. The absolute worst happens when we’ve  gone out of our way to educate a client on why something costs what it does, and then the customer ends up going somewhere else, paying more, and getting crap work.  Luckily, like I said from the beginning, I usually don’t deal with bad clients, but I’ve certainly had my fair share of unfortunate build processes.

Do you have something you have never worked on that you’d like to try?

Fabworks: I’d really like to try a combination of super car and off-road! I love the world of high end European cars, so to build something with superb handling but can take the off road abuse would be a challenge. I’ve always loved the e30 BMW, for example. I think it would be a great platform for a Baja-type build. It would be fun to somehow integrate all-wheel drive tech in there!

How do you envision the evolution of Fabworks?

Fabworks: The evolution of my business has always been a challenge for me. I’ve always dreamed of having a big shop and many talented employees, but over the years I’ve come to believe that this would be a dire need. I honestly enjoy the small mom and pop shop. My build process with clients ends up being more intimate and meaningful. Everything does not have to be just about the money. I enjoy the build. I like to be in there with my own hands, not spend all my time just managing others. I have found I really like to be a small shop that builds against the best. As far as the future of the shop, I’m at the stage of my life where having children is reality, and the most I can wish for is sharing all my knowledge with them and creating the start of a legacy to continue.

After reading about the accomplishments and goals of Fabworks, it seems like maybe the editors did not give them enough credit with the title. “Cages” seems severely limiting when it comes to their expertise. Should you want to start with letting your mind expand as to possibilities, we would encourage you to take a Fabworks visual tour, even if you do not live in their immediate area. Naturally they have an Instagram option too. If nothing else, have some fun, and get your growl on. It doesn’t cost anything to dream.

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