Mustangs Illustrated: Interview With Automotive Designer Keith Kaucher
“Art isn’t always what you see, it is what you know.” My high school art teacher, Mrs. Olsen, would feed us that line when we were following a picture too closely and were losing the composition because of the details. For instance, it may appear that a shadow is darker, but if you make it that dark, you might lose the balance in the overall illustration.
Great artists don’t need to be taught such things, they just know. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t finished. Sometimes an illustration is never really finished, at least in the mind of the artist. But when a client is paying for a piece of art, it better darn well get to the point of “finished”. There is a fine line between production and creation. And Keith Kaucher knows that line.
Keith Kaucher is a technically accurate Designer. With a background in industrial design, for Keith, there are certain things that are important to completing an illustration. It has to be right. The proportions, the angles, the shadows, the forms. It is one thing to design a car that looks awesome. It is quite another to create a car that will fit actual human beings within its proportions, or moreover can even be built as it’s draw on paper.
Keith graciously agreed to an interview with Mustang Evolution, to get some insight into the Designer, the Artist, the Inventor, the Innovator, and also a true Mustang enthusiast. Keith used to drive around in a 1966 Mustang Shelby GT-H tribute car. A real nasty beast – Black Nasty, by name.
Pull up a chair and enjoy the ride as we get to know Keith Kaucher a little better.
ME (Mustang Evolution): So where are you located?
Keith: Keith Kaucher of Kaucher Kustoms, is located in down town Santa Monica. The address is 1238 7th St. Santa Monica, CA 90401
ME: Website address and links?
ME: How long have you been illustrating cars / Mustangs?
Keith: Professionally, since 1994. But I’ve been drawing cars since I was five years old. When I turned 13, I decided that art was what I wanted to do for a living. So I started by drawing my model cars that I was building first. Then trying to build them as accurately as I could to my drawings. I think this is why I’m so obsessed with proper proportions when I draw, and keeping things in scale.
ME: Do you specialize in any specific range of years for Mustangs?
Keith: First generation, mostly. But I do late model stuff. I’ve designed body kits in the past for Ground Design 2000, and a SEMA proposal for the late Joe Gozinski of Chicane Motorsports. And long before that, for MPH Mustangs.
ME: Do you work specifically on paper? Metal (painting on cars)? Digital?
Keith: I do both digital and on paper. I have been drawing in marker for years. But in 2005, I started transitioning into digital using Photoshop as my main tool to draw with, and now I’m learning Adobe Illustrator.
ME: What sets your artwork apart from others’?
Keith: Well, I’m more of a designer then an artist. There are automotive artist out there that kick my ass when it comes to drawing, but I am a custom car designer. I think that I have some innovative ideas when it comes to restyling a car. The other is that I live and die by getting proper proportions. I also test my designs out in scale using scale model cars if I don’t have access to the actual car. As long as the scale is the same between the model and the parts I’m testing, it will be very close. I do this so I’m not selling my clients a false idea of what the car will look like.
I am also an industrial designer by trade. So when I design, I’m thinking about how all of this is going to go together. I am not just drawing something that will be impossible to build. I don’t want the builder or, most of all, the client mad at me because none of it scales out. I’ve been told by several of the builders I work with that my drawings scale out within 1/8 of an inch. I can also provide scale elevations on a grid to get true measurements when needed.
I also test my designs on scale models when there’s questions – to double check my concepts before they go to the builder. And if needed, I can provide scale elevations on a grid to get true measurements.
ME: What methods/media do you use to create your illustrations?
Keith: Well, these days, it is Photoshop and high quality photo paper. My prints are 12” x 18”. It used to be markers and mixed media on 70# bond marker paper.
ME: What kind of turnaround time can you usually produce something in?
Keith: One to four weeks on average. I’m usually waiting for approvals from my clients
ME: What or who inspires you and your art?
Keith: I’ve always considered Steve Standford my mentor. His artwork is beyond reproach. Before I met him in person, I used to clip out his artwork from magazines and clip it up on a board in front of my drawing table while I was rendering a similar car to see how he shaded his cars. Later, we met and he shared so much information with me that my art got better after just that one meeting.
ME: How big would you like your name to be in the art community?
Keith: I’d like to be in the top three someday. I have no idea where I am now. I just keep pushing to get there.
ME: Do you have your work available as prints? T-Shirts?
Keith: Yes, just go to the store on my website – www.kaucherkustoms.com – I have prints and T- shirts.
I have a new t-shirt but my old silk screener quit the business and I need a new guy to do these for me and I’ve honestly been too busy to follow up with it.
ME: Too busy is usually a good thing, right? What wins / trophies / accolades / celebrity clients / high profile users / magazine articles have your artwork garnered?
- I used to design wheels for Superior Industries – the number one first tier alloy wheel supplier to Ford.
- I designed the 1998 Mustang GT wheel which later inspired the birth of the Bullitt Mustang as a production car.
- I went on as an independent wheel designer in 1999 and created the Edelbrock wheel line with Ultra Wheel.
- I designed a 1954 Ford Victoria that hit the show circuit in 2006. It was in 19 shows and collected 17 first place, best of show, and trophies from Grand National Roadster Show, Blackies Autorama, and several Good Guys Shows, including a Road & Custom top ten pick for that year.
- I also was asked by the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association in 2009 to design their Grand Prize Give Away car for 2010. The car was a ’70 Mustang that I based the design off a little known factory concept car called the Quarter Horse. I named the car aptly the “Boss Snake”. It was powered by a Jon Kasse Boss 529 that made 770 HP with a single 4BBL.
- I also designed the interior for James Hetfield of Metallica’s ’56 Ford pick-up built by Blue Collar Customs in Sacramento, California.
- I’ve also been featured in around 55 magazines – providing artwork and the accompanying articles from Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Mustangs & Fords and, don’t kill me but, for Camaro Performers among many others.
- Barry Meguire of Car Crazy interviewed me at SEMA 2008 (and that was on the Car Crazy Webcast) about my Korona Airstacks that I designed and brought to the aftermarket for Hot Rods and Customs. They were manufactured and distributed by K&N Engineering.
- In 2010, I designed the ’67 Cougar named the “ V8 Interceptor” that Stacey David is building on the Gearz TV show that airs on Speed Channel.
- And last year, I designed the interior for a ’41 Willys that CW Hot Rod’s and Restorations of Huntington Beach built on Chop, Cut and Rebuild, and Bill Dunn of Overhaulin’ fame stitched. So I had segments on both of those TV shows.
- And lastly, I built a ’66 Shelby GT350H replica known as Black Nasty that was featured in two magazines, Mustangs Plus catalog, and was a SEMA feature car two years in a row. It has seven trophies to her name. But, unfortunately, with this economy I had to sell her in 2009 after 17 years of ownership.
ME: What future projects do you have planned or ongoing that you can share with us?
Keith: Personally I’ve just finished the design, and I am now in the process of building Black Nasty II – a ’67 Pro Touring Mustang Fastback. Let’s just say, for now, that she’s going to be Blacker and Nastier.
Professionally I’m bringing out a line of 1/25th scale Resin car models based off my most popular designs under the brand name KMT. I’m designing steering wheels for Grants Products. I’m working on a custom direct replacement dash gauges and panels for ’67-’68 Mustangs, some custom direct replacement taillights for ’05-’09 Mustangs, and there is a deal cooking on a Kaucher Kustoms Signature line of Hot Rod and Muscle Car wheels.
ME: Is there any artists that you would like to work with?
Keith: I would say (car designer), longtime friend, and fellow Santa Monica High School Graduate, Raffi Minasian. Growing up in the same town, he and I have history and a lot of ideas with common ground that I know we could design an awesome car putting our ideas together. Plus we’re both Mustang enthusiasts. In fact, he owned a very sharp ’70 Boss 302 when I first met him 20 years ago.
ME: Contact information? E-mail addresses? Phone numbers? Whatever you feel comfortable sharing in the article.
Keith: My direct email is [email protected], the office number is (310) 656-9993
Thank you so very much, Keith, for taking the time to share your story and your art with Mustang Evolution. You have so far had a wonderful run of successes and very impressive accomplishments.
Now dear readers, please take some time and view Keith’s illustrations and projects in our gallery. If you have a project car, like the V8 Interceptor for Stacey David from Gearz, or James Hetfield’s ’56 Ford Pickup. Putting it all down accurately on paper first not only gets a great sense of the finished product., but it is a great tool for your builder to help eliminate costly rework, and is useful in acquiring sponsorship from product manufactures for your build.
A rendered design will be a great motivation to complete the project. If you’re building a professional show car, you’ll need it for your build book for the judges. Not to mention, just having the rendering makes a great memory to hang in your man-cave, at the very least.