East Hants Information Supplement
Curtis MacLean loves his location near an international airport; it’s a key asset for visiting auto enthusiasts who are his major customers. When he isn’t making rare customized toolboxes from vintage car bodies, he’s busy customizing, restoring, and making furniture
and accessories for the auto minded.
When Curtis MacLean talks about toolboxes, he doesn’t mean the type you buy at a hardware store. In the Elmsdale Business Park showroom of Curtis Customs, which also goes by the brand name Radical Garage, MacLean points to a polished mid-size pickup truck, cut lengthwise and fitted against the wall of the showroom/design studio/auto shop/museum that’s the head office of MacLean’s business in Elmsdale, N.S.
What soon becomes apparent is that the truck is the toolbox, custom made for the showroom of a wealthy car collector. The hood flips up, and one side swings out to allow access to the box where the tools are kept. It’s on wheels so it can move around the showroom. The cab opens to reveal a fridge and sound system. And the rear siding pulls away to expose a workbench, complete with flat-screen TV. MacLean and his team have custom built three of these $100,000 toolboxes and have more on order. Curtis Customs designs, restores, and customizes collectible cars and hot rods, plus luxury accessories for car and bike enthusiasts. It’s also a retail outlet for parts for vintage cars. MacLean loves the psychedelic designs painted on 1946 eight-door Cadillac limousine, a show car in his display room. The car was once owned by a luxury hotel in Manhattan, a group of nuns in Grand Manan, N.B., and a commune of hippies. The word “Precious” was painted on the limousine’s sides by the hippies, and it seems all the more apt as the car ages. Once a mobile landmark in New Brunswick, MacLean hasn’t begun to restore Precious yet, although he has had the car, which is owned by a local resident, on his premises for about a year.
A leader in his field, MacLean is renowned in the rarefied circle of well heeled car collectors throughout North America. He often brings into East Hants such celebrity enthusiasts as legendary custom-car-builder Gene Winfield.
MacLean spent 25 years painting signs before he began following his dream in 2005, when he started earning his living customizing cars. “I’m tired of going to the United States to produce all these cars when we have so much talent here,” he says. “More than anything, what I’m trying to sell is Atlantic Canadian talent.” Today MacLean and his team are focusing on customizing a 1967 Mach I Mustang; they have already spent $66,000 on the work. They have added 1947 Bentley fenders and a 1932 Oppenheiser V8 engine; the result looks like a cross between the Batmobile and Cruella De Vil’s car. The finished product is bound for Dallas after a showing in St. Petersburg, Fla. On MacLean’s office wall is a diagram for one of his special toolbox creations built not from a pickup truck but from a van. On order by an American industrialist, this “live-in” toolbox will feature a small office, fold-out sofa, 50-inch TV, and a model train set for the industrialist’s grandson. Sticker price: $200,000.