Ringbrothers – Ten Questions With Mike and Jim Ring

In our latest “Ten Questions With..” segment, we are showcasing Mike and Jim Ring, the driving forces behind Ringbrothers.  They build groundbreaking custom cars as well as CNC parts — always with an eye towards advanced technology. They also have great design sense.  Study the wheel arches of “Defiant” as they perfectly complement the car’s wheels and tires. From the grille to the exhaust tips and surface finishes, design elements all work together and are unlike anything else on the road.

 RideTech – Did you grow up in a car family or did you find the hobby on your own? — Do you have an old pic to share?

Mike and Jim Ring – Our dad had a Skelly gas station a few blocks from home when we were kids.  Our toys were dad’s tools and anything with fuel. 

Kids with a go cart.  Mike’s in plaid pants and Jim’s blowing a bubble.  This was long before the days of rapid prototyping, but the spark of creativity and  shared sense of pride were already alive and well. 
Here’s Mike, Jim and their dad, Clete standing with Mike’s Cobra at Jim’s restoration shop This photo was taken before the boys went into business together. 

RideTech – What is the last car that you built for yourselves?

Mike and Jim Ring – A 1972 Winnebago Brave – with 1000 horsepower.  You have to be brave (or wear a diaper) to get behind the wheel of this beast.  It has personality, but lacks aerodynamics at 100+ mph …and taking an off-ramp at 80 mph is just plain stupid (we lived, but are here to tell you not to try this at home).  This is probably the most fun we’ve had building anything.  Every day we’d come to work and laugh till the day was done.  The “Ringabago” project turned out to be the best medicine for a tired team. 

Until Ringbrothers, no one EVER intended for a Winnebago to have 1000 HP. Mike and Jim maintain a healthy perspective with respect to the custom car business.
The Ringebago is built to party. It has two bars, a fireplace and a flatscreen TV with Bose sound system. The walls are covered with memorabilia. It even has glass windows in the floor. Awesome.
Beneath all of that 70’s vibe and custom leather seats is a supercharged LS engine. The whine from the blower permeates the cabin when you stand on the gas.

RideTech – Your cars are always hyper-detailed, and completely over the top, is that by design?

Mike and Jim Ring – The details we incorporate are in the moment.  We start with a concept rendering and the build morphs from there.  It’s funny that you describe our cars as hyper-detailed.  We always feel like if we had more time, we’d do more. 

No two cars from Ringbrothers are alike. The interior on Recoil, a 1966 Chevelle carries a minimalist theme with upholstered elements that seem to float. The lightening holes and giant red battery cut-off switch scream “race car”.
Here is a look under the hood of “Defiant”, Prestone’s 1972 Javelin. Every millimeter of this engine bay has been carefully designed in CAD and detailed to the max. It’s not static art, though. With 1100 horsepower on tap, Defiant will happily turn tires into smoke and change zip codes in a hurry.

RideTech – What type of build is more challenging?

Jim and Mike Ring – Every build has its challenges, but the ones that are hardest are the Camaros and Mustangs. So many have been done and some very well – how to shake it up but stay true to the OE styling pushes us into unchartered waters.  With parts of the Javelin, we experimented with 3D design, CAD and machined molds to build parts of the car out of carbon.  This was a huge learning curve, but it was worth the agony.  Now the design possibilities seem endless.  We plan to apply this same process learned on the Javelin to a new’69 Camaro project. With this one we will mold the whole body including many interior aspects.  We’re very excited to be moving forward with more technology.

The purple light dancing across the hood of this 1969 Camaro. is from a 3D scanner. Ringbrothers capture baseline shapes, import the data into computers.  Once digitized, the team at Ringbrothers virtually “fabricate” components before generating prototypes. molds and finished parts.
Rapid prototyping and mold-making technology is plenty cool, but Ringbrothers rely on their fully-equipped fabrication shop for essential metal shaping.
Defiant is a showcase for the merging of digital prototyping technology as art. Ringbrothers were able to digitally tweak the car’s proportions and details, then create molds for finished parts. Defiant features RideTech coilovers to help Ringbrothers custom tailor ride and handling.

RideTech – Is there any specific build that you think will draw younger enthusiasts into our great hobby?

Jim and Mike Ring – We hope all our builds draw in the young bucks.  We’re all-American – maybe taking on a 280Z would hook that crowd.  We always enjoyed joy riding in our sister’s 280Z until Jim rolled it – we’d love to see what we could do with one of those now.   Last year, we built Clem 101, a 1956 Ford F-100.  It started off as a ‘shop truck’, but of course we couldn’t stop ourselves from keeping it simple.  We decided to sell it before a fight broke out over who’s garage it was going to live in.

From a distance, Clem 101, a 56 Ford F100 has a utilitarian “Shop Truck” vibe, but up close, its details really start to shine. We are particularly fond of the Lamborghini Countach-esque wheels and the way that the tires fill the wheel arches.

RideTech – Can you point to one or two custom car builders who inspired you?

One thing we love most about being car builders is spending time with other builders.  There’s a ton of talent out there that we respect and appreciate, but we are truly are grateful for knowing such good people from Troy Trepanier Bobby Alloway, Jeremy and Phil Gerber to Kyle Tucker and Alan Johnson.  Not only does the quality of their work top the charts, they are all great people whom we enjoy being around. 

Mike and Jim Ring participated in the 2017 SEMA Hot Rod Builder Panel organized by the Hot Rod Industry Alliance HRIA. They shared the spotlight with (from left) Bobby Alloway, Alan Johnson and Troy Trepanier.

RideTech – Do you still paint cars yourself or just oversee the process?

Mike and Jim Ring – We do all the body work and paint the cars ourselves.  Mike is the body guy around here and is a stickler for perfection.  He does so much sanding, bank robbers are jealous of his lack of fingerprints.

The secret to perfect paint is perfect body prep ..and that means sanding — lots of sanding. There is nothing glamorous or easy about the process. Mike Ring is seen here blocking a Mustang fastback.
The Rings still paint cars themselves using state of the art equipment. That allows them complete control over the timetable — which is important when a tight “reveal” deadline is looming.
  1. RideTech – When a build is “finished” what steps do you take to make sure the car is sorted before handing it over to its owner?

Jim and Mike Ring – Well, you know how slick new tires can be? We always make sure to burn off a few layers of fresh rubber outside the shop.  Then we hold our breath, cross our fingers, our legs and our toes and hope it starts when the owner sits in the driver’s seat.

Function is a primary design consideration in all Ringbrothers builds. The Defiant Javelin recenty returned from a media tour where countless test drives were given to car magazine journalist-types.

RideTech – Ridler and SMOY-type cars aside, do you think it is getting easier or more difficult for enthusiasts and shops to build cool cars?

The level of car building has gone completely over the top.  You spend a couple years building art, people look at it for two minutes and want to know what you’re doing next.  You could build the space shuttle and they’d say ‘nice, what’s next?’ Luckily, we can’t think of a better job.   

For Madam V, an over-the-top 49 Cadillac, Ringbrothers started with a brand new V-series Cadillac and retained all of the car’s cutting-edge technology. These days it’s difficult to keep raising the bar on custom car’s but Mike and Jim Ring are happy to keep trying..

RideTech – Speaking of awards, what are some of the awards that you have won? Name one award-winning build that stands out?

Mike and Jim Ring – The first time awards, like SMOY, Mother’s Shine, and Goodguys Gold awards are all super cool.  But the OE Design awards are the ones we covet.  To have those who design for a living acknowledge our work is the biggest compliment in the world. 

One of the most prestigious awards at the SEMA Show is the GM Design Award.  Ringbrothers has built a few 1969 Camaros, but this car, G-Code, stopped a lot of people in their tracks.  Built for a client who purportedly owns a CNC machining business, G-Code features some innovative design cues — many of which are carved from billet.
Ringbrohters built this 66 Chevelle called Recoil. The car looks like it just escaped from a race paddock. It too won a prestigious GM Design Award at the SEMA Show.

Links:

https://ringbrothers.com/

SEMA – GM Design Award

Video:

Hot Rod Builder Panel – by HRIA and hosted by Rick Love of Vintage Air, Inc.

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