Maritime mechanic follows wild imagination into world of custom cars
Art comes in many shapes and forms. Some artists turn to paint and canvas while others use clay, but Chad Hiltz prefers steel.
As a young man, Hiltz drifted from job to job, eventually being fired from every position he took. It wasn’t until he decided to use his creativity to earn a living that he found success.
As the owner of Green Goblin Customs in Canning, N.S., Hiltz’s unique visions come to life on four wheels.
“It is art, it is an expression of myself,” says Hiltz. “You know I don't have to do what Detroit says I have to do. I do what I want to do.”
The 43-year-old and his two employees concentrate mostly on standard customs to pay the bills, but Hiltz has a passion for much more radical designs.
He says cars should look like they came out of a Hot Wheels package.
“It's gotta be cool,” says Hiltz. “I don't care if it's hard to drive, or hard on my ass, just as long as it looks cool going down the road. That's all that matters.”
Hiltz has been in the custom game for just six years.
His father owned a garage when he was a boy, but California customs legend Gene Winfield is his role model and mentor today.
“I never thought about cutting a car apart and doing something like that, but he showed me. Who wants a stock car? Let's cut it apart and make something out of it,” says Hiltz.
Winfield has designed cars for Hollywood movies like Blade Runner and Robocop and 1960s TV shows like Batman and Star Trek.
In 2012, Winfield came to Canning to paint a Hiltz creation called Cruella DeVille.
“He's a legend in the car world. He's 86 years old, for him to fly in here and spend the time here and paint the car, it was quite an honour actually,” says Hiltz.
Hiltz names all of his creations. His first custom job was a 1960 Chrysler called the Bat Out of Hell. He also designed a bubble-topped 1934 Ford known as The Canning Kid and, of course, there is his beloved Green Goblin.
The Green Goblin took Hiltz six months to build and is not so much one car, but two.
“It was a '62 Chrysler 4-door and I had a '74 Cutlass, so what I've done is welded all the doors shut and welded the fenders on. I've taken the engine out of a Cadillac 500 and put the Cadillac engine in the back,” says Hiltz. “Then the '74 Cutlass roof on the front fenders.”
Hiltz’s talent is beginning to draw a lot of attention.
The curious pull into his driveway every day and a local production company has already shot a pilot episode for a TV show about Hiltz.
While a little fame is always nice, Hiltz says it’s all about the cars.
“There's not a better feeling than building a car, driving it down the road, having a good-looking woman by your side and having everybody looking at ya,” says Hiltz.
“Those who beat their own drum shape the world and I’m going to shape my part of the world.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jayson Baxter