Harden jokes with Teel using an air hose to give himself an afro. “It’s like Saint Benard fur,” Harden said. Harden started working at the shop last May. He has been doing bodywork since he was 14. “He’s a pain in the ass sometimes,” Teel said about Harden. “But he’s fun. He’s a good guy. I learn a lot from him."
Howard checks on Teel’s progress on a 69’ Camaro for a local customer. “I probably wouldn’t change it,” Teel said. “But working with him can get on my nerves just because he’s my dad.”
Area 51 Cuztomz is a body shop that rebuilds and restores vintage cars in Marshall, Mo. The shop was opened in 2008 by Mick Howard and is managed by his son, Ryan Teel, 26 and James Harden, 34.
Teel and Harden are able to finish one to two cars per year. There are currently seven vehicles in the shop waiting to be restored. Howard just hired two more employees so they’re hoping the production will double.
Harden grinds a piece for the back of a 69’ Camaro. Harden never went to college for bodywork. “This isn’t the kind of thing where you can just read a book,” Harden said. “You learn by trial and error.”
Teel picks on Harden while he puts on a wheel. “It can be painstakingly fun at times,” Harden said about working with Teel. “It can also be a pain in the butt.”
Harden marks his sockets and keeps track of what’s missing in his toolbox. Over the past ten or so years, Harden has invested around 65,000 dollars in his toolbox and tools.
Harden and Teel work together on a 69’ Camaro. Harden, who has more experience with bodywork, was offered a job with Larry Larson, owner of the fastest streetcar in the world and will be featured on The Discovery Channel, in Oak Grove, Mo., but decided to turn it down because he wants to see Area 51 Cuztomz succeed. Even though he turned it down, to mess with Teel he made him think he was going to take it.
Teel takes a 46’ Chevy Mizzou-themed pickup to get inspected. The project took eight months and was for Roger Gregory, a local farmer and his son, Kurtis Gregory, a retired MU football player. “She purrs like a little kitten.” Teel said.
Teel and his girlfriend and Harden and his wife hangout at a bonfire outside the shop. Harden and Teel are friends outside of work.