By Tony Parra
Homegrown in Portales, Ron Knowles has returned to his roots and planted a new vehicle custom-designing shop for enthusiasts.
Ron Knowles, who has lived most of his life in Portales and has custom designed vehicles since the mid-1980s, opened his new shop, After Flash Custom Trucks, in early February.
“I started when I was a kid, rebuilding bikes and go-carts,” Knowles said about his love for custom-building. “As I got older I worked my way up to cars, pickups and semi-trucks.”
Knowles said it’s not your typical nine-to-five job. He said he often works 12-hour shifts, sometimes from 10 a.m. until midnight. Knowles said he used to work eight-hour shifts at a meat-cutting plant.
“I would come home exhausted after an eight-hour shift (cutting meat),” Knowles said. “This (custom-designing) doesn’t feel like work. I love it and have a passion for it. I want to just have a break to eat and then go back.”
Knowles worked for a year with Hill’s Hot Rods of Lubbock. According to Truckin’ magazine, Hill’s Hot Rods of Lubbock is well-known for C10s, a Chevrolet model from 1973 to 1987.
In fact, Knowles was part of the team which helped custom-build a 1985 Chevy C10 which is featured in several issues of Truckin’ magazine as the Red Rocker Project. The Red Rocker Project shows the different phases of rebuilding the Chevy C10. Knowles worked with Jason Hill, Nathan Hunter, Randall Tharp and Corey Jilek on the Red Rocker project. Knowles said Jilek is also from Portales.
The Red Rocker has custom bright red paint with yellow flames on each side of the pickup. The pickup features a Corvette-style console, dash and rear cab area. Knowles said the Red Rocker was highlighted in the Specialty Equipment Market Association convention in Las Vegas.
Knowles said the SEMA convention is held annually in November and its members are manufactures, distributors, retailers, publishing companies, auto restores, street rod builders and race teams, according to the SEMA Web site.
The SEMA trade show unveils their latest offerings, while buyers, distributors and members of the press are allowed to view the vehicles, according to the SEMA Web site.
Knowles and his nephew, Justin Hardin, of Portales, will be working on their own project to take to the SEMA trade show. They will be rebuilding a 1982 Chevy C10, which was owned by Knowles’ late brother, Dennis (a.k.a. Flash) Knowles. Knowles said his brother, who was eight years older than Ron, died in 1997.
“I always looked up to him,” Knowles said. “My nephews all feel the same way. He didn’t have a lot of money and was self-taught. We lost a friend and a mentor when he died.”
Knowles said he would like to have the pickup rebuilt and completed by September, a couple of months before the SEMA trade show in Las Vegas.
“Both (Ron and Dennis) of them were a great influence on me and everything I’ve ever done,” Hardin said. “I like to put my mark on everything.”
Hardin said he helps out with custom-designing and also helps his father with farming and ranching.
Knowles said he specializes in the mechanical suspension and all of the metal work. He said he hires someone to do the graphic designs and someone to do the paint work.
Knowles was part of the rebuilding team which put together six custom vehicles featured in magazines and two custom vehicles were featured on the cover of two magazines: The Red Rocker on Truckin’ Magazine and a blue 1978 Chevy Blazer with a fully molded hard top on StreetTrucks Magazine. Knowles said the 1978 Chevy Blazer was displayed at the 2004 Heritage Days celebration in Portales.