There’s a little-known fact about Mitch Lanzini to the casual customer, paint admirer or fan of Overhaulin’—he considers himself a musician before a painter. He first picked up a guitar in middle school and made his way into the neon- and Spandex-splattered scene of Sunset Strip in the 80s.
“We were a metal band, of course, a cross between AC/DC, The Scorpions, Judas Priest,” he says. “It was all Marshall amps and long hair. I played lead guitar and to this day I still like noodling around on the Stratocaster.”
His band’s name was Apocalypse, and though apocryphal stories of Whiskey a Go-Go burnouts abound from that era, Lanzini wasn’t one of them. Instead, he and his wife Tara founded Lanzini Body Works in 1993 and haven’t looked back. Still, there’s plenty of harmony from guitarist to painter, Sunset Strip to spray booth.
“There’s a big crossover between guitar playing and painting. I’ve painted dozens of guitars with automotive paint, and Fender still uses those automotive colors from when Leo Fender would head to the auto shop and ask, ‘what’s hot’ ?”
To Lanzini, that line is thinner than most people anticipate.
“The same is true I think between custom painting and traditional painting and refinishing,” he says. “The guy who does ten cars a day and has all the booths loaded up is a creative guy—he’s an artist and simply has a different palette than his colleagues in custom. But all painters are customizers at heart. Everybody likes to do cool stuff, graphics and flames and difficult tapeouts.”
Lanzini notes that whether a musician, fine artist or concert pianist, they all use the same side of the brain. The same is true of today’s automotive painters. “The most nutty and time-consuming pieces are similar—just the media changes,” he says.
“Refinish is an art and a science. It’s jazz and chemistry all at once.”
Overhaulin’ The Industry
For Lanzini, the underlying truth of it all is to pursue what you love.
“Go for it,” he says, whether it’s paint or music or healthcare or business—just go for it.
Zooming out on the industry a bit, Lanzini makes clear that it’s a great job for passionate people, and that does mean everybody.
“It’s amazing to see the growth of the industry through the women making waves and to see it from their perspective and from their viewpoint,” he says. “They take their work to the limit and take it seriously and do a great job. It’s no longer a male or female industry; it’s just an industry, so go out and get it. Women may have a better eye for color; many of the women in the industry are just poised to succeed more. What the women of Girls Behind the Gun have accomplished and advocated for is nothing short of phenomenal.”
Lanzini enjoys what his Discovery Channel show, Overhaulin’, has become and represents for the industry.
“It’s encouraging another generation and we want to show what’s possible,” he says. He also regards the show as a bit of a fail-safe against the ongoing technician, painter and vocational shortage. As more high schools find funding to push tech and science, vocational training has fallen by the wayside. That void is creating opportunity for those passionate enough to follow what they love, however; it’s an imperfect process, but everything is when you’re young. It’s something to get used to, Lanzini says.
“In paint, nothing is perfect, but if you did your best and your best is better than everybody else’s, you’ll be in pretty good shape. If you don’t love cars or eat/sleep paint, this isn’t the business for you. It’s not just a job. If you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life, of course. Pride in your workmanship yields better results for everyone.”
“Be passionate about your craft and you’ll improve peoples’ lives,” he says. “You’ll never know if you don’t try.”
Today, Lanzini Body Works has worked with everyone from Jimmie Johnson to Christopher Titus, been featured on all five seasons of the television show Overhaulin', been published in numerous magazines and books, and has even seen some of his paint work turned into collectible Hot Wheels.
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