Sean Puz's "Excalibur" Custom Hand Built Hot Rod
(from Volume 27, Issue 323)

story by Sean Puz, photos by Michael B. Kelly


My name is Sean Puz, and I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All throughout my childhood I was fascinated by art. I would draw pictures often. When I was very young, my father started to race on local dirt tracks. Obviously he had the passion for cars. I immediately developed the same passion as well. Many times in school I would draw pictures in class. I distinctly remember a teacher yelling at me for doing so. She said “Mr. Puz, you can’t go through your life drawing pictures”. Jokes on her! That’s exactly what I do, and I have been able to earn a handsome living by doing so. As a child, while at some local dirt tracks I would take clay that had been thrown into seating areas from the race cars and would shape that into small cars in order play with them. Ironically, I do the same now but in metal.

During the school years I would help my father repair cars for his living. We did everything from frame and rust repair, to engine overhauls - almost everything. This is where my background started. After high school, a very hard time for me due to family separation issues, I started full time work in many entry level jobs in automotive and construction fields. Eventually I ended up a union equipment operator. This afforded me the time and resources to purchase a home and start to equip a shop. I started designing and building my own furniture and accessories due to what I wanted, wasn’t available. This ended up leading to a friend of mine opening a bar/restaurant and wanting some of this type of metalwork in his establishment. I jumped all over that opportunity. This ended up being a huge step in my life. This bar opened and was very popular bringing in many people from all over. Some of those customers were a group of people from a new local general contractor company. They inquired about the source of the metalwork and were told it was me. They immediately contacted me and I began to do jobs for their company. That was the official start of Metal Shop Designs. This work load enabled me to transition to full time self employment. Within a couple years, I outgrew the 2 car garage at my home and moved into a 40x80 shop within a few miles of my house.

Things were going well enough to start racing. I did that for a couple years but realized it was a very large strain on the shop, family, and finances (which I knew already from my father’s experience). But I did it anyway. So, I decided to stop racing and build a hot rod to try and “curb the appetite”. I did a full chassis S-10 truck. During that build, I happened to find a 1936 Chevy truck for sale. So I purchased it. This was my first rat rod. After that truck was done, and the next one - a complete hand made truck of my own design, I finally felt like I found the niche I was looking for in the auto market. That was the start of Bad Ass Rat Rods. By this time, my third build was complete and I was enjoying driving the builds everywhere. Next was another big life event.

So over time, I heard about a rat rod show in Gulfport, Mississippi called the Atomic Blast. In the mean time work was good enough to relocate from Pittsburgh to central Florida, as much of my work was in the south. So one day I saw an advertisement about the Atomic Blast, and now I was only 8 hours away rather than 20. I decided to take the full custom build I named RATIcal. To the Show. I didn’t know a soul there, but this crowd and participants treated me like royalty. I ended up winning Best of Show and was presented a huge hand made trophy. The main organizer, Stephanie Lea had taken my contact info at some point. Fast forward to a year and a half later. I get a phone call out of the clear blue from Stephanie, who proceeded to ask if I was interested in doing the RATIcal Rod Buildoff, Drive Off. I thought about it and decided it was definitely a bucket list item in my life, so I accepted the challenge. Enter, iL Capo, the radically altered 1936 Packard. This build worked well enough to win me the world champion title in 2019.

After that build, I decided to actually head a new direction in auto building. 1 of One Customs was born! The first and current project is named “Excalibur”, after the sword and knights in shining armor. It is a total hand made truck from all polished aluminum and stainless steel. This is my biggest challenge yet! This build was also brought on by the decision to defend my RATical Rod Buildoff, world champion title. I figured go big or go home. So I went big. I designed and built this almost entirely by myself with the help of my very understanding and beautiful wife, Donna. This decision enabled us to win the world championship again. Back to back champs! This is no easy task though. Contestants only have a 10 month window to build. We rose to the challenge and we were successful, even through the pandemic. Since then, I have been improving the vehicle in order to have it displayed at SEMA. I still have a lot to do, but this is where we are at this point.

Now for some details. As mentioned, it has an all aluminum body structure and skin, a polished stainless steel tubular chassis and suspension, and an all aluminum 6.2 liter LS3 making 540hp. Fuel is stored in a custom aluminum tank and delivered to an AED Competition fuel system with a custom made carburetor. It is coupled to a BLR 700R4 transmission, sporting a Boss Hog 2,700 stall torque converter, then mated to a Frankland racing quick change rear end. So the engine, transmission, and rear are on a swing arm/cradle. I’m pretty proud of how that and all the other ideas are working. We used an Optima yellow top battery to crank up, and Stainless Works custom exhaust to exit the fire. To keep all that nice and cool we have a complete Derale Performance cooling system. I chose them because they’re the best in the business. Having a radiator in the back is a monumental challenge here in Florida. But not to worry, Derale is still victorious. Also I designed and developed a custom hydraulic ride height control. This enables the truck to lay flat on the ground, and then be able to raise up to 8 inches high if needed. After the ride height is set, the O’hlins USA double adjustable coil over suspension handles the bumps like no other.

One thing I personally did not make are the wheels. But Vahlco racing sure did! These are also custom made just for this build. Mounted on those true bead lock wheels are Hoosier tires. For stopping, we have a full Wilwood brake set up and BrakeQuip stainless steel hard and soft brake lines. Steering starts from a short Ididit tilt steering column down to the Sweet Manufacturing dirt late model rack and pinion and on to my hand made spindles. The front axle is laser cut, hand made and mirror polished as well. All lighting is LED, including the Harley-Davidson “daymaker” head lights with the exception of the shortened Dodge Challenger tail lights. We are using a custom set of SoCal gauges nestled into a full custom aluminum dash. The interior is only basic at this point but will receive much attention in the next couple months.

Time for some thanks. First, God for the talent and ability to chase my dreams. My wife Donna, since she puts up with a lot, LOL. My beautiful daughter Alexis as my coach, inspiration, and media guru. Aaron Thesing for the kicking sound system, wiring and help. Toolco Inc. for unbelievable CNC machining and laser cutting. Trulers measuring devices. Precise Racing Products. Baileigh Industrial- couldn’t build without it. Paul Townsend design. Bad Apple Designs. Metal Shop Designs. Blue Haven lounge (Harmar, Pa). Full Throttle Sloonshine. Borgeson, and Zephyr shine. Without help from sponsors, friends, and family, these builds would not have had the same end result. I also really appreciate the followers and supporters. I plow new roads with my builds. Some like it, some don’t. People don’t like change, I have my share of negativity and disrespect. Rest assured though, I’m not gonna stop and will keep putting 1 of One Customs on the roads. CN