Andy Leach / Cal Automotive Creations Owner
It all started when I was 14 years old. My dad bought a finished 1934 Chevy. I fell in love with cars from that very moment. A few months later my dad helped me purchase my very first car – a 1937 Ford. My dad purchased a MIG welder, a bead roller, English wheel and a few other tools. From there I destroyed nearly every 49-54 Chevy shoebox in the Midwest. I did not go to school for anything car related I simply set up camp in my parents garage and figured it out. The neighbors always complained it sounded like a mean dentist lived next door with the grinder and cut off wheels constantly going. Our neighbor across the street, Ray Kennedy taught me how to weld and he helped feed this metal work addiction.
I started building a 52 Chevy business coupe with my father in the late 90s. Full tube chassis, hand made everything! Really cool car! My dad and I traveled all over to every big car show. This helped feed ideas for the 52 chevy business coupe and my shop I planned to start one day called CAL Creations. (CAL is my initals, My real name is Christopher A Leach). In the mean time I became good friends with many of the builders I looked up to in the magazines. In October of 2000 my father lost his battle with cancer. And shortly after I lost all interest in the 52 Chevy Coupe. Looking back I can’t believe I stopped on it but I lost my buddy. We had every major magazine stopping by the house in Papillion checking on progress of the car. I simply could not carry on with it anymore. Shortly after Troy Trepanier, Rad Rides by Troy, offered me a job from seeing photos of the 52. In early 2003 he called again and out of the blue I told him I will be there in 2 weeks. I moved to Manteno, IL and started at Rad Rides on April 13, 2003. I give Troy a lot of credit for taking me in under his wing and fine tuning my skills. I learned a lot from Troy and his Dad, Jack who was a father figure to all of us young guys who moved hundreds and thousands of miles away to build custom cars.
In late 2008 I returned home to Papillion. Stepped away from cars for a bit and took a welding job. I attempted to stay away from anything car related until one day I opened up Hot Rod Magazine at the grocery store and it was all over. In 2010 I met Ron Cizek. I was a single father raising my daughter. I began working on Ron’s 40 Ford coupe in my garage under my house. I’d get up in the mornings, take my daughter to day care (She was the first one there at 5:45 AM). Go to my welding job and struggle through the day knowing this was not what I wanted to do. My daughter Madysen was the last to be picked up as I would race across town to get her right at 6 PM. We would go home and eat, watch a movie and as soon as she went to bed I would go in the garage and work on the 40 as long as I could. And start the process all over again the next day. It’s what I had to do to survive. Until one late night I had a saved email to Ron saying I want to work on the 40 full-time. I must have had a drink in me cause I looked at the saved draft almost every night afraid to hit send. For some reason I hit send that night. Literally 30 seconds later Ron calls me. He said, that was the best email I ever got. Meet me in Bennington at 9 AM the next morning. So, I skipped work and met Ron and we came up with a plan that I could build the 40 in this little shop he had rented. And that’s what I did.
I quite my job right then and there and never felt bad about it! I started working on the car that day in and day out. A couple months later Ron stopped by one day and said “man, you are dedicated to this.” I responded “yes, this is what love to do!” He responded I will help you start a company. Build the 40 how you want. In fact, let’s take it to Detroit. So then and there is when Checkered Past was born. Ron showed me the ropes of business and I appreciate everything he has done for me! I started completely over on Ron’s 40. Cutting every square inch of metal out of the car and hand making everything.
In 2013 we finished the car and loaded it up in the trailer 2 days late, dog tired and off to Detroit we went. Not knowing what or where my life was going to go after the weekend. With less than $10 to my name I sat in the awards ceremony scared of what was gonna happen. I had no idea what was in store. As they came to the Ridler award announcement I sat and almost had a break down. Then it came. As soon as they said 1940 my life had changed. I do not remember much after that. Monday morning we started back home with my phone ringing non-stop. I had no idea how these magazines, and companies got my number. It was constant. That sunday evening in Detroit was a fork in the road! I put nearly 60k miles on the truck and trailer that year showing the 40 all over the country. Somehow this had worked!
In 2014 I started dating my wife Annali. We met a couple years prior. I played hard to get, until she agreed to go to a car show with me and this welder guy she thought she knew turned out to be a car guy building cars. In 2015 we got married. A lot of credit goes to her as she is the brains in the operation. And the one that has taught me balance in life and so much more! Couldn’t do this without her! Fast forward to 2019 and my shop Cal Automotive Creations is stacked with builds. We have over 18 builds going at any given time.
I have an amazing shop of dedicated employees. It’s been a crazy ride! Looking forward to the next stage as we are gearing up for some pretty big things!