As The Birfield Turns
The Utah Cruiser Chronicle
By Kurt Williams
"...the incestuous world of Cruiser shops in SLC" - dmc
The players... their shops... and their roles.
The story starts as local Cruiserheads Mark W. and Dave M. got together with the intention of parting out a couple of rusty Land Cruisers in the early 1980's. Both had been bit by the Cruiser bug and finding spare parts before the days of the internet was often a daunting task. They quickly realized the potential market and soon open their first shop in a storage unit on 3300 South and approximately 300 East (Davis Center) in Salt Lake City. Cruiser Engineering was officially born.
As their business grew and customers slowly found their way to the start-up shop, it was time to find a bigger location with more room to accommodate their growing inventory of parts vehicles. In 1984 they landed in a shop off on 2700 South at 369 East, just a few blocks north of their earlier arrangement. They moved once again to their final location on 4th west in Salt Lake City sometime in the early 90's.
As business expanded they hired on several new employees, Darrell N., Anitol O., and Dave J. (DJ) to name a few. They had all come to work at Cruiser Engineering through the tight knit society that Cruisers always seem to induce. They were young, loved wrenching on Cruisers, what could be a better gig?
In about 1992, Cruiser Engineering founders Mark and Dave went their separate ways. Dave stuck with Cruiser Engineering and Mark started a fabrication shop (Innovative Fabrication with partner??) just a few blocks south near Franklin Covey Stadium. Before long, past Cruiser Engineering employee Anitol moved into the shop and the two formed a new Cruiser specialty shop. The official name of their business is unknown, I've been told it was either "Custom Cruisers" or possible "Offroad Engineering, " a shop I will discuss later on.
Several months later, Darrell started working across the drive from Mark and Anitol in a rundown building. Mark partnered up with Darrell and Cruiser Outfitters had its humble beginnings, taking the unwanted jobs from the shops across the street. In about 1995 Anitol left his partnership with Mark and started Offroad Engineering with Ash and Ashley? up in North Salt Lake, they closed their doors for the the last time in 2005.
Mark and Darrell ran the place together, did some of the first cut & turns, re-skins, some truly cool stuff back in the day. Mark lost his spark for Cruisers, started an "art business" and Innovative Fabrication (general fabrication shop) and Darrell took over the companies debt in exchange for the company (This was in 95' - 96'ish). Darrell ran it for the next 7 years until he sold it in the end of 2001 to me (Kurt Williams). As of 1/1/02 I was officially doing the Cruiser Outfitters thing and we have continued to grow each year.
Not long after Anitol and Darrell left Cruiser Engineering, DJ also left and took a job at Advance 4WD with Randy R. DJ would spend 3 or so years there before starting "DJ's Traction Systems" in the Murray area (50th South & 3rd West), 3 years later he would move just several blocks south of Cruiser Outfitters. The building DJ moved into was actually supposed to be another Cruiser shop Desert Highland Land Cruisers owned by local Cruiserheads Tres S. & Andy W. (Andy later worked for Cruiser Outfitters, All Pro in California, Marlin Crawler and later Proffitts Cruisers at their Tooele location). Their partnership failed before they ever opened the door and Tres instead worked for DJ for over 2 years. Tres S. later started a Cruiser shop called TLCAS with the Gee family in 1999.
The TLCAS Land Cruiser business ran out of a Midvale car dealership (approximately 80th South & State Street) until late 2006 when they closed the doors on their Land Cruiser parts sales and car dealership. Tres left TLCAS in early 2001 and shortly thereafter started Outback Cruisers located in Coalville. Outback Cruisers ran from early/mid 2001 (He came to the WC BBQ as a company in mid 2002) - mid 2002 when he left his shop in Coalville (the old Crandall Ford building) and was working out of his house in Coalville doing primarily used parts internet sales for a few months. Outback Cruisers officially closed its doors to walk in business in 2003 and continues to do used parts internet only sales until this day. Tres still has a fairly substantial collection of parts vehicles and used parts, a great resource.
In December, 2010 the Utah based Larry H. Miller Group acquired a controlling interest in Proffitts Cruisers, originally a Colorado native company. Proffitts Cruisers was started by Jeremiah Proffitt in the early 2000's and grew from a one-man shop to major player in the Land Cruiser restoration and modification business. Proffitts Cruisers open their Salt Lake location at the Miller Motorsports Park in the spring of 2011. In the fall of 2012 the Colorado location was closed for good and all their parts and projects were moved to the Tooele location. In the spring of 2013 Proffitts Cruisers closed the doors on the Tooele location.
Now, that is just the Land Cruiser specific businesses. About once a year one of the local 4x4 shops starts to 'specialize' in Land Cruisers. By specialize they often see the often high prices Land Cruisers fetch at auction and sites such as eBay and they decide they should hop on the wagon. They quickly realize that the world of Land Cruisers and more precisely their owners, it is really a pretty tight knit group. They buy, sell and swap parts from each other. They get together to work on rigs and of course use them out on the trails. This isn't something you can 'specialize' in by stocking a couple of Land Cruiser parts on your website, you have to be a part of the community to earn the trust, respect and ultimately the hard earned dollar of the Land Cruiser community. I'm thankful to be part of such a great Land Cruiser community, both here in Utah and around the globe as well. Cruiser Outfitters is proud to have customers in all 50 states and countries all over the world. I've had the opportunity to drive Land Cruisers on 4 continents and I'm hoping to bag a fifth soon. In all my travels I've never experienced a more instant bond than Land Cruisers. While it is just a vehicle or bandwagon to some, it is a way of life to Cruiserheads. As we like to say, we drive Cruiser wagon's, not hop on the Cruiser wagon. There is a difference.
More to come...
See something factually inaccurate? Missing? Know another piece of the story? Let me know. I've done my best to get a hold of all of the players in the scene but there a few I would love to talk to. If you know how to get a hold of any of the old Cruiserheads, let me know as I would love to interview them.