The Many Shades of KC Mathieu
It was cold and grey day in Everman, Texas, when Rich Buckley and I made our way to catch up with KC, and only the long, thick tread marks in the parking lot from past burnouts hinted to the horsepower hidden behind the bay doors of KC’s Paint Shop. Inside the shop was bright, clean and busy, with guys working every stage of a hot rod build in parallel projects and timelines. There was metal fab work being welded, chassis and suspension work coming together, wiring harnesses being installed, and final buffing of the Austin Speed Shop Zephyr all taking place that day. No TV producers, no sound crew, only one in-house camera person, no artificial deadlines and no Richard Rawlings—so how or why did one of the most popular, talented and earliest members of the Gas Monkey team, and the Fast N’ Loud show, end-up in the same business just ninety minutes from Dallas but for all intents and purposes, worlds apart?
KC quickly had to face an open issue as the popularity of Fast N’ Loud grew: KC’s personal brand of show quality paint he had already spent more than a decade developing that didn’t match what was being produced by Gas Monkey. At the height of the show, KC had to decide if the product he was going to be known for was the Gas Monkey fast flips or award-winning paint. KC is quick to thank Richard, the other monkeys, and the tv show for giving him global recognition, but he wanted to return to being his own boss/brand/company.
We all have heard the justification for people leaving a high-profile position to spend more time with their family. With KC, this wasn’t just a statement to hide behind; it was 100% the truth. He has two young kids and the long commute from Burleson to Dallas, long days in the shop, and challenges of work multiplied by a tv production crew was taking a toll on his young family. He now runs a business with his wife and he gets to see his kids perform in their local dance competitions and band concerts. KC is more likely to be seen at a Burleson City Council meeting than a night club. His home life is more about the kids, Peta (the dog), Quakers (the duck), Elvis (the chicken) and #2 their favorite cow from the herd. His wife Kasey (aka Boss Kasey) is well, the boss. She is helping the KC enterprise expand while staying focused on the bottom line. (Kasey was diagnosed in 2018 with Scleroderma. It’s a painful and scary condition—we are wishing her the very best.)
“On the show, he was the comic relief and at times, the reality to the over-the-top world created by Rawlings that we and the show needed, as paint only dries, so fast,” said Aaron Kaufman, owner of ArcLight Fab, about his longtime friend and coworker at Gas Monkey Garage. “In person, he is reserved, loyal, and witty--less the constant joker as the show portrayed him as. KC still has that infectious joy for life, sweet dance moves and love of donuts, (both doughy and smoky) but now it comes out when he’s with his family, close friends, or behind the wheel of — well behind the wheel of anything. KC is a hell of a driver, too.”
The work ethic that had him painting cars by the age of 12, has KC diversifying within the industry. In 2018, he opened, KC’s Car Wash, KC’s Garage, and KC’s Lube Center, in partnership with Valvoline. He also became a commercial property manager in his hometown. He is focused on bringing his brand of high-quality work to these businesses. He oversees the training and daily work of the lube center the same way he manages the mega builds at the Paint Shop. He recently launched KC’s Detail Shop in partnership with Adam’s Polishes because seeing a car transition from rough and weathered to smooth and polished puts him in his Zen place. So after long hours at the shop he de-stresses by detailing cars and trucks, transforming them through paint correction and deep cleaning. So basically, to destress from a long day of working on cars, KC works on cars.
“I’m living the dream getting to build the cars and trucks that I love, but the restoration/hot rod business is not easy,” says KC. “By diversifying across businesses I know, within the town I grew up in, I hope to bring a level of quality and service that creates a business that is profitable enough to sustain my family, the families who work for me, and give back to the community.”
KC spends a lot of time researching and testing new products. His partnerships are more focused on research and development than sponsorships. He has developed a line of black (with 8 different hues) for R-M BASF. He is about as loyal to SATA as he is to Ford: it’s not a partnership for him; it’s a religion. He love’s Adams Polishes but also partnered with RUPES for the buffing products because he sees the difference in the two products for their application benefits. He is currently working with Adams to develop a commercial car wash product because he believes they can improve the industry standard industrial wash products from the function to the smell—so you may soon be able to have the high-end Adams Polishes at his car wash center. (Personally, I hope it’s done soon enough to leverage the sugar cookie scent – it’s pretty much heaven in the form of car soap.)
KC’s 68 Ford F100 is almost as famous and recognizable as KC himself. The video, Red Morning, featuring KC and his truck now has over 3 million views on youtube. Amazingly the paint work was done during the Fast N’ Loud days and it was never wet-sanded as time never afforded that next level treatment to the paint work. In 2014, KC blew apart the build from Gas Monkey and upgraded the suspension and engine. In 2017, he took it all apart and is in the process of upgrading everything again—this time it will get the paint job it deserves, plus upgrades to the power plant, minor body modifications and now has a new Roadster Shop chassis. But this time it will be “Fast and Quiet” as he is working on complex system to dampen the sound while not choking Whipple supercharged Ford Coyote motor. Is this a sign of maturity? Maybe, but more likely it’s because he plans to drive it a lot and wants to be able to talk to his passenger when crushing the small-town roads he lives on.
He has 4 big builds that should be headed out the door early in 2019. He hopes to increase the number of cars he is painting each year. He is shifting away from ground up mega builds to doing only a few a year but painting more cars from other shops he partners with. You can stay up to date with KC’s Paint Shop and their builds on his Instagram channels and on his youtube channel. In 2019 he plans to drive, not trailer, his freshly built 1968 F100 to SEMA.