Mitch Lanzini Extends his Art from Toy Cars to Overhaulin’

Custom painter Mitch Lanzini of Lanzini Body Works in Huntington Beach, CA, began his career polishing and showing off his toy cars. As a kid, for Lanzini the Batmobile on TV exemplified hot rods and custom cars, and by high school he was using cans of spray paint on bicycles and motorcycles. At 21, he customized his first vehicle, his own Datsun truck, that earned him his first magazine cover. Today, Mitch, 54, has more than 30 years experience in the business, has been featured on many more magazine covers, and has owned Lanzini Body Works with his wife, Tara, for 20 years.

You could say Mitch was born to be an artist. His grandfather Angelo Lanzini was a renowned painter and sculptor in Italy.  “Mitch comes from a long line of artists in his family,” said Tara. “It’s in his blood. His grandfather painted portraits for two U.S. presidents and was commissioned to paint the Pope’s portrait which still hangs in the Vatican today. Angelo’s three sons, including Mitch’s dad, were all artists too.”

Like a typical body shop, Lanzini Body Works does collision repair and exterior custom painting work in a 4,500 square-foot space. What’s not so usual is some of the other work they do, like custom painting interior pieces for a prototype airplane that will be featured in the Hamburg Air Show in Germany in March. Other custom painting and designing jobs have included ambulances, surf boards, guitars, race cars, bowling pins, motorcycles, kids’ pedal cars and their own line of roller derby skate wheels.

However, building and restoring hot rods is their main line of business. Their two favorite projects are their own cars, a gold 1933 Speedstar coupe and a purple 1932 Zipper Roadster. The coupe, Mitch said, is “a piece of rolling art” because many of the parts are handmade. After working some 300 hours on the body, he spent 24 hours straight painting it. Over the course of his career, Mitch figures he’s custom painted nearly 200 show-stopping cars.

“What I love about painting cars is that it really is a true form of art.” But getting to the painting means hundreds of hours of prep time has already been spent. “Even if you’ve done everything right, things can still go wrong,” said Mitch. “You’ve put so much time into a car for so long, and when the day comes where you’re actually mixing paint and suiting up to go into the booth, you cross your fingers and pray to the paint gods that nothing goes wrong. Because there are days when things do go wrong that didn’t go wrong the day before, and any painter who tells you he hasn’t had that day is a liar,” Mitch said. “A little speck of dust can ruin hours of prep work. Today’s painters have to be part chemist and part weatherman because so many things can go wrong.”

His current paint preference is BASF Onyx, and for clears and primers, he uses Young’s House of Klear. “The gloss factor of the clears are amazing and the other products are very user-friendly, affordable and mix well,” Mitch said. He also likes the universal flattening agent that is “outstanding.” In addition to cars, he uses the House of Klear products on high-profile artwork he does for an expressionist artist because “the clear looks amazing under gallery lights.”

Between 2004–2009, the Lanzini shop was featured in the Velocity network TV reality show Overhaulin’ where the concept of the show was to ‘borrow or steal’ an old,  tired or antique car and restore it in one week and return it as a surprise to its owner. The body and paint work was done at Lanzini Body Works, where 25 episodes of the popular car make-over show was filmed.

“It was great to do the show, but also really challenging because during filming, all the other work in our shop came to a halt, and working non-stop meant a lot of sleepless nights,” Mitch said. “On Overhaulin’, if the car was ready to paint at 2 a.m., you painted the car at 2 a.m. We worked through many sleepless nights, but as crazy as it sounds, the best paint jobs I’ve done were done in the middle of the night when I was sleep deprived.”

When the producers of the show first approached Mitch with the concept and asked if he wanted to be involved, Mitch admits he didn’t think it was possible to completely restore a car in just one week. He thought the show would be a train wreck but, of course, he wanted in. The very first makeover was a Chevelle and it came into Mitch’s shop a mess—a bare metal body full of rust and holes. When the body work was done, Mitch spent all night painting the car, and when the tow truck showed up at 6 a.m., they sent the driver out for coffee while they walked around the car with heat lamps. “The paint was still wet when the car rolled away,” Mitch said. “It was an intense build.” And that was just the first of many. That’s when Mitch got the wake up call that doing the show wasn’t going to be easy by any means, and so he asked the producers to rotate filming amongst other shops.

Automobile designer Chip Foose hosted the show, which ran for five seasons, and has now returned for its sixth season. Foose is Mitch’s neighbor, close friend and also has a shop nearby. “Chip is probably one of my best friends and someone I respect more than most. We always have so much fun hanging out and working together because we’re like two little kids who just love to create things. He’s been around cars his whole life too, so we have a lot in common and a lot of fun together.”

Some of Mitch’s celebrity customers include comedian Christopher Titus who had his own FOX show, and race car driver Jimmie Johnson. However, Lanzini Body Works gives everyone who walks in their doors the same level of attention and painting excellence.

“The day I know everything as a painter is the day I will retire,” Mitch said. “As of now, that hasn’t happened, and it probably won’t for a long time to come.”

Lanzini Body Works Inc.
17901 Sampson Lane
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Phone - (714) 375-2828
Fax - (714) 375-2830
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.