AFTER 19 years dedicated to restoring and customising beautiful cars, a dream has come true for local craftsman Justin Hills.
A 1960 Dodge Phoenix he has been transforming for 13 months has just been named the 'H A Bagdasarian World's Most Beautiful Custom Car', at the prestigious Sacramento Autorama.
The win has catapulted Justin into the elite of the custom car world.
His name is now on a massive perpetual trophy alongside many of the 'legends' of the custom industry, including James Hetfield (Metallica rock star and car enthusiast) and John D'Agostino.
It means Justin is now a member of the Sacramento Autorama Hall of Fame and the car named 'Atom' will feature on the front cover of Rod & Custom Magazine USA and the next issue of Australia's "Cruzin" magazine.
But most of all it is, he hopes, a major boost to his career and his reputation in the industry.
Working on the car for over a year, transporting it to the US and travelling to motor shows there has been a costly and intense process.
He sent his first vehicle, a customised 1949 Buick titled 'Art Deco', to the US last year where it gained considerable success.
"I felt I had to try again this year, to keep the momentum going. It looks like it has paid off," Justin said, admitting he didn't publicise his hopes too much before the car was shipped to the US "in case I fell flat on my face".
The beautiful Dodge, a labour of love and many long days and late nights as the shipping deadline approached, won Top Radical Hardtop at the Grand National Roadster Show before moving on to the 63rd annual Sacramento Autorama.
It is a huge three day weekend show, with judging completed on the Friday. That evening Justin was gob-smacked to see the officials wheeling a massive eight foot high trophy towards his car.
The Dodge had been judged the world's most beautiful custom car. "We celebrated for about four days. It was unbelievable," he said.
What makes the win all the more amazing is that the Hills' entry was pitted against cars from some of the biggest and most cashed-up custom enthusiasts in the world.
The Dodge is now on display at Sacramento Vintage Ford (alongside a vehicle by John d'Agostino) and will be touring to Goodguys Rod and Custom Association shows at Pleasanton California, the Del Mar Nationals and the West Coast Custom Nationals.
Justin still can't quite believe the success the car has had, but for now is back in town and back to earth to spend some long-overdue time with his wife Sam and young family.
"They didn't see much of me when I was trying to get the car finished," he said.
However he hopes his family will be able to join him at the next Sacramento Autorama and hall of fame dinner. Justin will be a member of the Autorama hall of fame for life, and it is an honour he is proud to carry.