As a kid, he liked to take apart a model car, plane, anything mechanical. He doesn’t remember “not” doodling in art class at school. “God gave me a talent, I found it and used it,” says Tampa native Ronnie Setser, who likes to describe himself as a painter, an airbrush artist and pin stripper. He also runs a body shop and hosts car shows regularly. And oh yes, he loves to hula hoop.
When he was just 16 years of age, Setser took up a job at a paint and body shop. Three years later, he quit and began Ronnie Setser’s Customs at 732½ N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. Over the last 30 years, he figures he has averaged two cars daily for custom paint jobs. “The body work pays you because you fix the car and deliver,” he says. “But custom work is my passion. There isn’t money in it but you put your soul into it. You get recognition for it.”
And credit he has had plenty. He’s been featured in nearly every automotive magazine. He specifically mentions Tony Stewart’s Indy car he painted, as well as several television giveaway vehicles and promotion cars for radio stations such as Q105, 98 Rock, Power Pig, U92 and 95YNF. Now, he can afford to pick jobs. “I try to work when I want to, not because I have to,” he says.
Then there are the car shows he holds – “The Best of the Best” Car & Truck Show on the first Saturday of the month at Green Iguana, 2522 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; Car & Truck Show, the last Saturday of the month at Dale 1891, N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; annual Labor Day Extravaganza; Bradenton Southern Nostalgic & Muscle Car Shootout; the Ribfest Car & Truck Show at the Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg; and, the Tampa Convention Center at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show. “Car shows have been a success because we build and show custom cars,” he reasons. “We delve into every aspect of the automobile – building it from ground up to racing and showing.”
Naturally, his extra hobby is radio-controlled racing on his clay oval racetrack across from his Tampa custom shop. The races are held Fridays and Saturdays.
Looking into the future, Setser would like for his six children ranging from 8 to 32 years of age to take over the business. “The kids are interested. My wife Kim is my backbone, the power that makes me shine,” he says proudly. “We have lived, showed, worked together for the last 19 years.”
Setser owes it to his mother, grandmother and two grandfathers. “They allowed me to learn from my mistakes,” he says with sincerity. “And I would have nothing without the talent I was given by God.