D3 Tuning’s Past Is Our Future. Part 1.


Today on we are going to start a small journey thatHow do you make the CTS-V Coupe more Bad Ass? involves taking a much closer look at the people behind the cars we all read about, and or love. Rather than just talking about the car itself, we wanna look at how the car, or “Project” came about, and was brought to the masses. This segment is going to be about one of my favorite tuning groups that goes by the name of The D3 Group. What will follow is a two part online series that involves an in depth look at this group through the eyes of its creator James Gill. So let’s begin.

1. So, Mr Gills, where did you grow up?

A. Los Angeles, CA. Mostly in the South Bay area. Spent a lot of time hanging out at Terminal Island Dragway before I even had a drivers license. Also spent a lot of time at the local slick tracks and karting tracks.

2. When did you realize that you were a Gearhead, or did you have a positive influence that pushed you in that direction? Feel free to mention parents friends, or anyone you feel was/is important to you doing what you love now.

A. I remember being about 4 years old and taking my hot wheels cars and “refinishing” them with custom finishes. I would take sandpaper and take off the paint, exposing a brushed aluminum finish. My passion for cars continued into the garage as I would constantly help my dad restore old muscle cars. We rebuilt them from the ground up. I had little hands when I was a kid and they came in handy when we needed to get dashboards out. The award winning muscle cars always intrigued me, but it was the performance of the cars that always captivated me the most. Our muscle cars always had a little bit of an attitude so it naturally led to racing. By the time I hit my teen years I already had about 6 years of hands on experience. I enjoyed spending more time at the racetrack with my dad than I did hanging out with other kids my age doing “normal kid’s stuff”.

From a design standpoint, I would say that there were two men who were highly influential to me pursuing the design element of my career. I had a chance to sit down with Larry Wood at a very young age. He showed me some of his work and it really stayed with me. I had no idea he was one of the lead designers for Mattel. I also had a chance to sit down with Steve Stanford and admire his work. Not only did these two men influence me, apparently they influenced a majority of the automotive industry with their bodies of work. My Family has allowed me to follow this passion and make a business out of it. Without their support none of this would be possible.

3. When it comes down to cars & trucks was there any specific model that you wanted to tinker with, and why?

A. There are several vehicles that have always enamored me from a G-Body Monte Carlobuild standpoint. I have always wanted to build an insane G-Body car (i.e. Regal, Cutlass, Monte Carlo). Something setup for pro touring. Obviously I love all the old muscle cars from all the manufactures. The 65-71 range of vehicles were just so cool. But in terms of cars that I would want to build, honestly I live vicariously through my customers and their cars. We share the passion with our customers and having the unique opportunity to show that in our work on their cars gives me that outlet personally.

4. At which point did The D3 Group come to light? What does D3 stand for, and who helped you get this monster moving along? Name names, give shout outs, all that good stuff. Have a little fun with this.

A. The original D3 started in 2000. I was building contract vehicles for different manufacturers for trade shows and car shows. D3 is actually D to the 3rd power. It means Dare to be Different Designs. There was an old Popular Hot Roding Magazine that had a 68 Pro The-Legionnaire-by-D3-02Street Camaro on it. The caption of the magazine was “Dare to be Different”. The term always stuck for me because I always wanted my designs to be unique and different. As I was coming up through the ranks I made it a point to ensure that what was shown was different. This was at a time where there were many companies copying each other and vehicle design as a whole was very generic and lacked personality. So when it was time to name my company and establish my brand the name seemed like a natural fit. With the car builds I was doing at the time, there was a need for products and parts that I was in dire need of. This forced me to look into producing my own parts and components through various vendors and such. When you take on markets that are not developed and nobody else is looking at, it can get very lonely when you are trying to build a show stopping car. In a way it really helped allow us to grow as a business and expand the reach of the brand.

5. Now let’s move ahead to how you got involved with General Motors, and their Cadillac division.  What, or where was the starting point that allowed D3 to move ahead with such a successful merger? Were there hiccups, problems along the way? Were there any major hurdles to overcome?

A. In 2003 we submitted a design proposal for a Cadillac vehicle. I will not name what that vehicle was and what the content of the vehicle was. But it did not get approved initially because the content was already too similar to a vehicle Cadillac was already testing. But the program caught the eye of one of the Cadillac members. He reached out to me and asked if we ever thought about looking at developing components and expanding the aftermarket offerings for the Wreath & Crest. At the time I was open to the idea of doing more manufactured goods so it was decided to give it a three year trial run and see how it goes. We created a niche market, grew it, and continue to support till this day and the foreseeable future.

To say there were hiccups would be a major understatement considering what we were single handedly trying to do with the most D3 tuningprestigious brand in automotive history. We set out to smash the perception that Cadillac vehicles were for old people and could never be looked at as a performance luxury vehicle seriously. We faced adversity and push back from dealerships that were rooted in their ways and thought that all Cadillacs needed to be reflective of the older demographic that were buying them at that time. Not understanding that we were ushering in the new generation of Cadillac buyers that have fallen in love with the Art & Science Design language. We faced adversity from the purist that loved the Cadillac brand in its original format. But they don’t understand that the same passion that draws them to the vehicle is the same type of passion we have for enhancing the vehicle to the levels in which we take them.

D3 TuningOur technology partnership with GM/Cadillac has allowed us to develop the highest quality of products by using OEM CAD data to build our products. This gives us the exact measurements and tolerances they use to create the original pieces. This eventually led to us becoming an original licensed partner of Cadillac and now offer a full line up of OLP GM Cadillac parts for various Cadillac vehicles.

6. Now this question may need to be placed before #5, it kind of depends on the answer, but what was D3 Tuning’s first project car, and is it your favorite? You gotta be honest.

A. Hmm this is a good question. There are cars we built and cars we designed. I will answer for both. First car built under D3 was a demo vehicle for Mitsubishi Motors of North America. They used the vehicle in their display for the LA Auto Show. It was VERY well received. Favorite designed car was a rendering I did back in 97’ of a tube chassis NSX with a huge blower sticking out of the hood, pro mod style

OK folks, that’s all for now. We’re not going to give away this great interview all in one shot, so that simply means that you all are going to have to come back, and see us real soon for the next segment of this great interview.


Categories: Readers Rides

Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.