A Change of Uniforms

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A 2004 Infiniti G35 Coupe emblazoned with the American flag, detailed with the seven core Army values and the faces of three servicemen killed in action. It’s known as the National Guard’s Fallen Heroes G35 and was created by National Guardsman Nicholas Ashby.

The build came as a need to find closure. Ashby was a demolitions guy by trade – part of 12 Bravo: the designation for a Combat Engineer in the Army. He was one of the first boots on the ground during the initial invasion of Iraq. Ashby experienced the raids and searches, saw 14 Purples Hearts awarded in 14 days and lost friends in combat. But there were also bright moments like the humanitarian and rebuilding efforts, such as collecting clothes for those in need. After more than 400 missions in eight years with the military, Ashby retired in 2010.

So how does one, as Ashby said, “Go from blowing [stuff] up to building [stuff]?”

Ashby wanted to honor the friends and fellow soldiers he lost. He developed an interest in vehicles while working on his Humvee in Iraq. It was there his passion –and the idea to commemorate his friends – originated.

The Fallen Heroes G35 resulted in Ashby becoming the National Guard’s poster boy. It became the largest marketed car on the automotive scene in 2007, and was showcased across 27 news channels throughout the country. Ashby went on tour serving as their spokesman: visiting colleges, high schools and car shows. At the same time, he remained a soldier and worked at a construction company in Southern California.

Ashby wanted to work with companies customizing vehicles, but couldn’t do so under the title of Sgt. Nicholas Ashby ­– that would be a soldier accepting gifts. As a result, LDRSHIP Designs was born.

“Everyone’s always like, you misspelled the word [LDRSHIP], you’re missing some letters, but the word LDRSHIP is the acronym for the seven core Army values which are taught to every soldier in the Army,” said Ashby.

11952742_1016774441686754_5602284786288945015_oLDRSHIP became his portfolio – it allowed him to continue customizing vehicles, mainly for the military. That was, until 2010, when Rockstar Energy approached him.

LDRSHIP designs and Rockstar Energy partnered in 2012 to create the first lifestyle owned performance garage – Rockstar Performance Garage (RPG). RPG is a private shop, customizing vehicles for companies and civil servants. They build 80 to 90 thousand dollar vehicles in the garage – a kid with a Honda Civic can’t just drive on in. Each build is equipped with new parts, often featuring parts from 10 to 20 different brands.

“For [Rockstar Energy] to hand me their name and go ‘put this on all your stuff’ – that’s pretty cool,” said Ashby. “I didn’t have a college degree in marketing. They were just kind of going ‘He served, let’s give him a shot.’”

One of the main features in all RPG builds is ODYSSEY® batteries. RPG began incorporating ODYSSEY batteries into their builds for a project they did for the 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show. From then on, the relationship between the two companies has grown, with EnerSys – manufacturer of ODYSSEY® batteries – and RPG now being contracted partners.

To date – in the more than three years RPG has been operating – Ashby and his team have completed just over 30 builds.

“The day the garage became [a reality] was probably the coolest day of my life; to know that I was a business owner – a legit business owner,” said Ashby. “I was in control of my destiny from that point forward.”

The moral of the story? Work hard, do the right stuff and one day it just might happen. But, as Ashby said, “Don’t expect it – nothing is owed to us in the world.”

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