At HIMALAYA, we don’t just hire electricians and mechanics or painters. Sure, they’re all car guys, yet at their core, each one is truly an artist and a craftsman. HIMALAYA isn’t a place where you walk in the door and punch a clock in the morning. Our team lives and breathes everything on wheels. They wake up in the morning thinking about LS swaps and Alpine touchscreens. Many of them relocated to South Carolina to join the HIMALAYA team.
First car: ‘98 Dodge Ram 2500
James is the third generation of Shondels in the transportation operations, technology, and engineering business. He is the chairman of REMPREX, LLC, an intermodal services company, which he founded when he was 25 years old. James guides the strategic vision of HIMALAYA Worldwide, where he follows his own advice, “Find out who you are; identify the things that make your heart sing.”
For James, the excitement of a Land Rover Defender started in Nantucket circa 93 – the first year Land Rover imported the Defender in the U.S. James was spending the summer of his 12th year sailing on his grandfather’s boat and had just docked in Nantucket. As he walked through town, he saw a ‘93 Land Rover Defender soft top , in dark blue. For him, that was the coolest car ever.
Director of Operations
First car: 94 Jeep Wrangler
Arthur always dreamed of being an engineer, so he began studying for his degree right out of high school. He soon discovered that he had more interest in cars than computers, so he switched to Nashville Diesel College, where he graduated with a 4.0 and a new wife. He landed a job with an engineering firm, and soon had transitioned into a leadership role at Nissan – all before the age of 23. He’d also risen as high as he could in the company without having an engineering degree.
So this time, he packed up his wife and three kids and returned to college. In just two and a half years, he had earned his Bachelor of Science in Automotive Manufacturing.
Arthur recommended his brother Ivan for a job that was opening up at HIMALAYA. While discussing the position with James and Keith, the conversation turned toward Arthur’s qualifications.
“It was craziest interview I’d ever been through. They walked me around and showed me what was going on. I told them I was there for my brother. They asked, ‘well what about you?’ I told them about Jeeps, and rock crawlers, and lift kits.”
And just like that, standing in the paint booth, James asked Arthur to join the HIMALAYA team as their director of operations.
Manager of Operations
First car: 54 Ford pickup
If there is anything Keith hasn’t tried and mastered – we don’t know about it – and he isn’t telling. He founded Keith’s Custom design in 1978, where he built Harleys from scratch. A world class airbrush artist, pin-striper, and fabricator, his work has been featured in magazines and photoshoots. His skills range from sign painting to wrought iron steel work . He earned a nationwide reputation for his custom painted hot rods and motorcycles.
In 2017, Keith and James Shondel began collaborating on what would become the fusion HIMALAYA. The HIMALAYA facility is now located in the same shop where Keith has been creating his well-known masterpieces. “I decided to shut down a 40-year business to become part of HIMALAYA, because I had such a good feel for James; He’s as true to his word as any man I’ve met.”
Lead Specialist in Land Rover Mechanics
First car: 81 Oldsmobile land yacht
Cris was one of the first to join the HIMALAYA team, moving to Charleston from Wilmington, NC.
“My family owned an auto collision repair business, so I grew up in the garage. I was always fiddling around with stuff, taking things apart. I did the body work and collision repairs.” Cris has been working on Defenders for nine years and manages all of the acquisitions for the HIMALAYA builds.
Even with all of his prior experience, Cris says, “I have definitely learned a couple of things here already.” For him, the most gratifying aspect of his work is seeing the finished product.
Specialist in Finishing and Interior Detail
First car: 1984 300ZX
“I’ve always had a huge attraction to anything fast or powerful. I learned how to drive a stick when I was 13, when I would sneak out of the house to drive the Jeep.”
By 16, Ivan was working at an auto shop, installing suspensions, brakes, and tires. He blew up the engine on his Z, which was the catalyst for his first engine rebuild. He started buying cars and always had at least four or five cars at a time. He’d find a deal that had a few things wrong with it, fix it up, and sell it for a profit to fund his passion.
Here at HIMALAYA, Ivan is responsible for the cosmetics and the look of the car: the interior, finishing touches, getting the paint perfect and shiny and polished right. He is obsessed with the minute details: engine mounts to audio and roof rack.
“I’m the lucky one who gets to take them on the road first. That is absolutely my favorite part of the job – driving. That’s why I got into cars. If I could get into a different car every day I would be thrilled.” Ivan moved from Tennessee to South Carolina in order to have every chance possible to drive these beauties.
Specialist in Electrical and Body Fitment
First car: 1993 Ford F150 Lightning
Born in Mississippi and raised on a farm, “the first thing I wired was one of my father’s tractors. I was 11; we needed to convert it from 6 volt to 12 volt.” Although much of John’s knowledge is self-taught, he also attended Nashville Auto Diesel College.
“Our vehicles here start by running the wires for the rear end tail lights and reverse lights. Once we get the engine in there, I wire that and make sure it will start.”
John’s input is sought from the chassis up. One of the largest planning issues is routing. John’s aesthetics demand that the wiring is not seen. That is the distinction of a custom-build, that obsession with quality detail.
John contends the “behind-the-scenes” has to look good too. John sold his house in Tennessee to move to Hollywood and join the Himalaya team.
Specialist in Paint Finishing
First car: 55 chevy
“I’ve always worked on automobiles. I started at 17 years-old as a helper for a friend of mine who had a shop in Boynton Beach, Florida.”
Ronnie learned more about his craft on the job, and by attending the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. He has multiple certifications in refinishing from I-CAR, and refinishing and collision repair from General Motors.
Beyond the training and years of industry experience, Ronnie is an artful painter and alchemist, intuitively understanding the perfect combination of mixing formula, air pressure, temperature, and humidity. His skill and artistry give each HIMALAYA the unsurpassed finish that distinguishes it from anything else on the road.
Ronnie and Keith have been working together for more than 20 years, and when HIMALAYA was formed, there was no question he wanted to be a part of the company.
Ronnie describes it best when he says, “It’s a team. It takes us all to make this one thing happen.”