You know the difference between a wife and a car? A wife does her own tuning, but a car’s tuning is a husband’s job. Even after growing up, men remain boys who could for hours, with complete abandon, play with their four-wheeled toys and work on perfecting them.
My husband and I had known Dima Dolotov for a long time, and we couldn’t help noticing how enthusiastically he always talked about cars. The fire in his eyes and the love for four-wheeled creatures were obvious from a mile away. That’s why, when Dima invited us on a mini-trip to the mountains in off-road vehicles that he had personally build, we said YES! without thinking another second. Whatever came out of that is for you to read right here and now!
«Dima, stop the car, I want to get out, I’m scared, we could fall into the abyss…»
This thought was playing in my head about 20 times, and I kept holding off on saying it out loud since I didn’t want to look like a coward.
Our huge SUV continued its unwavering climb up towards the mountain top, erasing any bumps and rocks under its wheels, and I was thinking to myself about the nerves of steel the lovers of off-road adventures must possess.
My head was spinning, either because of the adrenalin rush or because of the altitude and purest mountain air. Some beginning to an off-road adventure this was…
We get onto Highway 49, the huge Toyota Land Cruiser is followed by the eyes of the drivers in cars that fly by, while I, not wanting to waste time, start asking Dima about how his hobby has evolved into a business.
Dima, how did you get the idea to modify vehicles for
Cars are my passion, my inspiration and something I have been involved in for a long time. I have been changing cars for over 10 years, I have been improving their technical specifications, turning them into real monsters capable of overcoming any obstacles. I cannot imagine my life without adventures and off-road trips, so for me such a vehicle is not a luxury, but a mere necessity. And after I began falling in love with off-road trips, I have found a huge number of like-minded individuals who have been traversing California and modernizing their SUVs.
Making it into a steep turn we noticed a guy who was standing miserably on the shoulder while his Toyota FJ Cruiser was stuck in a crevice. Dima made a sharp turn-around and helped the luckless driver get his vehicle out.
So, do you often help such hapless drivers?
Anyone could get stuck, that’s why I always have everything necessary for an emergency with me in my car. There are always risks, especially during off-road adventures, so there should always be a plan B, and it is best to travel with someone, – it’s safer this way.
We deflate the tires before beginning our climb up to the top of a steep mountain. Every Dima’s move is precise, he’s a connoisseur, one feels it right away.
Dima, what cars are most often used for tuning and what is the minimum price range for that?
The most popular brands are Toyota, Jeep and Mitsubishi. They are modernized most often. The minimum budget also depends on whether the buyer already has a car, or he wants to purchase an off-road SUV and then tune it. For example, you can get a used Toyota, invest $3,000-$5,000 worth of suspension and wheels, and the car will already be prepared to tackle most obstacles. The midrange price tag for our service at Stellar Built is $10,000-$15,000. Some cars cost less, while there are some that the owner will be out $50,000, or even $100,000 to tune them.
We get to the top of the mountain range. Dima says that the difficulty level of this route is 4 out of 10. Nervous, I can’t resist the thought of what awaits those who go on a 10-out-of-10 trip. What do you do with all of the adrenaline?
Dima, how does your wife look at your hobby?
She loves to travel with me, in this respect, we are tuned to the same frequency. You see, off-road adventures are not just a way to tickle your nerves. In reality, this passion widens human horizon, the trips we take make us learn the history of the places we visit, we recharge with the energy of nature, we keep discovering new places, and as we overcome obstacles, we get an adrenaline rush, of course.
We are at the top of the slope, enjoying unbelievable views, squinting at the whiteness of the snow and at the sun that’s warming us with its soft spring rays.
Tell us, what was the most unusual vehicle you were asked to tune, and what were the most unforgettable places that you visited on your Toyota?
The most unusual request came from a client who asked us to build an off-road Porche Cayenne. We made it happen and had a lot of fun doing it. As for the top spots that I have been to and that have left me with the most unforgettable experiences, these will be: Rubicon Trail (Lake Tahoe area), Death Valley, Oregon cascades.
Happy, satisfied, a little tired, we are sitting in a cozy little café in Nevada City. Dima is answering our endless line of questions and sharing his plans for the future while we await juicy burgers.
Dima, you are investing so much into Stellar Built that there is no doubt your company will be a success. How do you see your business in 10 years?
I see Stellar Built as an off-road manufacturing business as well as the go-to off-road shop servicing Northern California.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
My morning begins with going out to my yard and stretching with my dog Jasper.
I’m proud to be a Russian/American.
Car that speaks to me is Toyota Land Cruiser, Tacoma close second. I also enjoy taking back roads in my BMW M3.
Hidden talent: cooking. I love to cook and love to eat.
Name 3 qualities of a real men – Integrity, Passion and Patience.
I would love to meet Richard Branson.
My first job in US was making pizza at Papa Murphy’s.
Life’s moto: Stay hungry, stay foolish – Steve Jobs
What makes you achieve your goals? Desire to be a better man than I was the day before.
My every day car is RAM 2500.
3 advantages of living in Cali: Sierra Nevada, awesome weather, best beer in the world.
Song for all times: Sun is Shining by Bob Marley.
“Starting off-road, I realized how big the community here is, in California and how many lovers of such adventures we have. And the need for highly qualified specialists in this field was great. In our Stellar Built shop, we do not simply change cars, we think over the concept. We take into account even the smallest details so that the driving characteristics and aesthetics of the vehicle are the top notch. Customers, seeing this approach, appreciate our service and recommend it to their friends and acquaintances. I see Stellar Built as an off-road manufacturing business as well as the go-to off-road shop servicing Northern California.”