Phone: 800.521.7158

2024 Hall of Fame- Phillip Cato

June 7, 2024

Phil Cato comes from a family that loves cars.  He grew up building them with his dad, and his mom raced a ‘69 AMX.  When he was 14, he became the second owner of a 1955 Step-side big window truck, which he still has today.  He drove that truck from the time he got his license until he was 21.  As a young man, Cato was called to service and served with the United States Air Force for six years.  He worked in vehicle maintenance (not planes, contrary to popular belief!) and spent two years fighting in Iraq to help create a secure and safe future for the people there.  Upon returning home, Cato went right back to work learning new skills.  He attended WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming, where he gained paint, body, hotrod fabrication, and upholstery skills.  Funny as it sounds, he had no intention of taking an upholstery class until a good friend, Mario, talked him into it (thank you, Mario!).  When he graduated, his wife – a nurse at the time – decided to return to school to become a doctor.  They moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she attended medical school. Cato took a position with Honda, learning and perfecting bodywork, skills which still play an important role in his upholstery business every day.  He asked us to point out that the misconception that upholsterers only sew borders on comedy.  Upholsterers are carpenters, electricians, metal fabricators, problem-solvers, and designers.

After leaving the automotive bodywork side of things, Cato decided to go all in and open his upholstery business when he turned 30.  Being 42 now, in the short 12 years of doing upholstery work full time, Cato has accomplished many things. Cato was on the TV show “Iron Resurrection” for 3 years, working with some of the biggest names in the industry, winning countless awards, all while building his own 1974 C10 which was featured at SEMA, on the cover of Street Trucks Magazine, and became the cover truck for Auto Metal Directs catalog.  Cato’s work has been featured in nearly every car magazine published today.  He has been also been teaching Custom Upholstery Classes for the last 3 years, which include custom, one-off seat building, custom door panels, and custom center consoles.  He is also working on starting a new class on CAD design with Fusion 360.  He and his wife are raising 2 creative and funny little girls, which definitely keeps him busy, especially with their school and after-school activities. To say that Cato is a busy man is an understatement, but he always makes time to visit with anyone who comes by, is always up for a hug, and loves seeing old friends.

When we asked Cato what advice he would give to someone who is just starting his or her journey in the trades, here’s what he had to say-

Never stop learning, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take lessons from your failures and use them to succeed!