Gary was raised on a farm near Council Bluffs, Iowa. He says he "got into this whole thing by watching my dad mess around with old cars" like his dad's '51 Mercury coupe with dual exhausts. For an eighth-grade art project, he meticulously drew his favorite cars and the first car he took his drivers license test in still has the teenage pinstripe job he painted on the valve covers. According to Gary "cars were about the only thing I've ever done since high school. I did customs for fun, for myself really."
For years, he made his living doing collision work and learning all aspects of the trade, from fabrication to paint, but his creative side led him to working creating custom cars. It was his chance meeting at an auction with blues guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan, who shared a similar passion and vision for styling customs that led to their association, beginning with Jimmie's 1951 Chevy. "You work on cars for other guys, dontcha?" asked Jimmie, "You wanna look at one of mine?" That first project began a friendship and long lasting partnership that continues to result in a string of amazing customs they have created together, and connected Gary to Austin notables like Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer, and Mike Young of Chuy's Tex Mex fame, among others who have sought him out for that unmistakeable "Gary Howard-built custom" look. The crisp, understated elegance of those custom creations has won the coveted Harry Bradley Design Achievement Award twice, and the recognition of his peers who elected him into the KKOA Hall of Fame.