TLP likes a party, so when we heard that Alloy Motors http://alloymotors.com/ in Oakland, CA was having one, I decided to make the trek to the Bay Area to see what it's all about.
I became familiar with Alloy last year through conversations with the shop's manager Shawn Rodgers. When I saw the invitation to the owner's 40th birthday party and open house on FB, I decided to go down to meet the man behind it all, and see how West Oakland does hand-built cars.
The man behind Alloy is Geoff Gates. From the first moment you meet him, you know you've met the real deal....a gearhead's gearhead. He speaks from the heart, he's approachable (despite being a pretty imposing figure) and most importantly, he loves cars. Geoff admits that his personal fondness gravitates to the MOPARs, but I don't think he'd shy away from anything if he took a liking to it. If you want to learn a little more, Mike Musto of YouTube's DRIVE Channel did a great piece on Geoff, Alloy and one of their creations, Dart Vader (below).
What exactly is a Dart Vader, you may ask? It's about the baddest Dart you've ever seen and a window into the Alloy brand.
Alloy is located in West Oakland in a semi-industrial area in the shadow of the 880 freeway. The building was a PG&E mechanical shop at some point in the past, and the classic brick front of the building belies a more modern cinder block and steel construction. Fortunately for Alloy, a full width gantry crane was left by the former occupant, undoubtedly pleasing the Alloy team. Though the shop is not small, I can imagine that such an asset can both help with the work and at the same time efficiently consolidate the collection of shop equipment and fabrication/restoration projects and all the other odds and ends a shop accumulates over time. Being able to see the projects in various states of completion and being able to look at the fantastic artist's renderings for several of the builds-in-progress was a treat. It's one thing to watch the process on TV, and quite another to see it in the ink, bare metal and hammer marks. I have a new appreciation for the craft after getting that close.
Honestly, the shop is as cool as they get. It's not an ultra modern insurance driven body shop...it has personality, it isn't antiseptic and the observer's eye is ripped from one direction to the other while the brain tells the viewer, "this is exactly what my shop would look like if I had one." I said it myself that afternoon and I heard at least a dozen others repeat the same sentiment as they walked through the main roll-up door and saw the shop for the first time (mind you, some of these people weren't even into cars at all!).
Absorbing the aesthetic for a few hours helped me understand what makes Alloy unique. My take is that they're not in it to be over the top or to one-up other shops with outrageous examples of mechanical excess or other craziness. These folks are into building clean and honest hot rods and muscle cars for the shop, their customers and clients, with no pretense. They make things that "non car people" will notice and at the same time impress those "in the know" with creativity, execution, attention to detail and ample amounts of power.
This shop has a bright future. Despite now being officially over the hill now (remember, this doubled as his birthday party), Geoff doesn't appear to be getting old or stale...quite the opposite if anything. With a passionate and dedicated staff and the love and support of his wife Melissa, Alloy stands to thrive in an area in physical transition. It's undoubtedly on the leading edge of the physical revitalization and modernization of a former industrial area, while at the same time preserving and reinterpreting the past through its work.
Happy 40th Geoff, and here's to the future of preserving the past!
What else does Alloy make, you might wonder? Check out my gallery (below) and get a taste of the cars, the concepts and the facility.