Moal Coachbuilders Holds on to a Unique Tradition
Updated March 27, 2014
Family businesses are passed down from generation to generation, anything from pizza shops to car dealerships to butcher shops. In Oakland, California however, there is a very unique business that has been passed down from father to son, and soon to his sons, and I am sure there is no other business quite like it, anywhere. From the outside, it looks like another unassuming business on East 12th Street in Oakland, California. In reality, the two-story, 10,000 square foot building houses Moal Coachbuilders, built and opened by George Moal and his father Bill Moal in 1946. The current proprietor, Steve Moal was born this same year. That year marked the beginning of what would become an Oakland commercial landmark. It remained a vehicle body shop and collision repair business until 2002, when George Moal passed away. Steve Moal took over the business in 1971 at the age of 25, and continues the family tradition today. Even his high school sweetheart, Theresa, who he later married, was hired in as the business manager. Today even their sons, David and Michael are involved in the business with one as production manager and the other as engineer and designer respectively.
In 2003, after many years of provide body and collision repair for Mercedes-Benz vehicles only, Steve Moal had an idea that would change the face of the business forever. He decided to take his “hobby” of designing and building one of a kind vehicles, sports cars built from the ground up would no longer be a hobby, it would be the primary income for Moal Coachbuilders. With the potential for a lucrative income, the senior Moal decided that the collision business had become stale, and thus marked the beginning of Moal Coachbuilders.
Moal first got the idea to change his direction in the automotive niche in 1999, when after seeing one of Moal’s creations, the California V-8 Special and the cover of Street Rodder magazine, actor Tim Allen developed an attachment to the car and called Moal personally. While he did not purchase the $150,000 magazine cover car, he did commission Moal to build what came to be known as the “Licorice Streak Special” for Allen, which later appeared with Allen on the cover of Street Rodder as his prized possession.
As soon as the Tim Allen issue hit the shelves, Moal started getting phone calls from wealthy individuals wanting their own custom-built car. While Moal still maintained the collision repair portion of his business while the custom car-building phase was in its infancy, the day finally came when the demand for the custom designed and built cars took over and the collision repair business was closed for good. Within a year, he had hired a completely new staff who were skilled at building custom cars and there were 12 vehicles in process, with final prices upon completion being anywhere from $250,000 to over $1 million dollars.
While Moal often purchases engines, such as V-12 Ferrari motors and some parts, especially tires, from outside vendors, the majority of the vehicle is hand built in the E. 12th Street facility, even the chassis. In most cases, the vehicles are so unique that most of the parts need to be custom fabricated from the frame, to interior and everything in between. Average build time for a custom vehicle from beginning to end is one to two years, depending on the difficulty and intricacy. Some customers opt for the finest of components to be used on their cars such as ostrich hide, which you cannot just go down to the nearest store and purchase. The availability of some of the materials is often the longest hold up in a vehicles progress. His staff includes people capable of painting, building, fabricating and finishing almost any vehicle someone’s mind can create, and their devotion and skill is very evident in the final product.
Moal has customers from all over the country from the nearby San Francisco Bay area to as far away as Ohio. While these vehicles may be something that is affordable to only the very wealthy, Moal does not let his success take away from the family aspect of the business. He is currently contemplating branching out into the auto parts field, manufacturing unique custom parts that would be available in catalogs or online all over the country and the world. This would take the Moal name and put the products in reach of not only the wealthy, but also anyone who wants or needs a unique part for their vehicle. Much like Moal’s father did for him, Moal plans on doing for his sons, as he intends on passing the torch soon, but still maintaining his visibility in the company like his father and grandfather did.
If you can afford a Moal Coachbuilders vehicle, you will own a one of a kind vehicle that will be found nowhere else in the world. It is more than just customizing; it is taking a car that a customer loves and turning it into their dream car, in some cases one part at a time.
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