If you’re not part of the custom car world, you may not have heard of Alex Gambino – but if you’ve hung out around it at all, chances are you’re familiar with his name. I first met Alex too many years ago at a tiny little car show up in Nor Cal.
His Chevy, now chopped and fully kustomized with a Gambino fade (see above), was still full height and had a simple gold and black paint job. He’d recently gotten it on the road and was out collecting his first trophies. After looking underneath the Chevy at the finely-worked chassis, I knew I needed to meet the guy who built it!
Catching up with him later and taking a trip over to his shop, Gambino Kustoms in San Jose, I was blown away at what he was doing and what an awesome and talented individual he is. At the time he’d just finished a coupe for famed skater Steve Caballero, and was getting a few other cars together.
Fast forward to present day and Alex Gambino has gone on to build many, many notable cars and his shop has expanded 3-fold. He sells his drop and air ride kits regularly on Ebay in addition to doing full builds and classes in the shop. If I needed to bag a car, Alex would be one of the first people I’d talk to about one of his kits – they’re built well and just work.
The classes Gambino hosts from time-to-time are co-taught by another kustomizing legend, Gene Winfield. Winfield, also known for his highly-skilled and old-skool metal work, is one of, if not THE, originator and perfecter of the fade paint job. The classes focus on metalworking, and sometimes painting, and the two pros cover the bases in a way that everyone, new or experienced, can understand and learn from. Alex tells me it’s the best form of knowledge, because when you ask a question it’s answered back on many different levels – of how to do it both if you’re less-skilled and only have a small set of tools to if you’ve got tons of skills and plenty of tools.
The custom car world did, after all, originate in a time before we had the leisure of large garages with huge Snap-On toolboxes and a wealth of cheap tools from Harbor Freight. In fact, Gene first got inspired to perfect his metal working skills while he was in Japan during the second World War watching a guy shape something with the most rudimentary of tools. Both Alex and Gene can do more with a simple hammer then most could do with a shop full.
The day I visited for this shoot, Alex and the boys were hard at work chopping a ’37 Pontiac.
Just watching them work I learned a few tricks and ways to measure out a chop.
By the time they’d closed up shop the top sat perfectly on the car with 2 inches taken out.
It was, as I like to say, a gentleman’s chop for a gentleman’s car. And while you might not think it by looking at him – Alex Gambino is a true gentleman, an awesome individual and stand up guy with work that speaks for itself.
Enjoy the below gallery for a tour around his shop and follow Gambino projects on the shop’s Facebook page or find out more about metal shaping classes by calling Gene Winfield’s shop at 661-824-4728.