Thursday, August 2, 2007

Metalcrafters: Family Business Turns Out Automotive Artwork

INTRODUCTION: Southern Californians love their cars. Now, some of them who can afford it are even designing their own wheels with the help of a local family business.

Video | Images | Web site: Metalcrafters

Believe it or not, this mammoth state-of-the-art auto plant began as a tiny family-run business back in 1979.

GEORGE GAFFOGLIO: Pretty much a three-man operation -- my father, myself and my brother Ruben. We were taking old Ferraris, chopping the tops off and making them into convertibles.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: But in three decades, George Gaffoglio and his family have transformed Metalcrafters from chop-shop to champion car-customizer, helped in part by Chrysler, which chose the company early on to build various prototypes.

GEORGE GAFFOGLIO: A lot of those prototypes used to be built in Europe, and it was just kind of like we became the local guys.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: The local guys also found another niche -- servicing customers with special whims and needs. This guy (video shows NBA star Shaquille O’Neal), for instance, was just too tall for your average muscle car. So Metalcrafters made adjustments for him.

GEORGE GAFFOGLIO: We took this one Lamborghini Galardo and stretched it 12 inches.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: Now the Gaffoglio family business is a 180-person operation with celebrity clients to spare, every one of them looking for something new and unusual in automotive design.

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW HOST/AUTOMOTIVE ENTHUSIAST: They started out as a small business and, as they got better, it grew. It's sort of the American dream, and that's why it's fun because their name is on the building.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: Jay Leno wanted an ecologically friendly car that runs on bio-diesel. He described his dream to Metalcrafters. They came up with the Eco Jet.

JAY LENO: It's a one-off design. It has a sort of a showcar Batman design look to it. It weighs about 2,400, 2,500 pounds and it has 750 horsepower. And, it’s bio-diesel so you're not wasting any fossil fuels.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: Positive buzz has made Metalcrafters the talk of Hollywood -- and the go-to place for moviemakers and advertisers in need of a car with that special look. This division of Metal Crafters, run by niece Shalinia, has prepped specialty vehicles for movies like Jurassic Park and eye-candy for auto commercials around the world.

GEORGE GOFOGGLIO: That's another fun part of our business too.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: The Gaffoglios are also doing more specialty work for Chrysler, turning out limited edition performance vehicles like the FOOSE. And they're diversifying into other fields, applying their automotive know-how to the manufacture of jet windshields.

GEORGE GOFOGGLIO: A lot of composite work for the vehicles carbon fiber, Kevlar stuff that comes from the race car world, then again it has great application for the aerospace.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: Will success spoil the Gaffoglios? Not a chance, says George. In fact he's working hard to keep the company under family control by hiring relatives for a half dozen key jobs.

GEORGE GOFOGGLIO: The trust and hard work that comes from family members is pretty hard to match.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE: Meanwhile, though hailed by industry friends and competitors as a visionary, George says he's never lost his perspective.

GEORGE GOFOGGLIO: Even in my case CEO you know I'm just still dad or still George.

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