Customizing vintage cars with Mobsteel
INTERVIEW BY ASHLEY K. PARKS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEENAN RIVALS
Welcome to Mobsteel where you are greeted with revving engines, clinking steel, lingering fragrance of fresh paint, leaking oil, and of course, cars. Coming from a family of automobile lovers and workers during the Jimmy Hoffa days, Adam Genei started the Mobsteel automobile design and building company with the idea to preserve and restore some of the most beautiful steel pieces to dominate the streets. Although it wasn’t always the case, Mobsteel designs and builds everything in-house. They came from humble beginnings at a $200 space with a bench and not many tools, operating with bare minimum. Now, they have a shop equipped with a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) cutting devise, lathe, presses, a Pullmax post-war machine from Sweden, a surface plate, and clay oven for molds and modeling for starters, and their own NBC TV series called “Mobsteel.” They have grown so much in the past twelve years of business that they can dream a little bigger and do a whole lot more.
The Mobsteel custom car-building concept started as an expensive hobby for Adam until the economic changes seen in Detroit during 1999 brought about the need to do something different. He notes that the writing was on the wall and you could literally watch the downturn. “Shops were dumping machinery because they couldn’t get rid of it. Lights were getting shut off. People couldn’t afford their businesses. People were losing their jobs. These were smart, innovative, hustlers, and hard working people from Detroit,” Adam says. He further explains how he had gone to other places around the country and people would say that it was Detroit’s own fault but to him, that’s not a fair assessment. In fact, he says, “Even the laziest person on your shift in the plant in Detroit is a harder worker than anyone anywhere else. We are raised with a different mentality. We are conditioned from little kids for high volume, cheapest price, and to produce a perfect product. We are really Detroit strong and the economy shift had little to do with its people. There’s no secret to it. We have a strong work ethic in the Midwest.” The people make Detroit and there are very few people or places that can compete with the character of the people around this city. It was during this time that Adam started to value Detroit and the Motor City for what it really was and is; an unbelievable place, built on the back of the automotive industry.
The growth and success of Mobsteel is due to two parts, a quality brand and the core group of people who make up the team. It’s a family business, not only due to husband and wife owners Adam and Pam, but more so because of the closeness among all team members. “We define family as the family you choose. You are only as good as the sum of your parts so
we are comfortable with who we are and what we represent. We are snarky and sarcastic but we genuinely love each other. Moreover, we meet awesome people with very cool stories and it’s humbling to know that someone cares about what we are doing,” says Pam.
They pride themselves in not just refurbishing old cars but creating something brand new. “We are a bunch of gear heads that can take an old truck and install new twin turbo, eco-boost, frame, and suspension, while keeping everything as authentic as possible; even some of the dents and screws holding the trim on are original. So it looks like an old 1972 truck on the outside and modern made on the inside,” says Adam. While a large percentage of business for Mobsteel is not local, shipping throughout the US and abroad to Australia, Dubai, South Africa, and New Zealand, to name a few, they still want to create something much bigger than this with an even wider reach.
Mobsteel has built two awesome brands, including Detroit Steel Wheel Co., with cool products, and they have a great time doing it. After progressing into wheel production, they have grown from a 24 thousand square foot shop to a 1930’s built, 40 thousand square foot building, in Woodbridge, Detroit; a building originally full of archways and gorgeous architecture where they now have a showroom. “Ultimately, I don’t know where I see Mobsteel going. I try not to get caught up in the whole life cycle of the business because that’s not how we operate and that’s not why we come to work,” says Adam. It’s the greatest feeling when you are doing something you love and you can walk out of work with a smile on your face. It doesn’t have to do with how many friends you have on social media or how much money is coming in or going out. “We truly forget about all that stuff. Everyone who works with us really loves what we do and are true to it. The fact that we can do it today, and might be able to do it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, that’s payment for us. That contributes to the success of the brand and that’s what makes Mobsteel special,” he explains. With a tagline of, “Stay until the job is done,” a certain culture of teamwork and camaraderie is appreciated. At the end of the day, it’s all about the same goal, everyone hustles, everyone works hard.
Inspiration behind the Mobsteel designs come from people, relationships, design, and print media among others. Adam says, “People inspire me. Anyone who does anything successful on any scale blows my mind. Relationships inspire me. Design inspires me. Print media, which follows fashion that revels trends, texture, fabric, and color, inspires me. I love architecture too. So many things that can influence us all on multiple levels surround us. It all inspires me and when you surround yourself with people who are passionate, they inspire you to be better, do better, and do more. We aren’t solving any problems on a large scale but we lead by example. We can all make an impact. We have a lot of integrity, we stand by what we do, and have a commitment to Detroit.”
It’s an exciting time in Detroit as people are funneling back into the city, buying property, and growing communities and businesses. Adam and Mobsteel are happy and lucky to be a part of it. They have a unique connection to Detroit because it is where the automobile came from but the movement is contagious for all. “In the coming years, the big picture is going to be great,” says Adam. Amazing things are happening around here and the world should take notice.