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Alexander Bros. Custom Shop

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Alexander Bros. Custom Shop

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A custom body shop in Detroit, Michigan.


The following biography appeared in the instructions for an AMT model kit.

It isn't often that a hobby can be parlayed into a going business, but when it can be the results are often rewarding.  Such is the case with Larry and Mike Alexander, brothers who operate the customizing shop that carries their name in Detroit.  Larry, who is 31, and Mike, 29, are unusual examples of customizers in that they never worked for anyone else in the body business, and they jumped right into custom work without any time in general body repair.

As with most workers in this field, the Alexanders had a long-standing interest in customs.  But they had never pursued it seriously until leaving the Army.  In 1953, they were able to attend body and paint school on the GI Bill.  They felt it would permit them to do their own custom work with professional skill.  One of their first personal projects was a 1931 Model A coupe complete with full-race four-cylinder engine.  They restored it, trimmed it, and the attention it drew got them custom work from friends, and early in 1956, they opened the doors of their shop full time and have been at it ever since.

The Alexanders estimate that cars they have restyled have garnered well over 1000 trophies by now.  They can't really tell because a good deal of their work is mild custom jobs - dechrome hood, deck and door handles, lower the car and give it a special paint job.  These cars are trophy winners but not as conspicuous as the complete restyles.  One of their first, The Victorian, a '55 Ford, was named to the year's Top 10 by Car Craft Magazine.  A later car, a '60 Ford called The Adonis, also hit the magazine's annual Top 10 selection.

The Alexanders approach their work a little differently than many custom shops.  They say that they prefer to restyle, to improve upon the original design, yet keep the car practical and useable.  This rules out (for the present, at least) the far-out numbers that are only at home in car shows.  As loyal Detroiters, they believe that the enthusiasts in their area are picking up on customs more and more rapidly, and before long they believe that Detroit will be as important a custom car center as California.  What for the future of customs?  Larry and Mike agree that practical, functional restyling is the answer.  It is a theory that has brought them success in a difficult field, and they mean to stick with it.

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