The car bouncing over the railway crossing in the waterfront district of Oakland, California, is a sleek mid-blue front-engined coupe, sporting the elegance of a 1950s Maserati. As it accelerates towards the the pier, its Ferrari 250GTO-spec V12's growl echoes off the pillars of the Interstate 80 freeway, but they could just as easily be the villas of the Via Roma in Italy.
This is the Gatto, a bespoke car, the product of Steve Moal's legendary hot rod shop in Oakland, and inspired by the products of those Modenese carrozzerie. It's not a replica but a 21st century symbol of a new genre of car that wealthy connoisseurs are building. They deliver period style with modern amenities, and would complement any collection of 1960s icons.
My chance to try the Gatto comes while it's on shakedown testing, just before it finds its way to its owner. I leave my motel early and orbit the East 12th Street district, passing Korean delis and fender-bender bodyshops until I stumble on the unmarked industrial cube of Moal Coachbuilders.
Dragging my camera equipment through the workshops, I try to keep the blinders on to avoid being distracted by bay after bay of custom Americana being fettled by dudes in black T-shirts and baseball caps. I head for the back lot where the GT is on tickover to warm its thoroughbred engine, which was built by Patrick Ottis and delivers 300bhp at full chat. Steve's son Michael gives me a quick guided tour of the car, congratulating me on navigating my way through the ghetto to their workshop. The often savage Californian light is thankfully veiled by high cloud; perfect conditions for photographing the car's details
Published Dec 7th, 2015
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