Wheels

This is Where the Ultra-Rich Have Their Cars Repaired and Restored

At Alex Restoration, the formula for success involves more than just the cars.
IMAGE Cyrian Agujo
Comments

We’ve all been there: A rich friend hands you an expensive item for safekeeping and you decline for fear of wrecking it. You're like “No, I’m not keeping your thousand-dollar watch, thank you very much.”

Imagine doing the opposite and actually wanting to not only keep super expensive items, but to restore them as well. That’s what Alexander Isip does daily, except the cars he restores are worth more than what most of us make in a lifetime.

Alex Isip's Alex Restoration works on classic luxury automobiles, repairing and restoring them to near mint condition

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Isip restores specialty cars and collectibles (read: ultra-rare and ultra-expensive) at his Alex Restoration shop in Quezon City. Entering the shop, you’d think it’s just like any other until you notice the kind of cars in it. On a regular Monday morning, I walked in on a custom Porsche 998, a Ferrari F12, a Shelby Cobra 350, and a couple of classic Benzes. Yup, not your typical local repair shop at all.

“I really wanted to focus on solely high-end cars and classic collectibles. There’s just something about working on beautiful cars that really excites and challenges me at the same time,” says Isip.

A framed photo of a Porsche 924, which was the first car Alex Isip worked on. It was his very first entry to a motor show, and he won

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

In here, the team does everything from regular maintenance to full-on restoration. It pride itself with sourcing only the highest-quality parts for their restoration projects and, of course, unmatched technical skills and attention to detail. And with the country’s biggest tycoons and top collectors entrusting it with some of the most valuable cars in the Philippines, it’s safe to say its claim is warranted.

What’s with the name?

Isip says he didn’t originally plan to make his childhood hobby a full-fledged business. In his teen years, he was just really, really into cars.

“It started when I was 13 years old, he says. “My dad would always assign me to clean our cars so I’m always around them. And when he would get them repainted or serviced, I was also the one who supervised,” says Alex.

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

During his high school years, his dad was able to get a second-hand Porsche 924, which Isip promptly worked on and restored himself. It was so good that when his friends saw it, they coaxed him to join a car show.

“I didn’t even know what a car show was,” he chuckles. “But I inquired and was able to join the first Transport show in Shangri-La. When we got there, all the participants were actual car shops and we didn’t even have a name, so we just went with ‘Alex Restoration’ and made a few flyers and a presentation.”

Against all odds, Isip won that show, and from then on, started accepting restoration projects from his friends. Eventually, the family garage got so full of cars, tools, and paint that he had to get a new space. Luckily, there was a vacant lot just beside their house.

“It was really just a makeshift shop. We just made use of my dad’s old materials for roofing to save on cost and used lots of paint to make it presentable,” shares Isip. “But it had space for 18 cars, so that got us going.”

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

A habit of winning

From then on, Isip and his small team started winning more car shows and accepting more clients, and they were able to transfer to their current location not long after. Not surprisingly, word about Alex Restoration’s incredible attention to detail and quality of service spread like wildfire. To date, they have won an astounding 300 shows.

The constant winning became the company’s best marketing tool, as it paved the way for people inquiring about its services.

Isip's company has won over 300 trophies, medals and citations at various auto shows

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

“They were able to see the quality of our work, since we were mostly displaying classic collectible cars. But the (profit) margins were still really tight back then, because you really have to be well-known to attract the high-end market.”

Still, he continued joining car shows as they also gave him another advantage: they became Isip and his team’s training grounds.

“In car shows, for you to win, you really have to focus on every detail,” he says. “The shape, the finish, everything must be correct. We were able to hone and master our craft because of the strict requirements.”  

Isip says his biggest break in restoring high-end cars came when one of his neighbors entrusted him with his prized possession: A 1956 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing.

“I had a neighbor who had an awesome car collection. He went to us with a regular Mercedes-Benz at first. He was so happy with the result that he brought in his Gullwing, which was the only unit in the country at the time. So we worked on it, joined a car show with it, and it won best-in-show. He became a regular client ever since,” says Isip.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

It’s all in the details

According to Isip, impeccable service boils down to two main aspects: quality parts and quality craftsmanship. The owner says he spends an inordinate amount of time himself researching and making sure that even before the team starts a restoration project, it already has the correct information at hand.

“It really involves a lot of research, especially before (in the '90s) when there was no internet yet. I relied on books, and when I get the chance to go abroad, I search for the exact models either in museums or from a collector. I take pictures and study every detail.”

Alex Restoration crew hard at workIMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

A restoration project can take anywhere from two weeks to a year or even more, depending on what the client wants and the condition of the vehicle. Some want a car to be restored as close to its original state as possible, while others want to modify some of its elements, or what Alex says is called “resto-mod.”

But regardless of the degree of restoration, you must be willing to shell out some serious dough. According to Isip, restoring a classic car’s body and paint alone can cost an eye-watering P1.5 million to P2.5 million.

As for his technical team, Isip makes sure it's well-versed on how to treat and handle different kinds of high-end cars. And he trains them himself along with his group of senior technicians. 

“They know what places to touch, what parts of the car they can change, even how and where to sit while inside the car.”

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The secret ingredient

Isip says if there’s one secret ingredient he credits the success of his shop with, it’s not the technical expertise, or the high-quality parts, or even the industry connections he's built over almost three decades: it’s the company culture.

“Some car shops advertise and show various cars on social media. Me, I show pictures of our people. I’m proud to show that they’re organized and disciplined, and that’s actually what we’re selling.”

Isip values the culture and attitude of his employees so much that the programs he implements go way beyond what people usually get with global companies. Every morning, everyone on his team undergoes a military-style inspection.

“We check their uniform, their hair, even their fingernails. We also have daily prayers that are led by a different employee every day. It really has become a habit.”

The hardworkng staff and crew of Alex Restoration

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

IMAGE: Alex Restoration

Isip is also a fitness junkie, something he has passed on to his employees. He hired triathlon coach Gian Sibayan to conduct fitness sessions for his entire team every Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 a.m., which they have to attend before going to work. Needless to say, all his shops—Alex also has two car storage facilities in Quezon City—strictly ban smoking.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

“We have big goals here so they have to be fit, healthy, and not have vices,” he says. “I told them that if they can’t stop smoking they’ll have to resign, but I’d give them commendation and endorse them to other companies. Thankfully, all of them stopped smoking and nobody has resigned yet.”

The shop was working on this Shelby Cobra 350 when Esquire Philippines came by for a visit

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Alex Restoration specializes in luxury vehicles, like this Porsche 998

IMAGE: Cyrian Agujo

Just like his restoration projects, Isip makes sure his employees receive holistic treatment. “We teach them how to be financially literate because our goal is to get them to save. We taught them how manage bank accounts so they can also learn to invest.”

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

And the results of his investment in his people speak for themselves.

“Our employees are the ones being hired by the official brand dealerships,” says a beaming Isip. “They even let them wear their Alex Restoration uniforms, because the dealerships market them as experts who have impeccable work ethic and attitude.”

Pay it forward

Seeing how an employee-centric business has served his company well, Isip now wants to spread the good news and train other car technicians and mechanics. He’s now planning to put up his own training school, as well as another shop in Taguig to service more mainstream cars.

“It’s really important to have people with good character and with the right attitude. At Alex Restoration, when clients see the kind of people who’ll be working on their cars, that’s often enough to convince them to avail of our services.”

At a time when many businesses are a little too concerned about their product or service, Alex Restoration has proven that caring in the same manner or even a bit more for your employees can lead to just as much, if not more, success.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Cyrian Agujo
View Other Articles From Cyrian
Comments
Latest Feed
 
Share
Because even in the Philippines' perpetual summer, a hoodie can prove to be useful.
 
Share
The Elton John biopic doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of the legendary musician's life.
 
Share
That six-pack is somewhere underneath your coat of fat.
 
Share
The Ayala Museum opens an online tour of its priceless collections and pieces.
 
Share
New guidelines allow you to keep your number even if you switch telco providers.
 
Share
Despite the rains in recent days, the National Water Resources Board lessens allocation to Maynilad and Manila Water.
 
Share
Fête de la Musique celebrates 25 years with free-for-all music events around the Philippines, and free roundtrip tickets to France.
 
Share
The classic look is being modernized and reinterpreted with new influences ranging from hip-hop to skateboarding.
 
Share
There might be one final Iron Man and Peter Parker moment in the MCU.
Load More Articles
Connect With Us