Thursday, April 6, 2017

Talking Gallant Gray with Mobsteel’s Adam Genei

By Nancy Lockhart, Axalta Color Marketing Manager

Detroit native, Adam Genei knows cars from the inside out, he is the owner of Mobsteel, a custom car business in Detroit, and the Detroit Steel Wheels company, which makes steel auto wheels, or “steelies,” for vehicles of any size.

Detroit’s own Adam Genei at the Mobsteel Shop

You may know Adam, his wife and business partner, Pam and their team of awe-inspiring employees from a reality series titled, Detroit Steel on the History channel (

Axalta enjoys a fun and collaborative relationship with the Mobsteel crew. One of the highlights of that association came to life at the 2016 SEMA show in Las Vegas, when Axalta and Mobsteel introduced the Artist Signature Series – Cromax® Mobsteel® Midnight CFX™ Candy Colors line. Mobsteel and Axalta color designers worked together to refine this vibrant set of custom colors. The colors, including “8 Mile Maroon” and “Motorcity Sunset,” are part of the dynamic series that appear to be a shade of black but under light, reflect rich reds, purples, golds and more.

“This line is exciting for both Axalta and the artists with whom we work. I’m thrilled that Mobsteel founder, Adam Genei, and his team helped to reveal this exciting new collection in the Artist Signature Series,” said Harry Christman, Axalta Cromax Brand Manager at the unveil. “We are extremely proud that this talented design/build team uses Axalta refinish products in their shop and that they partnered with us to create a line of colors inspired by their city of Detroit and their craft.”

Nancy Lockhart, Axalta Color Marketing Manager recently sat down with Adam to talk about color, inspiration and the Motor City. 

Nancy: Adam, back in January you and the guys gave the full Mobsteel treatment to a kid’s pedal car and painted it in Axalta’s Automotive Color of the Year 2017-Gallant Gray. The paint job got rave reviews and the project seemed like such a natural fit for you. Did you have a pedal car growing up? What automotive themed toys did you grow up with?

Mobsteel sprayed a pedal car in Axalta’s Automotive Color of the Year 2017-Gallant Gray

Adam: As a kid, I knew someone who had a pedal car and I remember going down the sidewalk in it.  It’s a good childhood memory for me.  We didn’t have the luxury of such expensive toys.  Star Wars was popular but I remember playing for hours on the floor with my matchbox cars.  It was cool to build up new tracks and jumps for the cars, I loved it.  Still today, I keep matchbox cars around me all the time.  I have a bunch at the shop I like to give out when kids come by.  

Playing with cars and being around cars is just in my blood.  I grew up in Detroit, Dad worked in a shop, my grandfather was an auto supplier, my other grandfather worked in a dealership.  Many of our friends and extended family had connections to the auto industry either on the line, as mill rights, electricians or other.  My dad would fix up old cars and tractors or anything mechanical in our garage.  We would also go out and look for free snowmobiles, then we would fix them up and turn them into dune-buggies.  Just crazy stuff like that was normal fun.

Nancy: What are your thoughts on Axalta’s Automotive Color of the Year 2017- Gallant Gray? What do you think of the blue glass flake technology in the coating?

Adam: It is super cool.  When Axalta approached us to spray a pedal car in the Color of the Year we were excited to see what it was.  We weren’t let down.  We had plans to do a bunch of stuff on the car but once we laid down the paint and saw the color we took a step back and said “let’s not ruin it.” The color was so powerful that we thought doing anything else would diminish the look. That is not always the case with all colors.  A red Ferrari is great not because of the color, but because of the car.  Gallant gray was cool because of the color.   

The color has so many different layers to it.  The blue flake with the gray paint gave it so much character and depth.  The appearance changed when we took the car around the shop under different lighting.  A great product with unique characteristics helps make the job easy.

Everyone knows paint is the most important part in a build.  It’s the first thing you see.  It’s got to be good and high quality.

Nancy: We love what you did with the pedal car. Is this an example how the Mobsteel brand can transfer to other segments even outside of automotive?

Adam: Human beings are born to create things.  I love to dream and create.  Not just automotive or things with gears and wheels. I have designed and built furniture, artwork, even sculptures. I enjoy seeing something made with quality and care. I enjoy watching a project come to life. I really enjoy putting myself back in time to capture what someone dreamed up in a different era.  It is a challenge to preserve the heritage of the piece while making it my own and paying respectful homage to the original design.

For instance, when I see a car that I love, I think “Why do I love it? How can I keep the essence of it but make it my own?” and “How do I retain the unique allure that attracted me to it?”  The Gallant Gray pedal car was a perfect example. Pedal cars have a unique history and allure. I think what we did with the car was keep that authentic old school feel with crisp, simple lines. The blue glass flake in the Gallant Gray provided the modern twist.

Adam Genei with his 1966 Lincoln Continental in a gray body color and Radiant Red roof

Nancy: What do you like about restoring cars?

Adam: Being in Detroit, I find it really cool that I can drive by the plants and offices where the car I’m restoring was originally built and designed decades ago. You just breathe in that history in this town. And in the same regard, it is insane to think that these spaces and the industry has changed so much in the same amount of time. 

Skilled trades have more tools and technology today but older cars have some of the best build quality and are beautifully designed. It is amazing some of the car designers could dream that big back then.

Nancy: How do you decide what color to put on the interior and exterior of a vehicle?

Adam: Mobsteel is known for spraying a lot of black Lincolns. Black is an appropriate color on an old Lincoln and it looks great. But there are many factors to consider when choosing an exterior color, including what year the car is, the lines and curves on the chassis, historic connection with a particular color etc. At the end of the day, it must feel right.

We start with the outside of the car and work our way in; the exterior color influences the color choices on the rest of the car.  Influences come from everywhere but the exterior paint plays a large role in determining the interior color.

Thank you to Adam for his insights and for sharing his story, and don’t forget to check out Detroit Steel on the History Channel.