Continuing on in our series of Los Angeles stories….
While in LA, I was trying to work to some sort of itinerary. I say ‘some sort’ because the city is spread out over a very large distance. Throw slow moving traffic into the mix and with limited time; you can see why my list was rather flexible. So, after leaving Benton Performance, I headed north to Montebello. My destination was a cool shop that works on Alfa Romeos and Porsches. Interesting combination, no?
Dorian Valenzuela is an interesting person, that is for sure, and I say this before I had even met him. With a background in aviation engineering, and stints at JPL/NASA and then Singer (yes, that Singer), he certainly has a very interesting resume. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I rolled up to DV Mechanics, situated in a set of clean, white buildings, which formed part of a complex.
Walking through a corridor, I suddenly entered a large warehouse-type space. On the left were a couple of rooms. On the right however, was what I had been looking for. Modified air-cooled 911s, a couple of classic Alfas, even a classic BMW 3.0. Working diligently at a table was Dorian. After introducing myself, we got talking about how DV Mechanics came to be.
These days, there’s a lot of talk about how people should leave their 9-to-5s, give up the safety of the cubicle and go out into their world and ‘do their thing’. Take a risk, become an entrepreneur, start something that’ll keep you happy. We’re the new generation, we want to be engaged, we want to be happy with what we do. Or at least that’s what the numerous blogs, Buzzfeed listicles and other motivational publications keep telling us.
No one mentions the practical side of things, like putting food on the table, or keeping the lights on. Passion only goes so far.
This was the main topic of our conversation, as Dorian showed me around the shop. Putting his engineering background to use to fuel his primary interest – cars – he had left his previous positions to open something of his own, which eventually grew into the space that we were standing in. While he had a few projects of his own, he also worked on others’ cars so that he could continue doing what he loved.
What struck me most about the whole space was how organized it was. Engines, parts, and tools were all sorted into their own sections. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that Dorian’s first love was machinery. A large old school Moriseiki lathe sat in one corner, a formidable slab of industry.
As Dorian told me about the cars, we came to a dark brown, whale-tailed ’82 911 on gold Campagnolo wheels. When he told me who owned the car, I gaped in shock.
A small digression here. For most, Patrick Dempsey is known for playing the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, a veritable heartthrob for most female viewers of the show. However, for car enthusiasts and specifically among the Porsche community, Dempsey is revered for other reasons. An accomplished racing driver who has competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he is a well-known fan of the Porsche brand.
So, imagine my surprise when Dorian told me that the owner of the brown 911 was none other than Dempsey himself. He also described it as a ‘very fast’ car. With an owner like that, I don’t doubt that at all.
Dorian’s own car was sitting beside it, a heavily modified 911 with a roll cage and a ducktail. A regular at the track, the car was taking a forced sabbatical after a dispute with a couple of large rocks on a canyon carving run had resulted in significant suspension damage.
In the course of the conversation, I asked Dorian if he had anybody working with him on the cars, since there were a number of them in a sizeable space. He smiled and replied that barring a part-time assistant, it was just him. DV Mechanics was literally, just Dorian Valenzuela. My respect for him immediately went up a few notches.
While we had been talking, I had noticed a tall, lean gentleman walking around and having a look at the cars. Dorian explained that the gent happened to be Brad Beardow, one of the two co-founders of popular wheel manufacturer Fifteen52, which was based next door. Imagine that!
Going next door, Dorian introduced me to both Brad and Matt Crooke, the other half of the founding duo, along with the rest of the Fifteen52 team. We got talking about car culture around the world and the similarities and differences between enthusiasts from different regions. Fuelled by fresh pizza, the minutes ticked by before I realised that it was late in the afternoon and I had to get to the next destination on my itinerary.
With my arms full of Fifteen52 swag (Thanks guys!), I walked out into the afternoon sun. With people like Dorian, Matt and Brad keeping their quality standards high while doing what they love, it’s no wonder that people are inspired by them to branch out on their own. It isn’t easy, but it is a labour of love.
No wonder then that Patrick Dempsey can leave his car at DV Mechanics, with the peace of mind that it’ll get the attention it deserves.
A big thank you to Dorian Valenzuela, Brad Beardow and Matt Crooke for showing me around their respective spaces and giving me their time.