It’s a fine April morning when Gil Losi walks in to our headquarters here in Murrieta. Mr. Losi is dressed casually in a graphic T-shirt, khaki shorts, and flip-flops making his way around the office and chewing the fat with everyone from our sales team to the video crew. We’ve all known Gil for about a year now, so much so that stopping by for an interview doesn’t feel much like a serious, by-the-facts grilling, but more like an avuncular get-together with everyone’s favorite local car collector.
His stately home near our office speaks to a much different Gil Losi, however. Over four decades of smart business decisions and cunning aptitude, the man was able to accrue a great deal of wealth, before now settling down at age seventy-three. Yet Gil has never settled down enough to quit his raison d’être: cars.
Inside his estate, Gil has set aside a great deal of space to house the several automobiles that he owns. Friends of his will stop by with a collector car in need of shelter, and Gil is more than happy to “add” to the collection, made complete with the likes of a Galaxie, an Impala, a Riviera, two Deuce Coupes, and more.
Origins Of An Enthusiast
Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Gil recalls, one of his favorite things to do was listen to the Indianapolis 500 as it was reported through the radio. Losi would lie on the dining room floor and on would come Bill Slater, the reporter for the race, who would report the start and finish, with periodic updates as he breezed through the rest of his program.
At age fifteen, Gil came into possession of his first real car, sold to him from a neighbor. It was a 1934 Plymouth Five-Window coupe that Gil remembers well. “I paid him one dollar and I took care of his house for a month while he was on vacation,” Losi says.
“I took [the car] apart, put it all together, did all kinds of stuff with it,” Losi continues. “And then I got the transmission all apart, and I never got it together again,” he laughs. “Everything wound up in the junkyard after that.”
By age sixteen, young Gil had purchased a ’49 Ford two-door sedan to replace the Plymouth. Though it was hardly an upgrade–having been purchased at the local junkyard for a hundred dollars–for the teenaged Gil, the car represented the next phase in car enthusiasm, and paired well with the young man’s new license. “In those days, I was sixteen, and I’m down there at the DMV to get tested for my license. I passed my first time, [and] it was one of the most thrilling days of my life,” says Losi.
As he spent more and more time working on the busted-up Blue Oval, Losi learned the reward behind a hard-won battle against rust and age as he sought to restore the car to its former glory. “[The owner would] call me every time stuff came in. A ’49 Ford with a nice interior came in, he called me so could tear it out and put it in mine. I also got a new hood from him too,” said Losi.
The Ford also became the foundation for Losi’s love of all things lowered. “You know, since I didn’t have a lot of money in those days and I wanted to stand out like any 16-year-old kid did, so I put my car on the ground,” Gil states. “I heated the coils and stacked two four-inch blocks on the back, the driveshaft rubbed when I went over stuff but hey, that was ok.”
The Legend Grows
In the days since those formative years, Losi lived the life of an entrepreneur. His R/C car company, Team Losi Racing, went on to become one of the leading players in the remote-control car industry as it dominated the 1980s and ’90s; no small feat for a business that had started as a hobby shop.
Over time, Losi and his two sons continued to succeed wherever and whenever they put their heads together. Despite differing career paths, all three found common ground when it came to automobiles. “They both love cars…My elder son [Gil Jr.] has a passion for [Formula One] racing and he used a lot of his technical knowledge to design the chassis and suspensions for the Team Losi Racing cars,” says Losi. “They both got to drive my 1970 Trans Am in high school–they didn’t wreck it too bad,” he joked.
After Gil handed control of his company to Junior he tried his hand at racing in Formula Vee before settling down to devote his time to what he loved best: hot rods and custom cars. In its current state, the Losi corral houses seven vehicles (nine if you count friends’ cars) all kept in pristine condition, but that doesn’t mean you can expect to find any ‘trailer queens’ in Gil Losi’s Garage. “I drive all the cars I own,” Losi states.
A Peek Inside The Stable
The nearly 6,000 square feet that comprise Losi’s garage is home to some truly astounding classics and customs. It’s really two garages, just a few steps away from one another.
Flanking the walls of each one are countless items of memorabilia, but what impresses the most are all of the awards that Losi has picked up over the years. “I’ve received hundreds of these,” he says. “I remember the first time I ever won an award. It was a Boyd’s Pick at a Goodguys event, and it was for my ’60 Ford convertible.”
It’s easy to see why the old Blue Oval is such a stunner. In the fullness of sunlight, the brown 1960 Galaxie is a hot rod unlike much else. A subdued brown paint scheme, concocted and applied by the famous Charley Hutton, catches the eye; delicate pinstriping adorns the hood; immaculate chrome brightwork shines from front to back; and the low-slung, air-bagged stance, a Losi trademark, brings the whole car together in one of the more awesome examples of how to do kustom right.
The Galaxie also happens to be Losi’s favorite, for a variety of reasons. “It was 1999, and it was love at first sight. It was the first really nice car I ever owned and worked on,” he says.
“I love it a lot. I drive it a lot too; I believe I’ve driven it over 150,000 miles, and everywhere I go in it, I see people turn their heads,” Losi continues. “I’m still tinkering with it to this day. I think my next move will be to upgrade its transmission to an AODE for smoother shifting.”
Elsewhere, there’s no mistaking the beauty and grace that is the 1961 Chevrolet Impala. Dubbed “Under Pressure,” the coupe is a source of both pleasure and pain for its owner. “Its got two massive turbos sitting there under the hood. It’s almost too much for me to handle when I go driving, there’s just so much muscle!” Losi proclaims.
Owing to the Impala’s history as a utility/performance model, Losi had the restoration wizards at Steve Cook Creations dream up the ultimate version of the vehicle, with the caveat that it give off the look of a sleeper. When the dust settled, the Impala had a Mike Moran 2000 hp 540ci twin turbocharged big-block, a custom-built 4L80E, an Art Morrison custom chassis, Detroit Locker 9-inch rear axle, Ridetech Ride Pro E3, and Baer six-piston disc brake system, among other improvements. Other highlights of the build included a hood with functional vents, custom fabricated floorpans, front and rear roll pans, belly pans, rear spoiler, and hood with functional recessed air ducts for turbos.
Topping it all off was the Triple Black coloring applied by Steve Cook himself. By any stretch of the imagination, “Under Pressure” is a magnificent piece of work; but don’t just take our word for it. “Just last year, it won or was nominated for at least nine different awards,” Losi states.
The Road Ahead
When it comes to the future, Losi still has miles to go. He currently has a couple of cars that are being overhauled: a ’49 Oldsmobile and ’56 Plymouth. “The Plymouth just got a new Hemi in it, so it should drive amazingly once it’s finished. It’s also getting a custom-made intake system. Meanwhile, the Olds is over at Chubby Chassis getting its ride comfort adjusted. I changed everything in that car, [because] I plan on driving it a lot soon.”
Losi doesn’t foresee much else when it comes to increasing his collection, but there is one car that he sold that he wishes he hadn’t: a 1954 Mercury hardtop. “I built one with Steve Cook, had a four cam motor in it,” he tells us. “If I could have a shot at one of those again, I would probably take it.”
Nevertheless, Losi has never lost sight of what it means to have a car; the philosophy behind them being freedom, delicately balanced with beauty and style. For Losi, cars are not to be viewed merely as tokens of status: “I’m not into cars because it’s a cool thing to have. I’m into cars because I just dig cars.” It’s a sentiment we here at Rod Authority share, and we’re ecstatic to see the love for these hot rods is still alive and well. Godspeed, Gil, and good luck on your upcoming automotive endeavors.