Alabama-based Metal Brothers has Quickly Risen from Startup to Show Winner
Some of the country’s best hot rod shops can be found in small towns like Sultan, WA, Cleveland, GA, Rockwell, IA, or Tiffin, OH. You can add Theodore, Alabama to the list, home of Metal Brothers Hot Rod Shop.
In just a few short years, co-owners Francisco Murillo and David Kountz have established a reputation for turning out creative, award-winning vehicles. After working for others, the partners decided in 2016 to open the shop after collaborating on a 1968 Camaro for David.
“That was his dream car,” Francisco says. “He said he always wanted to have one and he wanted to make it a little over the top. He drives it and keeps tuning on it.”
That effort produced a why-not moment and Metal Brothers opened its doors. “There’s plenty of work here,” Francisco says of the decision. “It looked like we wouldn’t have trouble getting more work in.”
Even after coping with the challenges of the pandemic over the past year, the work is still there. Francisco says they have waiting list of six months to a year for major-build clients.
Show Your Work
Attending shows and events as well as a strong social-media strategy has helped build the Metal Brothers name. A mix of event exhibits as well as entering customers’ vehicles in shows produces results for the shop.
A just-completed ’56 F100 truck was entered in the Grand National F100 Show last year and returned home with a Truck of the Year win from that event. The custom build is powered by a second-gen 5-liter Ford Coyote engine backed by a 6R80 transmission and a Ford 9-inch rear. It rides on a Roadster Shop chassis.
The result? The phone rang three days later, Francisco says, and the caller inquired about building a similar truck for her. “She’s pretty much on the waiting list.”
The only work Metal Brothers outsources is interior work, usually to a couple of shops that they work with regularly. Otherwise, the eight-person team does everything else, from metal fabrication to paint.
Vehicles in the shop when we visited varied from an early-’60s Ford Falcon Ranchero to a mid-’80s Chevy pickup. Both vehicles will receive similar treatments to make them perform like new vehicles while maintaining their classic looks. The Ranchero will get a TCI suspension and an EFI conversion while the Chevy pickup will receive an LT5 engine and other upgrades to meet the owner’s need for a dependable daily driver.
In addition to performance upgrades, the shop handles substantial modifications. For example, a recent build looks at first glance like a ’70 Firebird Trans Am. But the body is actually a ’78 model that the Metal Brothers crew grafted a ’70 rear end treatment and a ’70 front sheet metal package to create the finished product. Another classic Pontiac in the works, a ’69 GTO convertible, will look stock, is getting an LSA engine, Tremec six-speed transmission, and RideTech suspension.
Like many busy shops, Metal Brothers struggles to find the high-quality mechanics and fabricators needed to produce high-end builds. While the shop is just a few miles from Mobile, finding the right job candidates is a challenge. Like everyone else, Francisco doesn’t have the answer to this universal challenge, but he has a couple of ideas.
He says treating people well once you add them to the team is critical, of course, but generating an interest in building things in the minds of young people is equally important. Francisco is building a car in his home garage and his children often join him in the garage to help. Shop support for local efforts to improve vocational training schools can help, too, he says.
Two IROC Camaros under construction in the shop showcase the owners’ interest in competition. The two cars are being built to compete in AutoCross events, hopefully this year. One will be LS-powered while the other will be more old-school with a naturally aspirated small block Chevy.
David’s will be ready soon, but Francisco’s IROC is aiming at July completion to mark his birthday. “I really want to have it for my birthday,” he says.
What does the future hold beyond those third-gen Camaros? In addition to building distinctive vehicles for their customers, Francisco and David are exploring making their own parts and accessories to sell under the Metal Brothers brand. They already make stainless steel washers that are used on customer builds to add a custom touch to the many fasteners.
Best Part of the Job
Francisco says that seeing a customer’s reaction when the job is complete is the best part of the job. But sometimes, he adds, the customer’s reaction to seeing the build in paint for the first time is equally satisfying.
One customer saw under-construction photos during the build, but hadn’t seen the car in paint. They trailered the freshly painted car to the annual Cruisin’ the Coast event and unveiled the car to the owner. “When he saw the car, he started crying,” Francisco said.
Reactions like that keep the Metal Brothers team motivated in turning out top-quality work.
Metal Brothers Hot Rod Shop
Photos by John Jackson