My Story

I have been fascinated with old cars since I was a child growing up in the Philadelphia area. I went to his first car show at 5 years old. When I was 12, I visited my older brother at Wilkinson & Sharp Antique Auto Restorations where my brother worked as a metalworker. While there, I saw a red Stanley Steamer. When I saw it I exclaimed to my brother, “You get paid to do this?!” And that was the beginning. In high school, I studied auto mechanics, body and fender, interior design, and graphic artist Middle Bucks area Vo-Tech. At age 16 I worked as a mechanic at a local service station and acquired six classic Chevy’s, one of which I still own today. At 18 I started at Wilkinson & Sharp, being mentored by Stan Wilkinson. While there I did body and fender work, paint prep and painting, and hand-rubbing the nitrocellulose laquer paint. In 1980 I went to McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas and enrolled in the Antique Auto Restoration program, where I was mentored by several master craftsman including Julian “Pop” Rice, owner of Peggycraft Restorations in Tennessee, Jim Willems, and Julian Joyce. At McPherson, I was taught the entire process of auto restoration and formed a broad knowledge of the restoration process. Here, I learned woodwork, upholstery, machine shop, welding, metal finishing, leadwork, electrical, engine and chassis restoration, and more.

In 1983 I received a degree in Antique Auto Restoration Technology. I returned to Philadelphia and worked again at Wilkinson & Sharp. This time I practiced upholstery where I learned to do “diamond tufting”, hand stuffing with horsehair as it was done back in the day of the horseless carriage. Also, I learned to make convertible tops and learned many “tricks-of-the-trade” from Stanley Wilkinson and worked on several high-end cars. I received a job offer in Southern California in 1985 and moved to Santa Monica, CA. There, I worked at Hill & Vaughn Restorations for Phil Hill. Phil was the 1961 World Champion Formula One race car driver for Ferrari and part owner of the famous Hill & Vaughn shop with Ken Vaughn. It was here that I was exposed to many exotic European cars like Delage, Delahaye, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Mercedes 540K, and many others. I instantly fell in love with these very special pieces of artwork. Phil left quite an impression on me, it was here that I refined my skills, developed his attention to detail, authenticity, research and much more. This is also where I was introduced to the Pebble Beach Concours. Later in 1996, I worked for an OEM company as a Design Engineer in the Automotive Research and Development Department working with Toyota and Lexus to develop nose masks for those vehicles. Here I learned blueprints, computer digitizing of patterns, making prototypes, and quality control. Also I came up with the idea to take a trainer with sewing equipment to the prototype vehicles to save time making the prototype masks as there was limited access to the cars. The company received the number one status OEM supplier for Toyota for this innovation. I started my own company in 1999 in Culver City, CA; D’Alessandro Designs Antique Auto Upholstery. My work has won Best of Show, Most Elegant, and many first place awards at Pebble Beach and other major Concours. I have earned a reputation for high-end work, old world craftsmanship, and the respect of my peers and clients alike.


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