Frank the Tank on Episode 79! Listen in on Frank Alioto’s journey from mechanical engineer to Edelbrock to where he is now. His no-nonsense attitude after a life-altering accident has him back in an LJ and on the trails. This is a good one!
5:01 – we went 2 miles an hour all day and I had the best time!
9:07 – I did burnouts on Woodward in Detroit
12:58 – my first job out of college was designing shock absorbers in Sutter Creek
16:05 – the 405 is at least as tough on vehicles as the Rubicon
19:04 – Edelbrock had a lot of car enthusiasts, but not many of them were off-road enthusiasts
27:48 – I used to hot lap Golden Spike
34:02 – “you never go on a night run with a Toyota without a sleeping bag!”
39:34 – the accident
47:27 – Disabled Sports run on the Rubicon
50:38 – I want this Jeep, and he’s like, you don’t need that Jeep (I got the Jeep)
53:27 – I fI had to thank every person who helped me with the vehicle, this would be 3 hours long – you know who you are and I cannot thank you enough
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.
Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/BigRich)
[00:00:00.470] - Speaker 1
Welcome to The Big Rich Show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing you may know the name. You may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now it's the time to sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy our conversation.
[00:00:28.550] - Speaker 4
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[00:00:55.220] - Speaker 2
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[00:01:16.580] - Big Rich Klein
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[00:01:19.460] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations With Big Rich. We have Frank Alioto, Frank The Tank. I met Frank years ago at the very beginning of the CalRoc days when Frank was working for Edelbrock, but we are going to talk to Frank like we always do with everybody about basic history. And so, Frank, I want to say, first off, thank you very much for coming on and consenting for an interview.
[00:01:47.100] - Frank Alioto
Well, thank you very much for inviting me. I hope I have enough to say that interest everybody out there.
[00:01:56.060] - Big Rich Klein
I'm sure you do. You have some life experiences that are definitely different than some of us, and I think that it's a good it's a good basis for everybody to understand what everybody else is like in this industry. So thank you again. Let's get started right away. And where were you born and raised?
[00:02:19.120] - Frank Alioto
I was born in San Francisco, California. I lived there for two or three weeks until my parents went away to grad school at University of California, Davis. So I spent my first few years there, and then we moved to Fresno, and I stayed there through high school.
[00:02:42.140] - Big Rich Klein
[00:02:44.660] - Big Rich Klein
Fresno is probably a lot better place back in those days than I would imagine it is now.
[00:02:50.900] - Frank Alioto
I have not been back in probably eight or ten years, so I don't know. I don't get up that way very often. And when I do, I'm trucking through to go to the mountain somewhere.
[00:03:03.550] - Big Rich Klein
I understand that. So let's talk about those probably know or remember more about the Fresno years than the years before that. So let's talk about those Fresno years. What were your family's interest and what kind of life did you live growing up?
[00:03:23.780] - Frank Alioto
I think it was fairly normal. I grew up mostly with my mom. My parents were divorced. By the time I was in Fresno, she took me camping. She would take me up to Yosemite because it was close to the house, and she would. My favorite hobby was playing with bicycles and BMX bike. And my mother was not mechanical at all. So she get me tools, got me an bicycle, I would break it, and we would have to figure out how to fix it somehow. My grandparents were very mechanical.
[00:04:06.500] - Frank Alioto
It skipped a generation, and I'm very mechanical, which has been helpful.
[00:04:14.740] - Frank Alioto
But I love that getting out in the outdoors. And I love riding my bike, feeling the wind for years. And when I was young, I fell in love with offroad magazines and any magazine that involves cars. I was just so addicted to vehicles. When I got my first couple of cars, I had a Camaro, I had a Nissan, I had a Firebird, and my friends and I would auto cross, and we would drive probably too fast to be considered safe on the streets. And at one point I went up to Shaver Lake with a friend.
[00:05:01.400] - Frank Alioto
And I think it was 87 or 88. Toyota pickup IFS bone stock. We went 2 miles an hour all day, and I have the best time of my life. And I was like, I have to start four wheeling, because if I wad up my Camaro, I'm going to get hurt. But if I fall over in the truck, the truck is going to get hurt, and there's a good chance I'm just going to get up and get away.
[00:05:29.460] - Frank Alioto
So I kind of transitioned from fast cars into trucks at that point. Of course, by then I was in College and I didn't have any money whatsoever. So for graduation, I got my first four wheel drive 98 Jeep Wrangler, first car I ever bought new, love the thing. I ended up getting a job in Sutter Creek, up near Jackson, California. So I I joined a four wheel drive club, and I just went all over the at all over the foot Hills, four wheeling, Rubicon, Barrett Lake, Duzy. I can't remember the name of the one in Sonora, but anywhere I could go, I would go, and I love it to death.
[00:06:27.660] - Frank Alioto
I went every weekend all summer long. And then in the winter, I skied all winter. It was just a great time.
[00:06:37.670] - Big Rich Klein
So you basically Sutter Creek. That's real close to where my stomping grounds were and that's Placerville. So we have a lot of the same shared experiences. Mine were a few years before that. I got started in, like, 80 82 that I started wheeling, and I too, fell in love with it. I just wish I had done it a little sooner in life, like, right out of high school. But, you know, it's it's okay. You know, we get to things when we get to them. So those early days in school, you're riding your bike, you're getting into high school.
[00:07:20.620] - Big Rich Klein
Were you athletics? Were you into Scholastic or kind of your own thing?
[00:07:28.440] - Frank Alioto
I was mostly into my own thing. I was on the track team as a shot putter. If I remember correctly, the ball barely cleared the circle that you're supposed to spin in. I was not the greatest athlete in the world. I like to ride my mountain bike, my BMX bike, get out and see the world. I was moderately good at Scholastics. Some of my friends from high school like to point out that I never studied. I never did homework, and I did better than they did on the test somewhere.
[00:08:10.340] - Frank Alioto
Somehow I was paying attention. But I was not the nose to the grindstone. Let's see how good we can be, right?
[00:08:17.690] - Big Rich Klein
That's how I was. I'm a really good test taker. Not so good of a I sit there and class type it myself.
[00:08:28.640] - Frank Alioto
Yeah, it worked out well for me. I mean, I was able to get into. I also went to the University of California at Davis, and I studied mechanical engineering there, so I did well enough to get into school. And after the first year of College where you're not really sure what's going on. And you're taking lots of prerequisite classes. When I started to get into the core mechanical engineering classes, they were some of the most interesting classes I took in College because I've always wanted to know how things work and why things work.
[00:09:07.840] - Frank Alioto
And that was really enjoyable to me. I worked on a research team that built a hybrid electric vehicle for some academic competition sponsored by the Department of Energy. But it was fun to play with electric cars before anybody knew what they were and hybrids. And we got to do. I did burnouts on Woodward in Detroit in a Taurus with a Honda motor and a big electric motor.
[00:09:41.620] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. We were there for some big parade celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the automobile.
[00:09:49.420] - Frank Alioto
And somehow I ended up driving, and it was really an interesting parade because there were all kinds of vehicles. And we were next to a Mustang match drag car, and the guy would go a couple hundred feet, do a burn out to a couple hundred feet to a burnout. So here we are in a front wheel drive tours. I put on the break and I get a burnout with the torque of the electric motor plus the little gasoline engine. It spun the tires pretty good. It was rather hilarious.
[00:10:22.650] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. So let's talk some more about that time there with your mechanical engineering. And what was your plan when you're going through school at that point? What was your long term goal with the mechanical engineering?
[00:10:43.960] - Frank Alioto
You know, honestly, I did not have a long term goal at that time. I I had no idea when I was in high school what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved architecture. My grades were not good enough to get into a school of architecture. But they were good enough to get into Davis as a civil engineering student. And somebody told me they built structures. So I found that fascinating. And I started along the path of civil engineering, and then I learned I would be building culverts and bridges and roads, and that didn't really fascinate me.
[00:11:22.480] - Frank Alioto
So as I said earlier, I had fast cars, and I used to auto cross.
[00:11:30.040] - Frank Alioto
And I was at an auto cross, and the local College had all their engineering students out with the Formula SAE car. And they built this car. And it was kind of a neat little thing, but not one of them could drive at all. And the car wasn't so technologically advanced that I didn't understand it. And I kind of watch these guys driving and racing. And I was like, you know, if these guys can do that, I can do so much more than that. So that's when I went into mechanical engineering, I just realized that if I wanted to play with cars, it was a good way to do it.
[00:12:13.210] - Frank Alioto
[00:12:14.220] - Big Rich Klein
And hopefully get paid to do it. Correct?
[00:12:16.410] - Frank Alioto
Yes. Hopefully get paid to do it. I did not have a long term plan. I didn't know what was going to happen after I graduated. Some people I knew had gone on to Ford, and I didn't know if that was for me. And then because of the the hybrid research group I was in, I was studying. I was working with a PhD candidate, and he got a phone call from a small shock company in Sutter Creek that was looking for an engineer, and he felt it wasn't up his alley, but it might be up my alley.
[00:12:58.640] - Frank Alioto
So I went and interviewed, and my first job out of College was again working on cars and designing shock absorbers in Sutter Creek.
[00:13:10.740] - Big Rich Klein
And what was the name of that company?
[00:13:13.880] - Frank Alioto
That company was called Rycor Racing and Development.
[00:13:18.140] - Big Rich Klein
[00:13:18.640] - Frank Alioto
They designed a shock absorber that was then licensed to Edelbrock.
[00:13:24.030] - Big Rich Klein
There's the tie in. Okay.
[00:13:26.560] - Frank Alioto
So I worked in Sutter Creek for about two or three years with the people from Edelbrock with the engineers from Edelbrock. And we did a lot of interesting things. And then Rycor closed down its doors, and the gentleman at Edelbrock offered me an opportunity to move down south. And I was like, well, they're pretty well known automotive company. I should take this opportunity and see where it goes. I didn't know if it was going to last a year. It was going to last five years.
[00:14:04.620] - Frank Alioto
I wasn't sure how I was going to, like, living in Los Angeles after living in the foothills.
[00:14:11.520] - Big Rich Klein
What time frame was that?
[00:14:13.880] - Frank Alioto
I moved to LA in November of 1999.
[00:14:20.620] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:22.380] - Frank Alioto
I spent about two and a half years in Sutter Creek, and then I moved down here and going from Sutter Creek to Los Angeles is absolutely culture Shock.
[00:14:38.810] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:39.620] - Frank Alioto
And there were so many more social outlets for me in LA, then in Sutter Creek, where I was one of the five people in their twenties that was not either married or had moved away. There wasn't a lot of social outlet outlets up there. True. I moved to the beach and had a wonderful time down here.
[00:15:02.920] - Big Rich Klein
And what community was that?
[00:15:06.080] - Frank Alioto
I lived in Hermosa Beach for years.
[00:15:09.760] - Frank Alioto
I lived about three houses from the sand, about three blocks from all the bars. And for my late twenties, early thirties, that's where I was, and I absolutely loved it. I would come up to the Rubicon or do the usually on three day weekends or anytime I could get away. I was still into four wheeling. I went to the Hammers, often Big Bear, anywhere I could get into the dirt with the Jeep. I did. And having a lifted Jeep was not an ideal vehicle for commuting in LA.
[00:15:50.120] - Frank Alioto
We got terrible gas mileage and early on, some of the link arms from all my use in Northern California, some of the link arms would just fall off driving down the 405
[00:16:02.920] - Big Rich Klein
[00:16:05.380] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. I lost both upper links like various different times and had to Weld the bracketry back on the 405 is at least as tough on vehicles as the Rubicon. There. I said it. I will not take it back.
[00:16:22.480] - Big Rich Klein
I've had more frustrating.
[00:16:25.360] - Frank Alioto
I've had way more breakdowns on the 405 than I ever had on the trail.
[00:16:32.300] - Big Rich Klein
That says something for sure. So then with those with working for that shock company and then going to work for Edelbrock, did you continue working on just suspension or shocks, or did you get into other parts of automotive design?
[00:16:52.600] - Frank Alioto
I did a lot with shock absorbers at Edelbrock. I moved up through the shock division fairly quickly. I did a little bit of assisting with some of the suspension parts, but I didn't, but in too heavily because people are very protective of their own of their own jobs and products, and they don't usually like it if somebody new comes in and tells them they're doing it wrong. And I am famous for telling people they are doing it wrong.
[00:17:32.940] - Big Rich Klein
True enough. True enough.
[00:17:35.680] - Frank Alioto
Eventually, Edelbrock bought a company called Russell Performance. We did braided stainless lines, right? And they moved it into the Shock building. And so now I was presiding over design for both the shock absorber division and Russell Performance, and I had engineers working under me at that point, but I was a chief engineer for both divisions and had to make sure that everything was running smoothly.
[00:18:08.540] - Big Rich Klein
That sounds like a pretty good job.
[00:18:11.480] - Frank Alioto
It was a great job. I loved it to death. I don't know. I was I was saddened when I could not do it anymore.
[00:18:25.870] - Big Rich Klein
Right? And was that we'll get into the accident if you don't mind, but not right at the moment. Was that because of the accident.
[00:18:35.940] - Frank Alioto
Yes. I could not go to an office for a time and work a regular job. It just wasn't something I could do at the time, right?
[00:18:49.580] - Big Rich Klein
Physically being able to do that. Correct.
[00:18:52.400] - Frank Alioto
[00:18:53.660] - Big Rich Klein
So then those those early years there at either Edelbrock or before you continue to wheel as well.
[00:19:04.020] - Frank Alioto
I reeled as often as I could. I would go on at least three or four big wheeling trips a year. And Edelbrock had a lot of car enthusiasts at the company, but not many of them were off road enthusiasts, so I started getting sent to the offroad events. I worked quite a few Sierratreks, Jeepers Jamboree Moab, Easter Jeep Safari, Tierra del Sol. So I got to go to a lot of those events. And although I think I had to work more at the booth than I really wanted to, I still got to go.
[00:19:48.350] - Frank Alioto
I still got to get some playing on company time, and I really enjoyed that. But, you know, I would have always preferred to have way more time in the dirt than I was able to get into the dirt.
[00:20:03.920] - Big Rich Klein
So when you were in Sutter, you said you were wheeling with a club. What was the name of that club?
[00:20:12.480] - Frank Alioto
The Mother Lode Rock Crawlers. Del Albright was a member also, and he and I used to go on club runs together, and he was always talking about land use. So I got from the very beginning I was very aware of of how precarious four wheeling could be and how easily it was for them to close trails.
[00:20:41.280] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And did you did you work on land use issues as well on your spare time?
[00:20:48.040] - Frank Alioto
Not much. I was always aware and always try to make sure I didn't do anything foolish for people that I went with. But I was not really as active as Del, but it was kind of interesting for my first four wheeling club to have him in it.
[00:21:05.900] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And who else did you? Well with back in those days.
[00:21:11.060] - Frank Alioto
I had a couple of friends that I met through the club, and we would just go on runs by ourselves. One of them was a gentleman named David Gaby had a bright red Land Cruiser, and there was another guy named Keith who had a bright yellow Land cruiser. But somebody in Tahoe City has now I've seen it around and we would just go wheeling as often as we could.
[00:21:40.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:21:41.670] - Frank Alioto
Nobody who was big in the industry, just people that built their trucks in their driveways. And we would just go wheeling as often as we could.
[00:21:52.940] - Big Rich Klein
And when did you meet some of the guys like Shlossberg and and some of the others that are in the industry.
[00:22:02.840] - Frank Alioto
So Shlossberg was really kind of interesting. My friend Dave with the Land Cruiser. he was on a website called Pirate Four by Four. I didn't know what it was.
[00:22:18.560] - Big Rich Klein
Never heard of her.
[00:22:19.730] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. He kept sending me links to all these crazy things that have been done to TJ. And one of them was Dave Shlossberg and Drew Burroughs put a coil over on the front of the TJ with a long arm. So they were located in San Luis Obispo. And a lot of my friends from College are in that area in the central coast. So one time when I was up visiting my College friend, he was also in the Jeep. We decided to drive down to Poly Performance back when it was on Tank Farm Road and just see what they were all about.
[00:23:06.780] - Frank Alioto
Now we get there and it's a I guess you could call it like a one car garage in an industrial building. And there were a bunch of guys in there. Dave was there. Drew was there, a friend, Wes, was there and they were building Dave's old Toyota Truggy, and we got to talking about shocks and suspension. And shortly thereafter, I ended up doing business with both Dave and the company Drew was with Full Traction at the time.
[00:23:45.350] - Frank Alioto
They both became customers of our private label Shocks, and we began to have just a good business relationship at first. And I was on the phone with them all the time. I was visiting them sometimes because I would go to where they live. I would deliver product. Drew helped me build my epic CJ Seven that I built, bright red for use in Edlebrock advertising. It was a good time. And again we would just go wheeling as often as we could. We see each other at all the company events, all the big events.
[00:24:31.500] - Frank Alioto
We would just hang out, drink beer and talk around the campfire.
[00:24:36.660] - Big Rich Klein
So that's interesting that you got to see Poly Performance when it was just a basically a one car shop.
[00:24:45.330] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. And only because I just walked in there and that particular weekend, all those people that worked in the industry happen to be there helping Dave with the project.
[00:24:56.920] - Big Rich Klein
That's pretty cool.
[00:25:00.760] - Frank Alioto
And we became fast friends. And Drew went to JV a lot, and he would always invite me. My TJ would go to JV and break down, and he would help me stab it together to get back to LA for work. And it was a good time.
[00:25:19.580] - Big Rich Klein
That's pretty cool. Do you remember the first competition that you went to?
[00:25:25.370] - Frank Alioto
That was when I was at when I still lived in Northern California. We came down to watch a competition. I was talking about it today with somebody. It was an Arca competition on the north side of the Lake bed, kind of way, way far in and the first thing I saw when I got there, I forgot his name. But Blaine Johnson and another gentleman was driving and they flopped a brand new TJ that was just beautiful and ripped the entire driver's side of the tub just down and backwards.
[00:26:10.860] - Frank Alioto
And I've not been at the event for 10 seconds. And I watched this and I was like, this could get expensive.
[00:26:19.130] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. That was the Masters course then.
[00:26:22.730] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. You had to drive through the Lakebed up around across the other Lake bed, past like claw hammer and kind of up by the mine. I don't remember what the area is called anymore.
[00:26:36.820] - Big Rich Klein
That's the master's course.
[00:26:39.200] - Frank Alioto
That was tons of fun to watch. And that was the first one I watched.
[00:26:45.410] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, cool. So that was probably 2000. I.
[00:26:54.200] - Frank Alioto
Would have thought it. I thought it was when I was still in Northern California.
[00:27:00.600] - Big Rich Klein
But it might have been 99 would have been about right. Yeah. Okay. Cool. And then you went to work. So it was after that that you went to work for Edelrock and then started going to Tierra del Soul and all the all the runs. The enthusiast runs, I guess, is the best way to put it.
[00:27:24.580] - Frank Alioto
[00:27:25.780] - Big Rich Klein
And when you're working the booth there, you got a chance to do a little bit of wheeling occasionally, I guess, because you're working the booth, unfortunately. Well, anybody that's in the industry knows what that's like, going to Moab or wherever. What was your out of all those places? What was the what was your favorite place to go?
[00:27:48.980] - Frank Alioto
I really love Moab. It's just so enormous. I love. I used to hot lap from across Golden Spike. I would go, what is it? Poison Spider Mesa across Golden Spike and out the other side. I would turn around and go right back. I just loved those trails up in there. I was never a big fan of Moab Rim because I'm sure it's perfectly safe. But the cliffs make you think it's not. It's like, if I tumble here, how far am I going to roll?
[00:28:30.680] - Big Rich Klein
It could be quite a ways.
[00:28:32.600] - Frank Alioto
Yeah, I don't want that. And then when I first went on Moab Rim with Dave, he flopped like, five times in his Toyota pickup. And I was like, oh, it's not so bad.
[00:28:45.390] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. He got close to the edge, didn't he flop on golden? Not golden crack but Devils crack or whatever they call it the flopped everywhere in that we'll have to get him on and Regal with his many flops there.
[00:29:05.040] - Frank Alioto
I have a lot of pictures of Dave and his slinky Toyota. I remember the day that we were on Moab Rim with him the first time I went wheeling with him. I had Fred behind me and his ultimate avalanche. And Dave was in front of me of Toyota. We went up to the top, had lunch. We're coming back down, Dave's behind me and I look in my mirror and he's fine. I look at my mirror. 1 second later, he's laying on his side. We come down a way further and he flops it again.
[00:29:39.260] - Frank Alioto
It was like this guy. I did not know what to expect. And he put that poor truck on his lid so many times.
[00:29:51.620] - Big Rich Klein
Did Fred ever roll in your when you were with him.
[00:29:57.030] - Frank Alioto
No, I've never seen Fred. I've seen pictures of Fred flops. Actually, I take it all back. One of let me think you're probably in 2006 or seven. Fred had a company car that was a 200 series Land Cruiser and he and I were in Johnson Valley. Hungry Valley. So Fred and I were in Hungry Valley, and he was shooting a feature on Jason Panes pickup truck that was finished after Jason passed away. And after her, Fred shot the feature. He and I went four Wheeling, and I was in my TJ, and he was in this beautiful, brand new Toyota 200 series, Land cruiser that belong to Toyota.
[00:30:53.520] - Frank Alioto
And again, I should just never blink when I'm on the trail because I'm following Fred, I blink and he's laying on the side in a ditch. He had gone up over a Hill and just flopped right in the just. I don't know how he did it. He just fell into a hole. The road turned and he didn't. If you ever go on my Instagram, I posted it a couple of weeks ago. A picture of that of that accident.
[00:31:25.860] - Big Rich Klein
And what's your Instagram account name is?
[00:31:29.680] - Frank Alioto
Frank the Tank with three TS for the so it's @FrankTTTthetank.
[00:31:36.720] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. Everybody get a chance to go over there to Instagram and check that out. I'm sure you've got plenty of plenty of cool photos from back in the day with all those guys.
[00:31:47.120] - Frank Alioto
I posted a lot of retro photos lately because I I found an old hard drive when I was swapping computers and I found a lot of my old pictures from when we were young and foolish.
[00:32:02.820] - Big Rich Klein
So let's talk some more about stories like that.
[00:32:08.260] - Frank Alioto
[00:32:11.500] - Big Rich Klein
Anybody else that you wheeledd with that that might be notable, that people know the names of that you that you had the opportunity to watch Flop or do something crazy.
[00:32:26.050] - Frank Alioto
I've seen so many flops. One of the neat things I got to do. Oh, let me start over. I used to wheel a lot with Ryan Raker and Brian Richie. They both had little Toyotas with EXO cabs. Okay, I think that Ryan's truck was originally built by Bender, and then Ryan worked with me at Edelbrock, and we put coilovers on it and did a lot of other stuff with it. And we would go out to the desert often with those two trucks because they held up a lot better than my TJ in the rocks of JV, especially since my TJ was my only car.
[00:33:15.250] - Big Rich Klein
[00:33:15.880] - Frank Alioto
You can't destroy your car every week if you have to be easy to get to work. I did, but it's not a good idea. And Ryan now has this company Accutune. So I claim that everything he knows he learned from me about shocks, which is complete BS, but it makes me feel better about myself.
[00:33:39.430] - Big Rich Klein
It doesn't matter. Just take the credit. Nobody needs to know yeah.
[00:33:44.770] - Frank Alioto
Nobody needs to know the truth. Just know that I'm one the brains.
[00:33:48.810] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. So with JV being a place that you guys wheeled a lot, when did you see the explosion of JVs popularity?
[00:34:02.660] - Frank Alioto
I would go out there, and it would be absolutely dead. Unless there was an event. My first couple of Roxy bashes. We're just amazing that the amount of people that came out to that or tinbenders, right. The Jamborees, the tin benders Jamborees were just incredible. I remember going to Tin Benders one time, and I was with my friends Ryan and Brian, and we took the two little Toyotas, and we took another engineer from Edelbrock. And we went out and we decided we got there about ten or 11:00 p.m..
[00:34:41.930] - Frank Alioto
I had time to say Hi to Drew, and then we went to run a night run in the Toyota's up Sledge. We figured we'd be back in 45 minutes. We broke a Birfield almost immediately. So we swapped the Birfield. Then the other truck lost an alternator. So we kept swapping batteries between the two trucks so the one would charge. And then we swap the battery. Then we broke another birfield. All the flashlights were dead. We were literally changing Birfields in the dark pretty much or by taillight.
[00:35:26.680] - Frank Alioto
At some point, I got fed up at about five in the morning, hiked up onto the big sand Hill. That's the exit and fell asleep like praying for warmth. But it ended up being an all night wheeling trip up sledge, which is normally a what, 30 minutes trip round trip back to the 40 minutes back to the lake bed.
[00:35:52.620] - Frank Alioto
And it was an all nighter. And I remember seeing Drew first thing in the morning, and he's like, hey, coming out on the trail, and I'm like, I need to sleep. I need to relax. I'm done. And he looked at me and said, you never go on a night run with the Toyota without a sleeping bag. And I thought that was the greatest quote ever.
[00:36:14.200] - Big Rich Klein
I think that everybody that has ever wheeled JV at least more than once has spent the night on a trail out there.
[00:36:22.790] - Frank Alioto
Yes. And it's cold and all of our gear is back at camp. I think we had, like, a six pack of beer, and that was it with us. You know, we weren't planning on spending the night, right?
[00:36:38.760] - Big Rich Klein
You never plan to spend the night.
[00:36:40.590] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. Now you prepare for it. Yeah. Exactly. So.
[00:36:47.230] - Big Rich Klein
How many times did you get a chance to run the Rubicon?
[00:36:52.060] - Frank Alioto
When I lived in Sutter Creek, I ran it literally six, seven times a summer. I've probably run it 30 times. I didn't get to run it as much when I moved to Southern California, right. Just because geographically it was far, but I run it at least 30 times in my life. It's good times.
[00:37:19.740] - Big Rich Klein
And what's your favorite part? Of the Rubicon Trail.
[00:37:22.980] - Frank Alioto
I used to love to camp at Buck Island. No, not Buck Island. What's the one that's closed Spider. Yeah. I used to love to camp at Spider Lake, and it was just a great time. You run the Winch cable out, and then you roll across on a fair lead and then drop into the water. It was great. It was just a good time.
[00:37:53.150] - Big Rich Klein
Very true. Very true. And did you ever run Fordyce?
[00:37:59.160] - Frank Alioto
We ran on the weekends. We weren't doing the Rubicon. We were on Fordyce or Barrett.
[00:38:07.330] - Big Rich Klein
Barrett's, the first trail that I did ever I did.
[00:38:14.180] - Frank Alioto
My first trail ride was on Deer Valley.
[00:38:18.800] - Frank Alioto
And I was in the Rycor Company Jeep. And the first obstacle is a little time. And I was with a shock technician at Rycor. I was in there Jeep, and the first thing they did on the first obstacle was rip a shock apart. It did not look good. The metrics were all bad.
[00:38:41.970] - Big Rich Klein
Hopefully you guys corrected that.
[00:38:44.200] - Frank Alioto
We unbolted it, threw it in the trunk. But basically, somebody didn't lock tight in that. Luckily, he was in the car with me when I did it. So it was his problem.
[00:38:57.710] - Big Rich Klein
So then the you worked at Edelbrock for how many years?
[00:39:09.500] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. I worked at Edelbrock from September of 99 until December of '08. Okay.
[00:39:21.920] - Big Rich Klein
You're there for quite a while. Nine years?
[00:39:25.210] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. I had no plans to leave, but, you know, things happen, right?
[00:39:29.840] - Big Rich Klein
Do you mind discussing what happened?
[00:39:34.200] - Frank Alioto
No. I was getting married. I had a wedding in Puerto Vallarta. A lot of my friends from the industry were there. We did the wedding. Everything went beautiful after the wedding. Well, let me back up. Okay. So I I went to Puerto Vallarta to get married. We rented out a boutique hotel. I had tons of my friends come down and stay at the hotel for a week with us. And basically, we partied all week. By the time the wedding came along, my fiance at the time, and I we're so tired of drinking.
[00:40:36.750] - Frank Alioto
We didn't even drink on the wedding day. We did like our champagne toast at the head table with water because we were just done. And.
[00:40:54.480] - Frank Alioto
We got married. We were at the reception. We've done all the dances. Everybody was just kind of hanging out by the pool. And one of the things that a lot of brides had done at this particular venue was they would dance in their wedding dresses with their bridesmaids. And there was a very shallow part of the pool, maybe, like, two inches deep. So just basically, you would get your feet wet. Well, I was talking with some people, and I saw all the girls were doing that, and I said, I'm going to go over there and dance with them.
[00:41:29.720] - Frank Alioto
And I jumped into the deeper part of the pool. And I don't know if I hit a bar stool underwater, the side of the pool, the bottom of the pool. I really don't know. I have no idea. But somewhere I hit my head and I fractured my neck. I remember floating in the pool, and I remember consciously thinking, I can't get out of this water. Thankfully, there were probably 40 people around the pool at the time, and they saw what had happened, and they pulled me right out.
[00:42:11.660] - Frank Alioto
And it was really weird. In the wedding party, I had two LA fire Department paramedics. I had a nurse and I had someone who worked in rehab. She was a therapist at a spinal cord injury facility. So I had all those people there. And I had another nurse who was fluent in Spanish, and they managed to get me to the local clinic is about 1030 at night. And a clinic in Mexico is basically a room with, like, five instruments and a gurney, they put me on IV's. And they just had a lady come in and check on me every half hour all night to see how I was doing.
[00:43:05.620] - Frank Alioto
I was definitely in shock. I was vomiting, freaked out. It was not a good time. And then when sunrise, you can get an airplane to flight back to the state. So I was flown back to San Diego. When we stopped, we actually had to land in Mexico at the border, and the military tried to shake us down for more money before they would let us go into the States. In the jet, I was a medic jet. Wow. It was a gurney and, like, three seats in the jet.
[00:43:42.940] - Frank Alioto
Another interesting part is when we were landing in San Diego, my pilot and co pilot did not speak English, and you could hear my head is close enough to the cockpit is basically is right behind the pilot seat. And I can hear the tower on the radio telling them that they were too low, too high, too fast, and they just kind of ignored it. And the tower is yelling at these guys the whole time. They don't speak a word of English. They didn't know what was going on, but they landed, and I was transferred to the hospital.
[00:44:17.240] - Frank Alioto
They put me into an emergency surgery fused my neck. And I was in and out for a couple of days where I really had no idea what was going on. And then I woke up and heard the phrase quadriplegic, which I was kind of hoping it would be like, I know people who have broken their backs and necks and not damage their spinal cord. And I thought I was going to be okay. And then I heard that word and it was like, oh, man, it was very stressful to put it mildly, I can imagine.
[00:44:51.200] - Big Rich Klein
And how old were you at that point?
[00:44:53.270] - Frank Alioto
[00:44:54.760] - Big Rich Klein
[00:44:55.680] - Frank Alioto
[00:44:58.900] - Big Rich Klein
So you've I want to say that you you appear to have dealt with it fairly well on the outside. To be honest, I have no idea what you have gone through.
[00:45:19.050] - Frank Alioto
And it was it was not an easy time when I went to rehab at Northridge Hospital because it was close to all my in laws, my sister in law, and they were able to visit me on a daily basis, as opposed to if I'd stayed in San Diego. I would have been alone for those three months, right out of surgery. So I remember they sent a psychiatrist to my room every two days, and I had to do consultations with her. This happens. It's not undoable. So where do we go from here?
[00:46:07.800] - Frank Alioto
She said I had a very like, very no nonsense. Okay, like I'm coping with it. Let's just what do we need to do to live life from here on out? Let's not get bogged down and why did it happen. And whoa is me I was more interested in. How do I live life from here on?
[00:46:32.960] - Big Rich Klein
That's good to hear it.
[00:46:37.020] - Frank Alioto
I mean, I honestly have had my moments, especially the first couple of years. I had my moments where I broke down a little bit. But for the most part, I was pretty much I was pretty able to deal with it because I don't know if it's my upbringing or how I was raised, but things happen in life, and it's how you deal with them that determines who you are as a person. So if something happens, I like to just deal with it and see where it's going to go.
[00:47:11.320] - Big Rich Klein
And now you're you're back to Jeeping. Did that just happen recently, or has it over the last couple of years, you've been able to do it?
[00:47:27.170] - Frank Alioto
Well, it's actually about ten years ago again, that pirate place that nobody had ever heard of. There was a Rubicon trip for disabled sport, and a bunch of members of Pirates were involved with the disabled sports Rubicon ride. And they invited me as a guest of their club to go on the Rubicon. And so I and a friend went up to the Rubicon, and I was put in a scout. And I don't know what my friend Chad wrote in. And we did the Rubicon. And it was kind of funny, because when they invited me, they had a ton of volunteers, and we had a rather big group.
[00:48:24.500] - Frank Alioto
And I said, okay, I would love to come on the Rubicon with you guys. But a couple of my friends would like to come see me on the trail. Is that okay? And they said, sure. And then the day we got into, we stayed at the Dirty dozen camp ground, right. And when we got there, we were setting up camp. And all of a sudden, about six or seven vehicles showed up filled with my friends. My friend Drew was there with my friend Aaron in Synergy vehicle.
[00:49:02.590] - Frank Alioto
My friend Dave, the land cruiser guy, was there. Some of his other friends were there. I just had this huge group of extra helpers. And when we went wheeling the next day with the club, we went into Buck Island, and we hung out. And I was like, every time we stopped, I had a small army come get my chair out of the back of the stout I was in, put it together and lift me out of this thing. And it was a great time. I loved it.
[00:49:37.980] - Frank Alioto
I had a great time. I got to see my friends. I got to be on the trail. And I had such a blast. And then that event kind of got canceled. At some point.
[00:49:56.120] - Big Rich Klein
They were having problems with insurance.
[00:49:59.260] - Frank Alioto
And then life got in the way a little bit. And a couple of years ago, I decided I really wanted my own Jeep, because then I could force the issue if I wanted to go four wheeling, because it was always hard to find somebody to carry me as a passenger, my gear and then a friend, because at the time, I wasn't even driving. So I learned to drive in a minivan on the streets. And I just decided I really wanted my own Jeep. And I kept looking at them, looking at them.
[00:50:38.890] - Frank Alioto
And I found one in Missouri LJ that was very clean looking, pretty much bone stock for eight grand. And I was telling my friend Fred because he and I share Craigslist ads all day every day. And I said, I want this Jeep, and he's like, you don't need that Jeep. And I said, But I want it. And he said, Fine. I said, how do I get it here? He said, Hold on. And he hung up. And he went off. And like, ten minutes later, I'm in a group chat with a guy named Greg from Missouri who is going to pick up this Jeep for me and truck it to KOH.
[00:51:24.100] - Frank Alioto
And that's what happened. It was probably three years ago now, they trucked it to KOH. Wouldn't take any money for gas. I gave him a bunch of beer. I just kept him drunk the KOH, and that's all I could do. You wouldn't take anything else. It was really, really nice of him. And I mean, his tow vehicle broke down on the way here . Or maybe it was the way home. He had troubles and problems, and he never complained about it. He just, hey, we're going to do this.
[00:52:01.180] - Frank Alioto
We're going to be fine. Actually, his name is Jeff. Did I say Greg? Anyway, he brought the Jeep out to KOH, I had my caregiver drive at home, and I drive the minivan, and we took it, hand controls put in it. And I drove it around Gorman a couple times. And then I wanted to be able to run the Rubicon. So I kind of formulated a plan to put 35 on it. A small lift. And I had some old TJ parts from my old TJ in the garage and see what we could do.
[00:52:43.060] - Frank Alioto
And then I'm very blessed to have a lot of friends in the industry and they got together and they helped me get parts to make it much more than I ever imagined it would be. And my friend Dave Slossburg, he offered up his shop for a place for it to be built, and he had a fabricator that owed him a favor. So he put the fabricator on the Jeep and they built more than I ever imagined receive whatever became. It is a monster. It is.
[00:53:27.750] - Frank Alioto
It has to be more capable than I am for sure. And I got to go drive it this last weekend for the first time since it was modified. Nice. It needs a little bit of tweaking before I really get to the point where I can just go terrorize things in the mountains, but it's coming along really well. And if I had to go through the list of people who helped me with that vehicle, your podcast would be about 3 hours long.
[00:54:03.820] - Big Rich Klein
No worries. I'm sure they they're not doing it for the recognition they did it for you.
[00:54:11.760] - Frank Alioto
I just like I said, I am blessed and I I cannot thank if you've helped me with this vehicle at all, you know who you are and I cannot thank you enough. It's just amazing to me. I had a pretty nice TJ before I was injured and I loved that thing. But this is so much more than it was. It is unbelievable.
[00:54:42.570] - Big Rich Klein
I'm glad that that's the case and that you're going to be able to to enjoy that for the years to come and get back out there and doing what us in this industry love to do.
[00:54:58.590] - Frank Alioto
It is absolutely. I'm so excited. The Jeep comes home around Halloween and I cannot wait even just I used to like, even just driving it around LA. I take the top off and go up and down the beach in it. I would have somebody put me in it. It has a crane that lifts me into it nice and so one person can help me get in and out. And it used to be my caregiver. So it was much better than when we did the Rubicon and I had to have four guys lift me 3ft in the air.
[00:55:36.060] - Frank Alioto
I just attached to a crane and I pop right in with just minimal help and I can't wait to just take it and go get ice cream on a Sunday afternoon and then I'm in. When I get to the trails. My girlfriend lives right at the base of Big Bear, and so Big Bear trails are just so easy to get to for me.
[00:56:03.000] - Big Rich Klein
That'S a nice area too. I had not had a chance to do Big Bear until just about two years ago. Tire and industry run with some influencers for one of the tire companies and had a really good time up there. I had never done it.
[00:56:21.540] - Frank Alioto
I went there a lot during my Hermosa years because my roommate family had a cabin up there, so we would go up there and hang out and ski in the winter and Jeep in the summer. And it was just a great fun love. It like it's not nearly as hard as the Northern California trails, but it's beats sitting in traffic on the freeway.
[00:56:52.900] - Big Rich Klein
Absolutely. Anything. Beats that. That damn 405.
[00:56:58.160] - Frank Alioto
Well, the shake your vehicle right apart.
[00:57:00.680] - Big Rich Klein
True. So what do you think is in the future for you, Frank? Do you have any grand plans?
[00:57:09.700] - Frank Alioto
I don't know. Right now I'm working again a little bit. I work from home. I work for Alden Shock Absorbers here in Southern California. I'm doing a little bit of design work, which is what I really enjoy doing. I would like to take an extended four wheeling trip. Not really like Ultimate Adventure, but just go to Sand Hollow, go to Moab, stay at a hotel because it's not easy to get me in and out of the tent. Although I do have a cot and everything set up for that.
[00:57:51.260] - Frank Alioto
I'd like to see more of the world as it relates to four wheeling than I have in the past. Plus, I'd like to go places like Idaho and Montana have not spent a lot of time where I have a lot of friends living. Now. I'd like to just kind of tour around and see things.
[00:58:14.260] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. I'm sure that some of your friends will hear this and then hopefully be able to help you put something together like that.
[00:58:23.720] - Frank Alioto
[00:58:25.760] - Big Rich Klein
And if you do that trip more, you're planning it. Let me know. I'd like to be part of that.
[00:58:32.820] - Frank Alioto
I will let you know. I like I feel sometimes it's like I went to Sand Hollow last year. There's a young man named Rich that lives there who wanted to show me some trails. But schedules between his schedule and my schedule, we just couldn't meet up in the three days I was there.
[00:58:57.640] - Big Rich Klein
That's too bad, because he knows those trails really well.
[00:59:00.860] - Frank Alioto
Yeah, but I'll get back there sooner than later. I really enjoyed Sand Hollow. I thought that was just the greatest place to go four wheeling, it is a great playground, that's for sure.
[00:59:17.490] - Big Rich Klein
And there's so much of it.
[00:59:18.720] - Frank Alioto
Yeah. I would have been lost in seconds. Luckily, we had some people in the group that were experienced and knew their way around because I have no clue where we were going, but they knew where we were going and they took us everywhere and there was a good time.
[00:59:42.870] - Big Rich Klein
Good. Good. Have you been out to JV lately?
[00:59:47.320] - Frank Alioto
I go to K-O-H. Almost every year. I didn't go last year because I was a little bit perplexed. I wasn't terrified of the the pandemic, but I just didn't really want to expose myself to it because it was still pretty early in the pandemic.
[01:00:15.650] - Big Rich Klein
[01:00:16.080] - Frank Alioto
And I wasn't sure what was going on with it. And I was like, let's stay home this year.
[01:00:21.380] - Big Rich Klein
That makes sense.
[01:00:22.780] - Frank Alioto
But I've done a lot several years, and I hang out with the guys at Goatbuilt. We have a good time and we enjoy it. Now that I have a Jeep, everybody's saying they better see it at. KOh, and that means I probably have to go, because if they see somebody else driving it, I'm gonna get yelled at.
[01:00:47.270] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. There you go. That's something to look forward to, at least.
[01:00:50.520] - Frank Alioto
Yeah, but my only problem with Koh is it's either really nice weather or freezing.
[01:00:59.360] - Big Rich Klein
There is no in between. You're right. It's hot or it's cold.
[01:01:07.700] - Frank Alioto
I don't mind the heat, but when it gets cold, I have so much nerve pain, the kicks in. It's like, I don't camp as much as I used to. So now it's like, okay, Where's the nearest hotel? And I'll just come in and out every day.
[01:01:22.860] - Big Rich Klein
So your LJ they built. Did they get you a good heater in it? Does it still have a factory heater?
[01:01:28.110] - Frank Alioto
I still got the factory heater. It's mostly a factory vehicle. They replaced the drive line from the transmission back. It's it was in really good shape when I bought it. It's kind of high miles at 200,000, but it doesn't look like it's been abused. It's got a little surface rust. There's a pretty good deal at the time. I thought, excellent.
[01:01:55.290] - Big Rich Klein
So let's it was up at Dave shop in. Okay.
[01:02:01.820] - Frank Alioto
I was at the Dave's shop for a long while, and then now it's at a friend shop, a friend's house nearby. While he's just doing some of the little he does all the tinkering on it when it's in. All the stuff that takes forever, you know, the last 10% of a build takes forever. So it's at his house. He does wiring and things on it. But all the fabrication, a lot of the design was all done at Poly Performance.
[01:02:35.810] - Frank Alioto
And I am grateful to Dave and all the guys at Poly Performance that helped with it.
[01:02:41.780] - Big Rich Klein
Do you know if they took a lot of pictures along the way?
[01:02:46.160] - Frank Alioto
They did? I have a lot of the pictures saved in my phone. Okay. They're just hard to find more. I have. I don't mean to be it, but I probably take ten pictures a day and send pictures. And this. I've had this phone for years and it's been backed up. There are like 5000 pictures on this phone. It takes forever to find anything.
[01:03:14.630] - Big Rich Klein
You need to go through it some time when you're bored and try to organize it.
[01:03:22.320] - Frank Alioto
I tried to put everything in folders, and that's just not the way it is right now.
[01:03:27.940] - Big Rich Klein
I understand mine's the same way. Well, excellent. I would like to say thank you so much for coming on and being part of conversations with Big Rich and sharing your story. I think that you have a great story and that it's awesome that you are willing to share it with us.
[01:03:54.290] - Frank Alioto
Thank you for inviting me. I'm not one of those guys that likes to talk just to hear his voice, but I hope somebody find it interesting and it's been an enjoyable experience.
[01:04:11.960] - Big Rich Klein
Well, thank you so much. And I'm going to contact you here shortly after we get off the phone because there's another little project I'd like to do about your Jeep and our magazine. So expect a text from me and we'll see if we can make that work.
[01:04:30.740] - Frank Alioto
Okay. Sounds good.
[01:04:32.490] - Big Rich Klein
Alright, Frank, you take care and thank you so much for being Frank the Tank.
[01:04:38.800] - Frank Alioto
You are welcome and thank you as well.
[01:04:41.450] - Big Rich Klein
Alright, take care.
[01:04:42.840] - Speaker 2
But if you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating. Share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. That brings this episode to an end. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich. Thank you very much.