Aligned for performance

David Graff walks past the 3-D aligner that uses two cameras

One step into Performance Art in Gilroy, and car owners know
they’re not at their usual auto mechanic any more. The high-end
auto shop’s lobby resembles a museum, with a tricked-out green
Mustang parked in the middle and subtly lit displays of wheel rims
and other shiny car accoutrements displayed on the walls.
One step into Performance Art in Gilroy, and car owners know they’re not at their usual auto mechanic any more. The high-end auto shop’s lobby resembles a museum, with a tricked-out green Mustang parked in the middle and subtly lit displays of wheel rims and other shiny car accoutrements displayed on the walls.

When their car repairs are finished, customers receive five-star treatment, finding a tin of mints on the driver’s seat and a chilled bottle of water in the cup holder. But some pampered customers never set foot in the high-class shop because Performance Art picks up and drops off their ride.

“We’re the Four Seasons of the car business,” CEO Jon Lazares said.

Located on Rossi Lane in southeast Gilroy, Performance Art opened in 2007 and caters to high-performance vehicles such as Mazaratis, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Bugatis.

Motorsports enthusiasts, the employees at Performance Art sponsor Off Camber Racing, a group that races Mazda Miatas at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey. The race cars are trucked to Performance Art for suspension and undercarriage repairs, and its mechanics frequently go to Laguna Seca to help in the pit and on the sidelines.

But drivers of Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas aren’t left in the dust.

“Our passion is high-performance cars, but we’ll work on anything that rolls. If it has four wheels and rolls, we’re in,” Lazares said. “Everyone gets the same level of treatment.”

Services include detailing, alignment, suspension, brakes, exhaust, and tire and wheel changes.

“We do all types of stuff that has to do with under the car as far as controllability, ride quality – those things that ensure comfort and confidence,” General Manager Kevin Patten said.

The 24,000-square-foot space houses a spotless workshop featuring state-of-the-art equipment that Patten hand-picked, including scales that help to equally weight each corner of the vehicle, a no-touch Corghi AM26 tire mounter that won’t scratch the wheels and two of the latest John Bean alignment systems that test the alignment on all four wheels to improve vehicle handling.

“We align the car for the individual,” Lazares said. “A lot of people will say, ‘How much is an alignment?,’ and I’ll say, ‘Two or four wheels?’ Most people don’t know that you can align all four wheels on a car.”

The driver’s body weight and the number of passengers usually in the vehicle and their weights are also factored into the alignment.

Performance Art even uses nitrogen instead of air to inflate tires. The benefits of nitrogen are less pressure variation when the tires heat up from driving and less loss of pressure over time, resulting in higher gas mileage and less tire wear. Nitrogen has been used at professional race tracks for years.

Beyond repairs, car aficionados can add custom wheels, grills and lights – or “bling” as Lazares calls them. Performance Art carries wheels made by luxury manufacturers such as BBS, HRE and Brabus.

Performance Art also hosts “tech sessions” twice a month for Bay Area car clubs. At the last tech session, 240 auto enthusiasts came for three hours to learn about detailing. Sessions are taught by Patten and Shop Foreman David Graff.

Patten has 36 years of experience in the automotive repair industry and used to race sports cars, winning several Sports Car Club of America regional road race championships from 2000 to 2003. He taught automotive classes in suspension, alignment and steering at De Anza College for seven years.

Graff has repaired cars for more than 35 years and specializes in Porsche suspension.

“Dave is a Porsche master,” Lazares said. “He customized a Porsche so we could show the Porsche Club what our capabilities are. It’s a showpiece.”

An expert in Mustangs, Patten customized the 2008 Bullitt Mustang on display in the lobby. It features more than 50 modifications, including mirrors, wheels and new tail lights that blink like slot machines. The Mustang won first place in car competitions in Pleasanton and San Jose earlier this summer.

Patten and Graff are the only mechanics at Performance Art, so all customers get the benefits of their expertise.

“I know exactly who is going to be working on my car,” said Alice Bloom, of Gilroy, who drives a Corvette. “Because it’s a high performance car, they call whenever I’m due for a looksie. I never have to think about it.”

Customers drive from as far away as the East Bay, Southern California and even other states to have the team at Performance Art repair their vehicles. Usually they have heard about Performance Art through Patten, online car club message boards and word of mouth.

Performance Art ran newspaper ads when it first opened in June 2007, but now it relies largely on word of mouth to attract new customers. Lazares made one woman a regular client when he pulled off the road to help her change a flat tire.

“I go to Performance Art for everything now,” Dorie Sugay, of Gilroy, said. “I’ve even sent my priest.”

For all the little extras, such as the sparkling clean bathrooms and free wi-fi, customers such as Sugay are willing to pay a bit more than they might elsewhere.

“We’re not the cheapest, but we’re competitive,” said Lazares, who estimates that an alignment at Performance Art costs $10 more than it would at a dealership. “We’re all about quality and service. It’s all about service, service, service. Service is key. With great service, we offer better quality than they’ve ever gotten in their life.”

Plus, Lazarus can offer customers discounts, and he keeps costs down by ordering tires online from Tire Rack instead of maintaining a large inventory of tires like the large warehouse chains.

“Once someone comes to us,” he said, “they don’t go anywhere else.”

Performance Art

Where: 5755-B Rossi Lane, Gilroy

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment

Contact: 848-6325 or www.performanceartonline.com

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