While many childhood memories are filled with baseball games, model planes, road trips, and that first school crush, Alfredo Carlin’s childhood was full of gears – Motorcycle gears, Muscle car gears.
While other kids had bicycles, Carlin was riding his first motorcycle. He has his father to thank for this journey off the beaten path. A mechanical engineer by trade, he introduced Alfredo to the automotive and motorcycle world at an early age. Watching films such as “Easy Rider” and “LeMans” with Steve McQueen, the fascination not only stuck with him, but began to form a link between motorcycles and cars – and a common bond with American freedom for an entire generation. A bond which would stick with him for the rest of his life. It was at that moment that he knew what kind of work would define himself and his future.
Following service in the Army as a welder, machinist, fabricator, and mechanic, Carlin obtained master professional certifications from both ICAR and ASE, continuing on to work for an elite auto shop where he mastered his skills on high-end models, such as Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and other iconic vehicles. This passion for classic cars, muscle cars and hot rods led him to open up his own shop in the early 1990s, at a time when Loudoun County was still considered rural, and Rt. 28 was a simple two-lane byway.
Guided by his childhood passions, Carlin opened up his first shop – Hardcore Hot Rods, in a small strip mall shop off of Rt. 50. It was in this small shop that, where he worked 6 days a week, 12 to 14 hour days, restoring and building American iron of all kinds.
With a shop in his name and experience to boot, he realized it was time to have his own custom chopper. Built from scratch, the project took several months to complete, however, his efforts quickly paid off. During an early test-ride, while sitting at a local gas station, Carlin received his first-ever offer for a custom chopper build, from a complete stranger.
Not willing to sell “his first” – he promptly offered to build the man a one-off custom to his own specifications. It was with this first sale that Hardcore Choppers hit the ground running in the mid-1990s.
Blessed with continued success, his path towards building lucrative local businesses with over 2,000 clients both local, nationally and abroad has also allowed Carlin to give back.
The company’s unique skill set has allowed them to build many choppers, which have been auctioned off by charities such as Fight For Children, Fisher House Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors [TAPS] and Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
In the past dozen years or so, Carlin has estimated that his efforts have raised more than $1 million for the various charities. That figure includes more than $500,000 for Fight For Children, a Washington, D.C., organization that supports educational opportunities for at-risk youth, and holds an annual Fight Night event to support the cause.
“It’s not just the money Al has raised, but the business network he has brought,” said Liz Warnecki, administrative manager of Fight For Children. “Word of mouth is huge for us” Warnecki said.
“Al raises the bar for others,” added Keith Gordon, president and CEO of the Fight For Children.
Carlin first donated a chopper to be auctioned off during Fight Night in 2006, having been introduced to the event and organization through Chuck Kuhn, president of JK Moving. He recalled standing in the back as the motorcycle was brought out, praying it would sell for a substantial sum. The chopper sold for $110,000 that night.
“I was really relieved when it sold for that amount,” Carlin said. “I wanted to make sure that we completed the mission with flying colors.” Another chopper, the Captain America chopper, sold in 2010 for a cool $100,000.
Another popular Fight Night chopper, designed around a unique Washington Nationals theme, was purchased by a local businessman after the 2012 season for $100,000.
The buyer donated it back to auction off again at this year’s Fight Night, slated for Nov. 2 at the Washington Hilton. It will be the first Hardcore-built chopper to be sold at the event in several years. The chopper includes autographs from numerous players, including current All-Star Ryan Zimmerman and former fan favorite Michael Morse. Organizers hope to obtain more signatures from this year’s players.
“I’m very grateful to be in this position to help raise money for a great cause,” said Carlin, who has also built choppers for disabled vets, ones which utilize hand controls rather than foot controls. “It’s the least that I can do for the servicemen who risk their lives every day in support of our continued freedom and way of life. After all, they are the real heroes”.
Gordon and Warnecki recently visited Carlin at his new, 27,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art shop in Sterling, viewing workers building and restoring classic vehicles like a 1946 Chevy truck and 1965 Ford Mustang, as well many other muscle cars and hot rods.
The restoration process can take several months. Parts can be hard to obtain for the more vintage vehicles. Sometimes parts that can’t be found are made from scratch from the specialized equipment and the lost metalworking techniques that is part of a daily routine by his craftsmen.
“All old cars have a story to tell. I’ve been called an artist many times for bringing them back to life, however, I like to think of myself as a craftsman more than an artist.” explained Carlin, who participates in local classic auto shows, and has owned many classics throughout the years himself. Carlin’s current stable includes a 1965 Shelby Cobra, 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, Porsche 911 Slatnose and a 1970 Chevelle SS. “I think it is important to preserve and enjoy as many of these icons as possible.”
Carlin’s newest business is the Speedway Garage and Speedway Cycles brand, intended to broaden and diversify his core enterprises. Carlin credits his level of success to a loyal and talented employee base, the main core of which has been with him for more than 15 years.
“All my guys have been hand-picked, based on their talent level and dedication.” Carlin explains, “Like they say, you are only as good as your people. We know our customers take pride in the skill level of the techs that wrench on their vehicles.”
The Speedway brand not only performs complete restorations of classic vehicles (one of the few Northern Virginia shops to do so) but performs all-over paint jobs, collision repairs, performance upgrades, complete mechanical repair, electrical repair, dyno tuning, upholstery, as well as building ground-up custom cars and motorcycles.
They also sell and specialize in both late-model and classic Harley Davidson motorcycles, choppers, classic cars, hot rods and muscle cars.
“It’s evolved into a much larger identity for us all, one which we are very proud of,” Carlin said. “I see this as the final chapter of an incredible journey. We will continue giving back as we always have, but hopefully to a degree we’ve never seen before.”
Carlin explains how giving back has allowed his vision to come full-circle, with the opening of this new brand, “After all, it’s really a tribute to the speedway… that’s where this all began.”