Crew Chief Profiles: Costa Gialamas


5. Random Questions

 - What is the most fearful or exciting thing you have done? It doesn’t even have to be in a car!

I raced dirt bikes for some years and in that time I have certainly scared myself a few times.  One time was when some friends and I went to Mammoth Mountain to practice on the motocross track there.  We were by ourselves at the track for a couple of days and on the last day we were having fun on the finish line jump, which was about 80ft long at this time.  We were just hitting the jump over and over, doing tricks and trying to upstage each other.  I was having so much fun that I forgot to stop and check my fuel level.  Needless to say, my fuel ran out just as I was leaving the lip of the jump and threw me for a superman ride above my bike. I walked away with just a few scrapes and bruises, but that one was scary for sure. 

 - What has been the best car you have built?

I would say that the best car I ever built was a class 10 desert race car.  This was when I was sub contracting for Millenworks and the car was designed by John Dunne and John Charland.  Class 10 cars are small light open wheeled cars with 4 cylinder engines (usually Honda or Toyota) that are limited in displacement based on whether you run with a navigator or not.  This was a single seat car that was the lightest car that had probably ever been built.  All said and done, the car weighed something like 1900 lbs.  The car featured super thin boxed control arms and uprights with 28 inches of wheel travel, plunging axles with custom CVs , fabricated transmission housing, true zero-bump steer steering system, side pods to house the dual radiators and coolers, titanium, carbon, and many other exotic materials, plus all the bells and whistles that an endurance racer has built in.  The most successful car I ever built however was a Pro4 truck built for Rod Millen to drive in the CORR series.  We almost won the championship, but a blown engine at the final event relegated us to 2nd.

Racing Legend, Rod Millen with son Rhys Millen. Costa worked on Rod’s Pro4 Championship Off Road Racing truck. Pro4 were full-sized, V8, Four-Wheel-Drive, tube-frame trucks. Yes, I am a an off-road truck enthusiast as well!

– What cars are easier to build? Race cars with regulations or cars that little to no regulations to build to?

I think it is easier to build a race car when the regulations are loose. When rules are overly strict, you lose the freedom to innovate.  Without that freedom you end up with cookie cutter cars that may as well be in a spec series and that is not very exciting.  Also, when rules are tight, you have to push the envelope further in order to achieve the competitive advantage we are all looking for.  This leads to higher costs and more time for the team to develop a winning platform. 

 – What car is your daily driver?

The car I drive on a daily basis is also my current tow vehicle.  It is a 1994 Chevy Suburban 4×4 with the 454 engine.  Gas mileage is not so awesome these days though.  It’s about time to diesel up!

You can’t beat reliable, GM 454 V8 power, room for 9 and able to go off-road! Though, I can certainly like the Diesel idea, too!

– What is your dream car?

I have a few dream cars and when I’m rich, I’ll build all of them.  One is a sleeper WRC car for the street without the restrictor. It will have all the electronic aids like anti-lag, traction control, launch control, map selections, etc. The windows will be tinted so you can’t see the cage and interior mods and I’ll go to Newport and light up some unsuspecting exotic owners as well as doing some racing and rallying with it.  I also really like mobster era hot rods like 30’s Mercury, so I’ll probably build one of those one day.  Something really bulbous, with a chopped top, a giant cubic inch blown engine, tubs and giant rear tires hidden under a slammed chassis would be a fun weekend cruiser. Then of course you have to have an exotic in there and I’ve always liked the Ferrari F50.  I think I’d like to have at least one car from each segment to mix it up.  I’ve also always wanted to build and fly my own helicopter, though I think this will end up being more like a retirement project.  I’m going to need a big garage! 

 – Is Gialamas Technical Innovations your only occupation or do you have primary one?

Gialamas Technical Innovations LLC is my only occupation.  I started the company in 2003 and I have been at it ever since. 

 - Do or have you raced cars? If so, what all do or did you run and where?

I currently have a Class 5 open desert race car that I run from time to time in the southern California deserts.  It is an open class Baja bug that is pretty fun to drive, though it could use a bit more power to really be fun.  I have also had the opportunity to drive open class rally cars, drift cars, road race cars and different types of offroad cars. I enjoy them all for their different challenges and environments.

This is the Class 5 Unlimited buggy of Costa Gialamas! Class 5000 in Best In The Desert, which is very close to these buggies, are vehicles that must be VW sedan type-1 hardtops or convertibles as delivered from the factory. 181 Safaris, 900 series Porches, Karmann Ghias, VW type-2 and type-3 are included in this class. Front and rear suspension systems may be modified or replaced as long as stock concept (trailing-arms, swing-axles, IRS, etc.) is retained and wheelbase limit is not exceeded. Any four cylinder air or water cooled engine is permitted and displacement is open. Yes, I want to drive one, one day! 

– Do you have any hobbies outside of anything automotive?

When I get the chance, I enjoy mountain biking, riding dirt bikes, snowboarding, camping/hiking, fishing, shooting guns, scuba diving, wake boarding, etc.  I also want to try skydiving and get my hands on a wing suit to try.  Some of the proximity flying they are doing with them these days is amazing!

 - How hard is it to own a shop in an economy like the one we have today?

It is incredibly difficult to operate a small shop, especially when we are in trying economic times.  Because of this we have had to trim the fat out of our operations to remain solvent, but I love what I’m doing.  And I am committed to providing quality services to my clients at a good value.  Luckily, we have great customers, our model is very diverse, and we offer high quality service at a good value.  These core traits have allowed us to stay very busy even in slow economic times. So overall the future is bright for Gialamas Technical Innovations LLC.     

– Do you think that going to technical schools like UTI or Lincoln Tech help guys coming into the professional world, do you prefer real world experience in the people you hire, or do you like to see a mix of both?

I find that the most important trait of a good race mechanic or fabricator is intelligence.  Experience is worth nothing if it is not good experience learning the right way to do things, and training is only as good as the trainer and ones ability to learn the subject. I have seen experienced hacks and book smart idiots, and neither of them does well in this type of work. You need to be able to think on your feet, diagnose and find a solution quickly if you want to be successful in this business.  That being said, the technical schools do offer a good base of knowledge to work with and expand upon.  Any applicant needs to be ready to learn though.  Many tech school grads and new M.E.’s think they know everything when they come into the workforce, and they get schooled on the first day.  I still learn new things almost every day and I expect the people I hire to do the same. 

 - Finally, who do you want to thank or tell people about that has helped you though your career and/or life?

First, I would like to thank my family for all their support and advice over the years, and also for instilling a strong work ethic in me.  I would say that more than anything else, this is what has allowed me to get where I am today. The knowledge that anything is within your grasp with enough hard work is extremely empowering.  I need to thank my neighbors, the Gillespie’s and the McCawley’s, for exposing me to off-roading when I was a youngster. This fueled my interest in technology and has been a great past time over the years.  Also, Bill Smith and Rod Millen for taking a chance on putting the young guy in a big position. Need to thank the great engineers who have put up with my annoying questions over the years: John Dunne, John Charland, Dr. Eric Anderfaas, Jack Auld, Praveen Penmetsa, John Mcnulty and Mike Kojima.   Thanks to Rhys Millen for all I was able to learn while I worked with him. Big thanks to the media outlets who have taken notice of the work we are doing like Import Tuner, Speed Hunters and MotoIQ.  And finally thank you to all the loyal customers who have supported GTI since our start, without you we would not exist.

Gialamas and Kojima
Costa Gialamas, Ruler of Abu Dhabi!
Costa Gialamas


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *