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As a young boy growing up just east of Los Angeles, Greg Monise did not appreciate just how important his grandfather, Frank Monise Sr., was to the automotive world—in particular, to the world of racing. The only thing Greg knew or cared about at the time was that his grandfather was a kindly, single-minded presence whose entire ethos boiled down to a bumper sticker: “Fix Cars. Go Racing.”
It was only years later, during a commemorative event at the legendary Riverside International Raceway, that Greg, as a young adult, came to appreciate the impact that Frank Sr. had had on the car world. Sure, Greg had seen the old, tattered albums full of photos of Porsches and Lotuses, Corvettes and Mercedes. He’d heard the tales of hard-fought battles at places like Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Santa Barbara, and Daytona, against men with names like Miles, Reventlow, McAfee, and Clark. He’d heard mention of a national championship with Peter Brock and the BRE Datsun team. Until that day at Riverside, however, when Greg finally saw his grandfather’s trophies assembled in one place and heard the stories of his grandfather’s exploits, Frank Sr. was merely “Grandpa” to Greg. How was he to reconcile this kindly old man with the tales of competitiveness he was hearing about?
As chronicled previously on Hagerty, the racing tradition runs deep here at Frank Monise Motors, which now resides in Rancho Cucamonga, California, some 40 miles east of Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. Greg and his father, Frank Monise Jr., spend their days here restoring small displacement British sports cars such as MGBs, Triumphs, and Austin-Healeys, but their true passion for racing is never far away, as evidenced by the assembly of open-wheel Formula Ford race cars tucked throughout the shop. Come the weekend, odds are the Monise men will be out at Willow Springs International Raceway (“The Fastest Road in the West”), taking laps on the same track that nearly killed Frank Sr. back in the 1950s.
With this lineage comes a sense of responsibility, which neither Frank Jr. nor Greg takes lightly. “Our name means something. It’s meant something since the 1950s,” Frank Jr. says. “The Monise name is super important to me and I certainly don’t want it to become somebody’s sideshow joke.”
As this father and son know, however, reputation is built not by momentary glory on the race track, but rather by waking up every day and putting in the long hours of tedious work.
“I feel very responsible to carry on, to make this prosper as my dad has done for 50 years and as my grandfather did for years before that, “ Greg says. “ I mean, I can’t let it cease to be because of me, because of my effort or lack of ability.”
It was this same attitude—that dogged attention to detail and insistence on excellence—that made Frank Monise Sr. a “giant killer,” as Greg puts it, a man who seldom failed to take the least amount of race car and beat drivers in bigger, faster cars. That Frank Sr. was never intimidated by anyone didn’t hurt either. Nobody, and nobody’s car, scared him.
“He just showed up to the track and beat cars he had no business beating,” Greg says.
Racing glory, however, only does so much to help a family business stay afloat, which is why Greg and Frank Jr. both arrive early to their shop each day and dig into the minutiae of these vintage British cars. These men have a special place in their heart for the MGBs.
“My affinity with the MGB especially, started when I was pretty young.” Greg says. “My uncle raced an MGB, and that was the car I fell in love with, which led to me racing an MGB for seven years.”
Of course, this affection is not unalloyed. Both Greg and Frank Jr. will freely admit that, while the reputation among British cars for quirkiness is exaggerated, these MGBs certainly have their idiosyncrasies.
“They have the worst weather equipment,” Greg says with a laugh. “It’s unbelievable for an island country that’s cold and wet: all the weather gets into the car. Every one of them have terrible heaters, terrible wipers and they all leak water, all the soft tops and curtains and things, none of them seal very well. It’s amazing.”
It is precisely these challenges, these quirks, that still keep Greg and Frank Jr. engaged and fascinated after all these years—and which will likely keep this family tradition alive into future generations.
“I have four grandchildren, and it really looks like they’re all going to be into cars and motorsports one way or another,” Frank Jr. says. “They’re absolutely rabid about it. It’s fantastic that there’s another generation that’s going to be doing just as much as we did.”
This Monise tradition—“Fix Cars. Go Racing”—will endure, one child at a time.