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For the Restless
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Man and woman standing next to customized 1969 Jeep Commando in a desert landscape

Restless Spirits 002: Alex Earle, Founder, Earle Motors

Alex Earle is a professional car designer, founder of Earle Motors, a writer, a driver, and a self-described "builder of all these crazy road rigs." He's also a friend who has traveled with us from Joshua Tree to Costa Rica to Iceland. Watch our conversation with him and then check out the extended interview.

Tell us about “Earle Motors.”

I'm an industrial designer. Been working for a lot of German OEM car manufacturers for many, many years and just generally designing off-road stuff in the spare time that I have. And, kind of working up this whole Earle Motors program of designing and building vehicles for off-roading.

1969 Jeep Commando driving on dirt road in desert landscape kicking up plumes of dust

Photo © Christopher Thoms

Were you always a transportation designer? How did you get your start?

Initially, when I left high school I got into environmental planning and city planning, landscape architecture type stuff. And I did that for many, many years; I have a degree in that. I worked in Denver for a long time, a little bit in Aspen and Boulder, before discovering ArtCenter here in Pasadena, which brought me to California. The rest is history. Ever since then I found what I would call kind of my true calling. I've been doing car design and motorcycle design ever since.

At ArtsCenter, towards the end of my training there, I ended up winning this scholarship with Porsche. It's a long story, but my final project at school was a Porsche 550 of the future and they really liked that model. For a short time I was in the race department and it was the year that the GT1s were first and second place at Le Mans. I got to go to the race and watch the whole thing. I would sketch, I would sit next to the cars, those cars, like, right there, as an intern. It was an incredible experience.

Sketch of motorcycle by Alex Earle
Alex Earle sitting on motorcycle prototype

We love going on trips with you, talk about your relationship with AETHER.

I was trying to think of exactly when I got introduced to AETHER and I distinctly remember having seen an ad that kind of stopped me. There was a guy, this young guy wearing a really nice motorcycle jacket, like a really clean aesthetic. I didn't own an adventure bike or anything, I just saw this image of this person having this adventure in this far away place. So it spoke to me so clearly as something that I strive for, like in my own design and the kind of functionality and the attention to detail. I find when I'm designing stuff, that's kind of where I try to start as well. Like, tell a story.

I think we did a trip to Joshua Tree and, in fact, I brought this bike and really learned a lot from the founders, Jonah and Palmer. So I like to think we've become really good friends over the years and I just always have a fantastic time.

Man standing next to motorcycle in front of building in Oaxaca
Man standing on back of Land Rover that's stuck in a river in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, 2020

Talk about the Mulholland electric motorcycle.

The Mulholland is one more example of my design process and approach. I go through all these roads that people dream of visiting on a weekend, like Mulholland and the 23 and Piuma—all these really, really amazing roads. And so it started to come together to me; there's my experience of going to The Old Place on Mulholland, and The Rock Store, and The Snake, and all this kind of stuff. So I created this bike based on that experience and I'm like, how do I optimize this thing to work in that environment? You know, the best possible way. So I started creating lights that would illuminate the hills because you often get caught out in the evening at dusk. So I got these lights that illuminate the canyon walls and I gave it much more of a kind of a sports bike stance. Raised the seat, lowered the handlebars, and I put some really light, nice carbon wheels on it so it transitions very quickly.

Man on motorcycle at night pulling up to intersection in slow motion

Tell us about racing the NORRA Mexican 1000.

I think we did very well for our first time, we had no experience whatever of this kind of event. And so just the fact that we that we were there and completed, as much as we did and had a fantastic time. We prepared this 1969 Jeep Commando for the NORRA 1000, the Mexican 1000, they call it. It's kind of like the original race down the full length of the peninsula from the early '60s. So this Jeep was built specifically for the Pioneer 4x4 class. We had exactly two
days of driving the vehicle before we went to the race in Baja, trailered the thing down there. Yeah, we had a really great time.

1969 Jeep Commando driving down dirt road in desert landscape

Photo © Christopher Thoms

Alex Earle in racing uniform standing in desert
NORRA signage above 1969 Jeep Commando at race start

Photo © Christopher Thoms

What’s next for Earle Motors?

I really want to push the Jeep and get that thing up and running reliably and just kind of get competitive now instead of just trying to just finish in one piece. But we've got a lot of work to do on this, applying everything that we've learned thus far and, yeah, just continue going with these kinds of projects, I think this one's going to be a several year ongoing program so that that's my future at the moment.

Alex Earle in motorcycle uniform at sunset standing in ocean off Costa Rica splashing water in face