The Shop that Refuses to Fit
The Shop that Refuses to Fit
In an unmarked, off-white building tucked behind rows of storage units, warehouses, and other industrial park mainstays is a parking lot full of interesting foreign cars — Volvos, Troopys, lifted 4x4s, and other imported trucks, in all different shapes, colors, sizes, and levels of built-for-anything-ness. They’re the kinds of trucks that turn heads on the highway and stoke curious conversations with the passersby. All sitting in a random lot in Bend, OR.
Past the lot and through the front door, you’re greeted by a lobby full of curated mid-century furniture, exotic cacti, bookshelves, artful engine diagram posters, and a 1975 Yamaha DT175 dirt bike. Through a cracked door behind the small front desk, you hear a muffled rush of clangs, whirs, music, and laughter.
You push through the door, entering a vibrant garage full of auto oddities. It’s a loud, laid-back museum of off-road dreams come true. Shifting over a pizza box to make room, you take a seat on a big leather couch, centrally nestled between car lifts. You exchange a few jokes with the owner, who immediately starts roasting you about whatever comes to mind.
Behind him, a mechanic with trickster energy shimmies around a Toyota Tacoma, wrench in-hand, work-dancing to funk music. He’s cheered on by a voice coming from beneath a Land Cruiser in the corner. A dog naps in an armchair across from you.
Welcome to Fit Garage.
Meet the Fit Fam
When it comes to the classic auto shop mold, Fit Garage doesn’t really fit. The team is younger, the cars are older, and the vibe is chill. Customers are welcome to hang around and ask questions, so they can fully understand what’s going on with their vehicle. You get a complimentary joke with every visit, and if you’re a skateboarder, you can earn a discount if you beat the owner at a round of S.K.A.T.E. (He’s pretty good, so you’d better practice.)
That friendly atmosphere comes easy when the shop is run by a team of long-time pals, who all like each other enough to hang out on weekends:
Alex (Owner and Chief Boss-Friend)
Before buying and revamping Fit Garage, Alex bounced around between med school, restaurant jobs, and even spent some time as a detailer at Toyota. Now, as the owner of Fit Garage, Alex is in charge. He tries to be a friend first, and a boss second. Alex drives a 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser built for overlanding with a turbo-diesel swap, a roomy pop-top tent, and a full back-end buildout, as well.
“We definitely embrace the work hard, play hard mentality. We try to go camping, dirt biking, or off-roading together at least once a week.” - Alex
Ethan (Regional Manager of Tacoma Lifts and Director of HR)
After years of obsessing over skateboards, surfboards, and dirt bikes, getting into cars was a natural progression for Ethan, who grew up in Hawaii. His brother Matt also works in the shop. Ethan drives a Land Cruiser Prado — a Japanese import with right-hand drive and a turbo-diesel engine.
“Ethan is by far the most inappropriate employee at Fit Garage. So, we made him head of HR.” - Alex
Ossie (Designer and Resident Problem Solver)
Ossie stepped in to help Fit Garage one busy day when he was in-between design jobs. With a master's in architecture, he’s a uniquely valuable asset to the garage, designing custom parts and working on builds that require digital modeling skills. Ossie drives a six-wheel Volvo C304 with a Mercedes turbo-diesel swap and portal axles.
“I never imagined myself working at a garage, but once you get here and you realize how fun it is, you can’t leave.” - Ossie
Projects that Fit
The Fit Garage Instagram feed is full of posts apologizing to all the customers they turned away that day. It’s a natural side-effect of a small team in high demand. They’re in a place where they can be a little choosy about which jobs they take on. Sometimes, it’s simply about work/life balance and staying sane on busy days. But other times, it’s about passion. Persistently (and sometimes stubbornly) following their automotive passions is a habit that has served the garage well over the years, and helped give it the unique energy it has today:
“We just did things our own way, hung out, and one day it started turning into money. We got lucky. A lot of the stuff we work on we tend to like, so you end up putting more than 100% into it. I take pride in my work. It’s nice to work on stuff you actually like.” - Ethan
Over time, those passions have turned into deep wells of expertise, making Fit Garage the shop to get certain things done on certain makes and models. For example, the team has definitely mastered the art of lifting a Tacoma, Tundra, or Subaru Outback. A wheel and tire upgrade is often included in this job — which has become a staple at the garage. In this Subaru project, the team turned a typical Outback into a head-turning, off-roading dream machine. The transformation wasn’t complete without a set of BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A® KO2 tires.
“The KO2 speaks for itself...but we're happy to sing its praises: 3-Peak Winter Rating plus Baja-proven off-road traction, with a classic A/T tread pattern to boot — this is one of our favorites!” - The Fit Garage Blog
The Toyota Land Cruiser is another stand-out example of the garage’s expertise. One project the team takes a lot of pride is a 1991 HZJ75 Landcruiser from Australia. The truck was originally owned by a regional airport and was primarily used to shepherd kangaroos off the runway. The mileage was impressively low for a truck of its age. After an initial round of work, the client sent it back to the garage for a more detailed interior build-out. The project has the team fully stoked:
“This customer is great because he's willing to spend some money to make it a really quality build. It feels good to build something like that. That's how I'd want to do it, too. We text back and forth all the time. I send him photos and get his thoughts. I don’t want to design anything without his input.” - Ossie
Shifting Generational Gears
First-time visitors to Fit Garage often say “wait, this is a mechanic shop?” It feels more passionate and communal, like a skate or coffee shop. Alex and his team take a truly unique approach to running a garage, one that’s true to themselves and is also true to their age. Their story is perhaps an early chapter in a larger generational shift in car culture, one driven by millennials.
Millennials are no strangers to industry transformation. Their childhood obsessions turned hobbies like skateboarding, BMX, and snowboarding into huge, professional-level sports. These activities, and the people that grew up loving them, celebrate movement, speed, invention, and risk — all things that car culture offers by the truckload.
You can already feel generational passions co-mingling at Fit Garage. From the mid-century furniture and the 1980s cars, to the PlayStation in the corner and the tunes coming through the Bluetooth speakers. It’s a funky, adventurous blend, but it works.