There’s no denying the influence of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise on American car culture. The action films sparked interest in both street racing and vehicle customizations.
Steve Molans was one of those who took notice, as a high school kid in Jeannette back in the early 2000s.
Now 37 and living in Greensburg, Molans said he and a buddy founded a car club that they dubbed Skeptik Racing, though it was mostly dedicated to modifying their vehicles.
“We weren’t race car drivers,” he said, although “off the record,” club members might have been involved in a little clandestine racing.
“We all loved modifying our Hondas back in the day, so we’d meet up and play around with our cars,” he said.
Molans is still playing around with cars, but now he’s getting paid for his custom audio and lighting installations, as the owner of Skeptik Innovations at 1301 Harrison Ave. in Jeannette.
He said people sometimes were skeptical of the things he and his buddies did to their cars, like installing home heating vent covers in their bumpers to reduce drag.
“People were like, ‘House vents? OK, that’s kind of smart.’ And today, they actually do that in racing, cut holes in the back bumpers to eliminate drag,” he said.
They decided to own the skepticism. They used an extra “k” in their spelling as an homage to famed custom car builder George Barris, whose Barris Kustom Industries created the iconic vehicles used in television’s “Batman” and “The Munsters” series.
“The ‘k’ in Skeptik comes from him,” Molans said. “People said he was so legit, he actually customized the word ‘custom.’”
Molans first gained national attention in the vehicle modification community with a 2019 video of the infinity mirror tail lights with color- changing and movement effects that he built for his 1991 Nissan Skyline GTS-4, complete with wireless key fob crafted from a Nintendo game controller.
Within three days, the video had more than 1 million views, prompting Molans to fulfill a literal dream of applying his skills in his own business.
After graduating from Jeannette High School in 2003, Molans worked as an installer for a local car audio shop, along with doing side projects, creating his own artwork and playing piano in local bands. He also completed an electronics course at Westmoreland County Community College.
In 2014, he enrolled in a biomedical engineering course at Penn State New Kensington, and after graduation worked in that field for five years.
“Fast forward five years, I’m a biomedical engineer, I had a great job and the girl of my dreams,” he said. “And I had a dream where I’m on my death bed, asking do you have any regrets, and my regret was that I never started my own business.”
The bulk of Skeptik Innovations’ business is installing custom lighting, audio systems and remote starters.
Molans’ work has been written up in industry publications and showcased at the SEMA Show, a prestigious automotive specialty products trade event held annually in Las Vegas.
Among other smaller projects, Molans is installing lighting, sound and other electronics in a bronze 1986 Buick Regal. The build includes multicolored LED lighting in the engine compartment, the undercarriage and the trunk, which also houses the audio components.
The owner of the Regal, who owns a Penn Hills transmission business, gave him only one stipulation for the build: he wanted room left in the trunk for golf clubs.
Calling it “the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” Molans said, “This car is going to sound like you’re at a concert.”
His customers are all ages, and their vehicles range from classic to contemporary.
“I put sub-woofers in the car of a woman who was 70 years old. It was a Honda CRV,” he said. “She loved the feeling of the bass. She said, ‘I want to hear my music and I want to feel my music.’”
Even with advertising only through online reviews, social media and word of mouth, Molans is booked for around six months.
“I have such a long list that I have to turn people away,” he said. “I’m not just an installer, I’m a fabricator, I’m an artist, a social media person. I’m a one-man show.
“I have dealer accounts where I do remote starts for brand-new cars off the lot,” he added. “I’m doing so much, and the custom stuff takes up so much time, that I still can’t guarantee (six months).”
Skeptik Innovations is a one-man shop, but Molans said he is looking to hire an installer. And even though the work is plentiful, it isn’t easy being an after-market installer.
“I try to go out of my way to be as kind as possible to the person I’m dealing with, because I count on them to give me that Google review or talk to their friends about me,” he said. “I always say, you need to hold your installer to a higher standard, because if you go and get a remote start, and it doesn’t work, it will deter you from ever getting one installed again. You’ll say, I’ll just get one (from the) factory.
“If you have a good experience, it helps the after-market industry, which is struggling right now because new cars come with sound systems, navigation, remote starters, heated seats. We really have to step our game up to do a higher quality install.”
Molans said it was only natural for him to locate Skeptik Innovations in Jeannette.
He has a loyalty to his hometown, where his grandparents, Joseph and Millie Cafasso, ran a printing business for about 60 years. He also is invested in the town’s current revitalization projects and volunteers with the Jeannette Arts Council and Historical Society.
“I love this town and do what I can to help out,” he said.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
In my down time I LOVE to tinker and create! After watching the Disney + series "Obi- Wan" I decided to build my own LOLA droid! I dont know why it has taken this long for me to build a droid but I am glad I did! The files were acquired from an artist on Thingiverse and printed from ABS on my Creality Cr10s PRO 3d printer. Paint work and electronics brought this piece to life looking very weathered and used. It features 2 RGB led's and one green led indicator under the wings. A 3 position switch allows one to switch between the blue "eyes" and Red when LOLA was controlled by the empire!
Skeptik Innovations was recently commissioned to upcycle an old factory stereo from a customers Jeep to make a boom box for their garage!
Utilizing our CNC router, 3d printer, and passion for design, we were able to come up with a modern looking, beautifully functioning work of art that will complement any garage or work shop! Features include an OEM casette, CD, and am/fm radio from an early 2000's Jeep, Kenwood 6.5" speakers, a 12v 10Amp power supply, a fast charging USB with two outputs that is surrounded with a brushed aluminum beauty ring that is flawlessly inset into the wooden face, and 3d printed custom vent covers. The boom box is finished off in automotive grade black vinyl to mimic a vehicle interior while the front panel is stained in a "carbon grey" color.
It will be hard to let the customer have this one! Check out the details below!
Skeptik Innovations had the opportunity to pack up shop and travel to Florida and collaborate with Salvage to Savage on a one of a kind build! We built a HUGE infinity light integrated into the tailgate of their dual Tesla swapped, fully custom C10 truck. We also designed and build the corner lighting for this build as well as helped with harness work and brake lighting. We completed the project (having built some items in house before the trip) in about 2 days leaving no time between finishing the project, and loading the truck for its cross country trip to Las Vegas for SEMA 2021. The vehicle was one of two builds we worked on that were featured in the TOYO TIRES Tread Pass booth. The C10 has since been featured in numerous online outlets.
Our job was to design lighting that is straight from the 1980's, but years ahead of its time.
In 2021, Skeptik Innovations had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with a shop in Florida to design and build custom lighting on a Delorean that was to be featured in the in the TOYO Tires "Tread Pass" booth at SEMA! The opportunity is a huge milestone not only professionally, but personally.
I was approached by one of the most talented fabricators I have ever met, Tim Moceri about a design drawn up by none other than Khyzyl Saleem! The design was 80's style meets cyber punk and my job was to figure out the vehicles unique lighting.
While Tim worked his magic on the vehicle itself installing a one-off widebody kit and a twin turbo LS swap, I worked with an amazing designer/fabricator named Jeff Gardner who scanned, 3d printed and cnc'd the housings. In October, the housings were finished and exactly how I needed them.
We drove twelve hours round trip up north to retrieve plastic sheets (for another SEMA build) then the following day, packed up shop and drove nineteen hours straight from Pittsburgh, PA to Boca Raton Florida. I spent 3 days working on 2 vehicles barely making the deadline for the vehicles to be loaded for their trip to Las Vegas!
As a car nut, I have always wanted to go to SEMA. Not only did I get to go, I had the honor of having work featured on several vehicles in one of the most epic sections of the entire show! The Delorean continues to be featured online and in magazines and to work on it was an experience of a lifetime.
from Born in Space
This is a video of Steve Molans of Skeptik Innovations and Infinity Illuminations showing off his 1991 Nissan Skyline GTS-4’s custom infinity mirror tail lights (with color changing and movement light effects) and NES controller wireless key fob. Pretty sweet.
For reference, I covered my broken tail light with red tape like a normal person who backed into their girlfriend’s car in the driveway. “You said raccoons dented my bumper!” Oh they totally did, I was talking about an old girlfriend, like YEARS ago. Paled in comparison to you, don’t know why I even wasted my time.
Whew, good save. Wait — honey come back!
In the JDM world, the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R is an iconic piece of motoring history. It was made popular by the rise of the Gran Turismo gaming franchise and is now known for being a stunning work of art.
Some may say that, with the R32, Nissan achieved perfection and that it mustn’t be modified in anyway. However, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and Steve Molans wanted to put his own stamp on the iconic sportscar.
With it having so many adoring fans in the gaming community, it seems right that aspects from that world should appear in the R32. To some, that may mean a sticker of their favourite game, but to Steve, that meant totally redesigning the lights and hitching them up to a NES controller key fob.
Today, we often see manufacturers fitting their cars’ lights with subtle animations for the indicators thanks to LED technology. Steve has taken that idea and turned it up to eleven. The taillights are made of tubes lined in LED strips that allow for some really freaky designs. For instance, the indicator is a trippy blend of fading light in the tubes and a swiping motion in the Skyline badge.
The NES controller key fob allows Molan to change the animation. At the touch of a button the rear lights can go from looking relatively normal to mimicking an EnChroma colour blind test with all sorts of colours flying round the tunnel-shaped lights.
If the taillights weren’t enough wackiness, the rims and headlights are also adorned with LED lights that must look positively insane whilst the car is rolling down the road. However, there’s no comparison to the hypnotic taillights that make one question life itself.
I don’t always like high-tech whimsy, but when I do, it’s artistic and absurd like the lighting setup on this 1991 Nissan Skyline.
A person named Steve Molans is being credited with the uniquely majestic illumination system on this R32. Per the video description, Molans represents companies called Skeptik Innovations and Infinity Illuminations.
That description also tells us that this system was made possible in part by the BlueGHOZT module, which is a control device that can link a phone app with LEDs to execute light shows like what you’re seeing here. It’s sold by a company called Ghozt Lighting which, clearly, I need to start researching a little more.
Coming up into cars myself with a particularly strong love for tuners, going nuts over everything at NOPI shows and Hot Import Nights (“’90s kIDS wILL rEMEMBER!”), I was all about custom lighting when my driver’s license was freshly minted circa 2004.
I was so proud of the blue footwell lighting and subwoofer lighting rig I had in my blue non-turbo RX-7, and the red grille lighting I had in my red Integra before that. Of course, LED lighting was much more primitive and less accessible in my early modding days so we had to make do with goofy, oversized lighting tubes.
Also I didn’t know jack about electronics or elegance, so I thought cramming a bunch of 12-volt light sticks into a cig lighter splitter was an acceptable “finished” solution. I wish I had pictures of my old setup, but then again, it was pretty shameful.
Anyway, we had fun so who cares about anything else. But it seems like that wild show car-style lighting had fallen out of fashion by around 2010. If this Skyline is any indication that the art is coming back into the tuner scene, as those of us who once loved these cars are starting to have more money to waste, I’m all about it.
The ’90s kid bait on this particular build gets even deeper on this car with the NES controller rewired to do lock, unlock, open-trunk, and start-engine functions.
You can see some more of this on Molan’s Instagram account. I hope I see more like it on the streets of LA soon. And Steve, if you see this, shoot me an e-mail because I’d love to get a closer look at this setup and see how it was made!
This a promo video we created for the INSANE INFINITY OPTICS R32 SKYLINE Built by Steve Molans of Skeptik Innovations and Infinity Illuminations. It features a tail light control by the Blueghozt module, one-off custom lighting, sound system, and showing offs the overall build quality.
This video, shot by Savannah Butler, of Savvy Shots Photography, highlights the patterns, functions, depth, and clarity of the design. The video also captures the different aspects of the car including the interior, original custom lighting, sound system.
The custom modded NES (Nintendo) controller is programmed to "Lock (A) & Unlock (B) while SELECT manages the Trunk release and START, of course, is a Remote Start!
Savannah also captures the custom made rear light up "SKYLINE" center garnish. 1991 GTS-4
Thanks to Savannah Butler of Savvy Shots Photography for the video Thanks to Scott Petty for product collaboration.
Steve Molans drifting his 240sx at Pittsburgh international race complex Roof Cam
Tandem action roof mounted camera, 240SX Drifting at Pitt Race Complex with Clubloose II. SR20DET powered 240sx followed by LS s14. 6/26/2016'
Got a bit close to the guardrail at 0:45
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