Hot rods. Motorcycles. Whisky. Rock and roll. American Metal Customs builds, modifies, and services epic bikes and cars while celebrating the mystique that goes with them. American Metal owner Chris Bishop and lead builder and shop manager Josh Allison have teamed up to exemplify the best in American craftsmanship and, as their website promises, “build the raddest s#!% you have ever seen.”
“We love preserving the history of America in that hot rod culture and the motorcycle culture that created what we do now, especially as builders,” explains Allison.
The partnership between Bishop and Allison started, appropriately, with a bike, the “Captain America” Easy Rider replica motorcycle. When Allison was working at Orange County Choppers, “Chris would come in and look at the bike. We started talking and we just realized how much we had in common: the love for cars, the love for motorcycles… We had a lot of similar thoughts, so this bike really connected us.”
Before attaining fame for his daring motorcycles, Josh Allison trained at WyoTech. He took courses in Applied Shop Management and Collision and Refinishing. But it was the Street Rod and Advanced Street Rod classes that made the biggest impact: “It absolutely just blew my mind. It changed everything when I started to weld and I started to learn how to metal-shape…. I realized that the things in my head that I wanted to create, I could actually make into a reality.”
Now Allison is a social media star, a celebrity in the world of elite custom bikes. But he hasn’t forgotten what it took to get there. “This work is super important to me. It’s not only my livelihood, but it’s my passion and there’s been so much sacrifice in life to get to this point… the sacrifices my family, especially my wife, has made along the way.”
This Baileigh Biography video offers a tour of American Metal Customs’ state-of-the-art facilities, including the full interior custom shop and the custom paint area. Its storage facility includes a camera-monitored VIP section that provides access to the bootlegger lounge, a cocktail space behind a hidden passage.
Allison proudly displays some of the finished rides in American Metal’s showroom as well as exciting works in progress. The glistening 1934 Ford Coupe boasts an all handmade aluminum interior. “Everything was handcrafted and this was a ton of time on the Baieigh bead roller.”
Allison’s stunning motorcycle The Disciple was “the first bike that came out of American Metal Customs,” he explains. With amazing attention to detail, the customized 1941 EL Knucklehead debuted at Fuel Cleveland to well-deserved oohs and ahs. And it was all made with Baileigh tooling. “The bike is actually super fast. One of the things I work really hard at is, we want to make rolling art and all this handcrafted stuff, but it’s got to be able to function and it’s got to be able to go down the road.”
Dubbed “my little hot rod” by Allison, the retro-cool motorcycle Malibu Honey “is super gnarly, super loud, super fast. It’s a lot of fun.”
Allison shows off a work in progress with serious attitude: the 1966 shop panel truck, once used as a hearse, now customized with American Metal branding. “I was able to use that bead roller with the art dies and and create amazing things like that. And once again without this machinery wouldn’t be able to do that stuff.”
Art and elbow grease, play and productivity go hand in hand at American Metal Customs, which has its own branded whisky. Along with the impressive builds, Bishop proudly displays music history relics like a suit worn onstage by Johnny Cash a, boots worn by Elvis in the 1968 comeback TV event, and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. Eddie Van Halen’s Porsche, still programmed with the guitar hero’s own radio choices, is on display in the showroom.
“Working with Josh is always a fun ride and Baileigh is amazing in terms of helping him do his craft, helping him do it easier and better,” says Bishop. “They understand we’re companies that want to build things the American way, with craftsmanship and with attention to detail. With Baileigh’s help and Josh’s skill, we take it to the next level.”
When Allison joined forces with American Metal Customs, he knew he wanted to fill the shop with Baileigh machines: “It was a fresh start with nothing and [given] my relationship with Baileigh, how much they’ve done for me, my career path, it was an obvious choice. I wanted everything that we could possibly get from those guys to fill the shop up.”
Here’s what Allison has to say about some of the Baileigh machines at American Metal Customs.
English Wheel EW-40 – “It’s just what you have to have to be able to create those shapes…. Every single gas tank, every single fender I make goes through this machine.”
Bead Roller BR-18E-36 – “I use the bead roller on everything, especially in their early days… with my gas tanks and rear fenders. It always gave this whole other side of design and that artistic ability that really opened up a lot of doors for me and especially with my style.”
Planishing Hammer PH-24A – “The only way I’m able to get into some of those radiuses and gas tanks fenders, especially when you’re doing a fender out of one piece, complicated shapes, reverse curves… I run it all through here. It’s a way to get to that shape faster.”
MSS-16F Shrinker Stretchers – “We got two of them so we don’t have to switch the dies,” says Allison. “This is an absolute fundamental tool in the metal shaping realm.”
BSV-24VS-V2 Vertical Band Saw – “You have so many different features…. You have this variable speed controller so you can set it for whatever blade you have in there, for whatever material you’re cutting. Everybody’s on this machine almost every single day.” Plus, Allison adds with a twinkle, “I won’t lie: people cut things they’re not supposed to in here and it and it still does its job.”
LP-48 Louver Press – “The Louver press has been absolutely amazing. This is really cool too because you can change this die in different settings. You can have a louver that comes at an angle. You can have them go straight. You can have them be 5” apart. You can have them be 2” apart. And you know that every single time when you go to stamp that, it’s going to be the same louver.”
Slip Roll Machine SR-5016M – “We slip roll everything through, obviously steel, aluminum. I’m a mixed metal guy. Everything I build on the bikes usually has a different kind of alloy. So this thing whether we’re making a bracket, whether you’re making… a gas tank, a panel, anything—it usually goes through this.”
Hydraulic Sheet Metal Shear SH-5210 – “You can feed the metal through. It’s got everything on the back end, if you need that precision straight cut. It’s got a huge deck. You hit the pedal and it cuts beautifully every single time. It’ll cut you know 14, 16 gauge, 18 gauge steel, so I absolutely love it.”
Metal Lathe PL-1236E-DRO – “It’s got the water-cooled feed. It’s got your light. It’s got your electronic readout so this is if you want to get into precision stuff…. We’re doing a lot of that here you got to have a lathe that’s going to be able to get you where you need to be.”
Tubing Bender RDB-150 – “Once again, it just gets used on so many different applications especially in the bike world and it’s very precision. It’s got all the marks… so each side of whatever you’re making comes out exactly like the other side. That hydraulic aspect of all this new tooling is so cool… to be able to hit that pedal and snake it into right where you need it, to get that part to come out the same every single time.”
Box and Pan Brake BB-7212 – “It’s awesome that it’s diverse…. Once again, you have that spread to get a big-ass chunk of sheet metal in there if you have to do a crazy brake. There’s a lot of big panels that go through this thing. With the weight and size of it, [the brake] just does it effortlessly.”
Disc Grinder DG-500 – ”We call this the man-eater. As you can see by the wear on this, this thing just gets beat up. It gets used constantly. It’s rowdy and when you sand something, you know you’re going to get that 100 percent flat, flushed edge. Especially when it comes to making brackets that have to get welded. You want everything to come together really, really nice.”
With that arsenal of Baileigh equipment, the sky’s the limit. “Man, we are having such fun now,” says Bishop. “It really is just the beginning.”
Allison’s work at American Metal Customs fits into what he teaches his son about hard work—and what he hopes will be his legacy. “I also would love to keep this craft going,” he reflects. “We live in such a world now where a lot of people don’t even know that you can make a living by being a metal shaper, by being a welder, by building hot rods and cars. That craft is getting lost and I would love to be a part of teaching that craft, pushing that craft… to keep it going within the next generation.”
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