“I never once when I was a little kid thought, ‘I want to be a fabricator.’ I just wanted a hot rod,” explains Bob Bleed. “Everything about life is perspective. And my perspective on everything is through this car, through this windshield.”
The car love goes way back for Bleed. He tinkered on his first hot rod in the corner of his dad’s auto body shop in the 80s. Now he runs Midwest Fabrication out of the same shop. Folks ask Bleed why he came back to Wisconsin from Austin. His answer? “This is where I belong.”
The youthful need for speed continues to guide his business. “I just wanted to push to that edge where it feels like it might fall apart. And I don’t want to lose that now that I build really high-end cars. I’m passionate about every detail… but I still wanted to have that punk rock spirit.”
Balancing that rebellious spirit, the influence of Bleed’s grandfather helps him keep it traditional. During the 50s, his grandfather worked at Allis-Chalmers. He’d use the big machines over his lunch break to solve challenges for personal projects that he’d share with his brother and son.
“When I got more and more… into cars and building,” Bleed notes, “it was only natural that we tried to figure out how to do it right and safe. So, for me, traditional hot rodding it’s the only hot rodding I know because it’s what I grew up with.”
Giving a tour of the shop, Bleed shows off some in-progress builds, including two Model A coupes. “I guess there’s a lot of kickass around here,” Bleed remarks with a smile.
Bleed’s equipment ranges from vintage to modern. He loves his old-school Wilton bandsaw, Bridgeport drill, and Rockford lathe. Bleed also knows he can rely on several Baileigh tools, including:
- Tubing Bender RDB-100 – This is Bleed’s favorite Baileigh tool. He says the bender “works better than any one I’ve ever had.”
- Power Bead Roller BR-18E-36 – “We get creative with it and make crazy curves and we push it harder than we should and it always takes it.”
- Magnetic Brake BB-4816M: “It took a little while to get the full use out of it as far as what it can do, but…. we use this a lot. Literally anything that’s magnetic will stick on it and whatever shape it is, you can bend over it.”
- Shrinker Stretcher MSS-16F: “It really does work awesome…. You get a lot of bang for the buck for this thing.”
- Belt Sander BG-248-3: “We actually have a bunch of other ones, but we just use this one all the time. It’s pretty cool because you can adjust the radius.”
A sense of individuality is deeply important to Bleed’s concept of hot rodding. “What can’t be lost is, there’s a lot of ways to do one thing and the reason old hot rods are so cool, if you look at those magazines, is they’re all different.”
That’s why Bleed strives to preserve old hot rods and realize his own original designs. “I want someone to look at this someday and say, ‘Woah, how did they think of that?’or ‘Why did they do this?’ or ‘This is crazy! I’ve never seen that before.’ So, that’s kind of the point.”
Leave a Comment