Blastolene Garage – Michael Leeds’ Mega Machines
Stepping into Michael Leeds’ Blastolene Garage is a bit like visiting another planet. You’re probably familiar with Leeds’ work whether you know it or not; he makes up one half of the Blastolene Brothers, a two-man collective including Leeds and Randy Grubb. Together, they have been responsible for some of the most creative and impressive art cars of our time.
We stopped by Leeds’ Santa Cruz area Blastolene Garage to see what he’s been up to recently, but before we begin a bit of background on Blastolene is required; think of it as an off-the-wall marriage of art and the automobile. Their large, bizarre yet beautiful machines have created a stir for decades. You may remember the “Tank car” (Now owned by Jay Leno),”Big Bertha,” ”Sneaky Pete,” “The Green Machine” and many more, most of which are powered by army surplus or cat diesel engines.
What does Blastolene even mean? Stealing words from their website Blastolene is “a highly concentrated distillation of pure cosmic essence, high in demand and low in supply. Virtually priceless, Blastolene is basically an ‘attitudinal conditioner.’ When you open up a can of Blastolene it’s like opening a can of ‘whuppass.’ It’s got that ‘I can do it extra crazy flavor.’”
So, without further ado, take a step into Leeds’ world, where you’ll find an incredible variety of projects that all have their own punch. As an artist, these extend far beyond the automotive world, too. There are in-progress drawings, paintings, restored artwork, and sculptures taking up every nook and cranny of the workshop space. He even showed us a studio photo of himself modeling in younger years!
Leeds sees the automobile as just another medium for creativity, and he says he enjoys most of the projects he does for himself. In fact, he actually doesn’t really do work for other people, instead choosing to focus on building exactly what he wants. This allows him creative freedom without having to reel things back or do them the way someone else would prefer, which is really the only way for a true artist to express themselves.
Leeds tells us that he has always been captivated by things on wheels, describing building a car and driving in it as an otherworldly experience. He says cars he’s built from scratch become a “mechanical prosthesis” and extension of himself. We’ll get more in-depth with Leeds on our next visit, but for now his shop has plenty to talk about and take in.
On the workshop floor are number of wild cars, if you can even call them that. Big Bertha stands out in particular, mostly because this thing is huge. Starting from the frame of a fire engine, Leeds says Big Bertha has evolved a lot over the years. He’s working on a new headlight setup for the car, after which we’ll have to take it out for a spin and some photos.
The shop is lined with various art and materials, too. You’ll find bin after bin and drawer after drawer full of hardware along with all the tools you could ever want. Upstairs is a lounge that’s been taken over by a drumset, along with loads more drawings and other art.
It’s the sort of place that has tons of character and history to match. You could easily spend an entire afternoon in here peeking at the things hiding on the shelves. We took interest in this small block in the corner, only to find a spare supercharged V12 airplane engine hiding behind it.
This was for use in the ‘The Flaming Sword Of Truth’ which you can see on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa park. When we were in that neck of the woods we had to stop in for a look. It’ll be here until later in the year, after which the car will end back up with the Blastolene Brothers.
As incredible as the shop was to visit, we were actually here to take a look at one of Leeds’ recently street-registered creations. Technically a 1924 Ford Model T, only part of the radiator support is actually from this car. It’s a totally unique one-off creation that we’ll be sharing with you here soon.
Check back soon for more from Michael Leeds of the Blastolene Brothers and enjoy the extra shop photos below!