Walden Speed Shop – Texas Roots, So-Cal Stylings
Like so many rodders, Bobby Walden, founder of Walden Speed Shop, got bit by the bug while watching the 1973 Made-for-TV movie “The California Kid”. The B-movie starred Martin Sheen but the draw for Walden was Pete Chapouris’ black ‘n’ flamed ’34 3-window. The coupe forever after carried ‘The California Kid’ moniker into hot rod history. Bobby was twelve years old at the time.
As do all good Texas boys, Bobby first went to work in the oil industry where for 13 years he saved his money to buy metal shaping equipment while honing his skills at that black art. He got pretty good at it, built his own Cal Kid clone and in 1993 opened his own hot rod shop in Borger, Texas. Ten years of bashing metal in a small town can drive you west and in 2003 the late Pete Chapouris invited Bobby to do just that and work out of the famed SO-CAL Speed Shop in Pomona, California. Bobby, meanwhile, had built an enviable reputation as the go-to-man for perfectly shaped roof inserts and door skins for early Ford’s, Chevy’s and Plymouth’s.
Moving a Yoder power hammer that stands more than eight feet tall and weighs more than 5,000 pounds is no easy task but Bobby has moved it a couple of times.
His tenure at SO-CAL saw him continue with his panel production but also work on a wide range of projects. Perhaps one of his most challenging projects while under the SO-CAL roof was working on various GM projects as part of their Bonneville land speed racing program. He worked on several of the cars but perhaps his trickiest task was chopping their Chevy HHR. Not only were there five doors – the metal too thin. Once he mastered it, the fit and finish was testament to Bobby’s metal shaping skills. The HHR went 249 mph.
As the GM program began to wind down Bobby decided it was time to move his Yoder again. This time to his own Walden Speed Shop just around the corner on Price Street in Pomona, where he has been since 2005. Multi talented, Bobby’s business spans the gamut from rod and custom building and restoration to metal shaping seminars. He has shaped everything from deuce coupes to later model G-Bodies.
Along the way Bobby also managed to develop his own blower kits based around a 4-71 GMC. As you would expect, these parts are nicely fashioned and detailed. The parts list includes everything from a snout to a back plate to a complete kit. All of this, as well as a line of cool clothing is included in his first-ever catalog released earlier this year.
Like so many in the hot rod hobby, Bobby thinks about the future of the industry and the perpetuation of his craft. To that end he hosts four different weekend metal shaping seminars at his shop in Pomona. The two-day seminars cost $1,000 and include Metal Shaping 101, How to Install a Roof Insert and coming soon; How to Build a Hot Rod Chassis.
Making it in the hot rod industry is not easy. It takes hard work, talent and above all tenacity. Bobby has it in Texas spades.
Story and Pictures courtesy of Tony Thacker