Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveWalden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveAs 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.

He began and continues to produce his roof inserts for various vehicles and that list now includes panels for Porsches for owners who want to fill the sunroof. He has made almost 2,500 inserts now. His next foray into the development of products included a ready-to-rod chopped ’32 3-window featuring a brand new Brookville body.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve
Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

Alongside that came a line of chassis components developed with Chapouris’ old Pete and Jake’s partner “Jitney Jim” Jake Jacobs. The line includes traditional ‘step-box’ ’32 Ford chassis as well as cross members, rear ladder bars, front batwings, radius rods and associated accessories including some nifty curved spreader bars. Bobby has also worked with employee Matt Bryant developing a line of sculptured parts including leather-wrapped ball joints and chassis mounts. These parts certainly take the traditional look to another level.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveAlong 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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveWalden Speed Shop, Fuel Curve

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.

Walden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveWalden Speed Shop, Fuel CurveMaking 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

Born in England, Tony grew up loving automobiles and after many years as a journalist transitioned into marketing roles for several companies including SEMA, Boyd Coddington and the SO-CAL Speed Shop. His friendship with NHRA founder Wally Parks led to a role as executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. That, in turn, landed him in Portland, Oregon, where, as executive director, he was instrumental in the build of a new type of educational museum: World of Speed. Sort-of-retired, Tony now enjoys the three Rs: Reading, ’Riting and Racing with Ron Hope’s Rat Trap AA/FA.

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