Boulevard Speed Shop is the long running project of Robert McDonald. As a career fabricator and custom builder, Robert has created a special personal endeavor, building custom trikes and bikes, reflecting his own styles and values. McDonald grew up on the sidelines of the drag strip and his father worked as a mechanic, owned and ran his own shop, and built and raced his own quarter-mile monsters. This meant for Robert that much of his childhood revolved around the garage and what could be accomplished in it.
Photos: Robert McDonald and Deadend Mag | Words: Michael Phillips
Robert’s involvement in the industry began well in the deep end, having been a drag racer driver himself of midget cars, from age 5 to age 8. He constantly tinkered, restored, rebuilt, and customized any vehicle he could get his hands on, all the while leading up to his first real automotive project. By the age of 15, Robert had acquired a 1962 GMC on a 4wd Blazer chassis. He began by rebuilding the motor and suspension with his father’s guidance. Shortly after he turned to customizing it to his own taste. With the encouragement of his father, he took on the task of converting his off road truck, to a Slam’d cruiser, swapping out the chassis and ‘bagging his GMC. From that point on, Robert’s involvement in the industry only flourished and continued to grow.
On into adulthood Robert continued to turn wrenches and bust knuckles, apprenticing with a couple incredible builders and working in some gnarly shops along the way. He continued to learn the fine ropes of fabrication while maintaining feet in multiple genres. Through his work experience, family history, and personal taste, Robert found himself in the world of lowriders, dragsters, and traditional hot rods. In many ways, these styles are the culminating influences of his personal artistic expression through Boulevard Speed Shop.
The Speed Shop project has been with him since around 2002 and has operated in varying capacities ever since. Around 2009 Boulevard became more of a hobby, however his most recent projects with the trikes have been well received (and justly so) with a tremendous amount of support and positive response, leaving Robert in a position of working to produce them on a much larger and faster scale. The trike project began almost seven years ago. It was at the time that Robert’s oldest, Robert Jr. AKA Wolfie, was born. A neighbor gifted Wolfie a classic MTD retro trike. The trike served Wolfie well for nearly four years until the epiphany struck Robert that the trike just had to be Slam’d. He immediately went to town on the three wheeler, chopping it up, building rear fenders, extending the iconic front fender, mounting a headlight, and giving it proper handle bars. People adored the new version right off the bat, inquiring how much it would cost to have Robert build a similar trike for them. He priced it out and recognizing the substantial cost of using an antique trike platform, designed a way for the project to be adapted to a more readily available Radio Flyer Trike.
This most recent installment of the Trike project is inspired by the Vicla style and modeled from extended versions of traditional Harley Davidson heritage fenders. The fabrication of the trikes is truly next level, taking full advantage of Robert’s many years as a builder and fabricator. The design features the iconic low slung fenders, custom springer style seats, handmade handlebars, rear reflectors, and headlight mounts. All of the trikes have been finished in gorgeous paint schemes by Eddie Padilla of Paint by Padilla.
More than just a simple toy, the Boulevard Speed Shops Trikes represent a lifetime of dedication to a skilled craft. They represent a multigenerational heritage being passed down as a bridge to future generations. Robert’s success with the trike projects is every bit deserved. For he, his wife, Wolfie, and their youngest child Emmie, the trikes along with Boulevard Speed Shop are truly a part of the family’s everyday lives. Both the kids adore their trikes that Robert has made them and every future project means opportunity for Wolfie to get his hands dirty along side his father as he learns to build as well.
True enthusiasts and supporters understand that their world is more than just a collection of shared skills. Cars as a way of life is about dedication, value, and hard work. As Robert describes, “The most difficult things are usually the most meaningful.” Robert and his wife seek to teach this value, as well as others to Wolfe and Emmie both inside and outside the garage. Robert also hopes to teach his son the simple lesson of a dollar bill’s true value and more importantly that of self value and time. Wolfie currently helps to pay for all the projects he wishes to pursue. Furthermore their children, through the power of cars, learn about love, friendship, family, community, and country.
Currently Wolfie continues to help Robert in the garage, so long as there is work to be done and patience to be had. They both are looking forward to the possibility of restoring a vintage go kart in the near future. Wolfie’s favorite car or truck is currently his uncle’s K5 Blazer. However, the young man is partial to just about anything loud with a nice paint job. Emmie, being only three years old, has yet to outright name her favorite car, however it has been apparent to Robert and his Wife that their daughter is thrilled to be growing up so close to custom cars.
Robert McDonald is everything that’s right with the custom automotive culture. He has spent his life working hard, sweating, learning, and chasing goals. Having learned to needed skills to be successful, he not only has applied them, but sought to pass them to his children. Their is nothing more noble for a father to do than to take care of his family and pass along his passion to them, whether or not it is for the same application. From our family here at Slam’d, a gigantic thank you to Robert and his wife for their amazing contributions to the world of Slam’d kids!
We also want to extend a special thanks to Juan Espinoza of Deadend Magazine, for sharing some of his photos with us for this feature. Several of the images for Boulevard Speed Shop builds were taken by Juan, in order to best display the amazing work that Robert has put into his trikes.