By Ashely Reyes
Blue Sky Performance has been named as the SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance’s (HRIA) first-ever council spotlight member.
Blue Sky Performance dedicated “mud room” for dry sanding.
|Storage area for projects that are in production. Future plans are to convert this into a work area.
Blue Sky Performance Down Draft spray booth.
Blue Sky Performance has been named as the SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance’s (HRIA) first-ever council spotlight member. In this week’s feature, HRIA spoke to company owner Jesse Barratt to ask him about Blue Sky Performance’s ’66 Pontiac LeMans, winning Autowire’s 2019 American Golden Bolt Award, current and upcoming vehicle projects and advice he has for aspiring professionals in the automotive aftermarket.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your shop. How did you start?
Jesse Barratt: I grew up down the street from Jeff Manzella since we were seven years old—best friends. We worked on cars together when we were kids. I started working at a local auto shop in 2008 and we hired Jeff soon after. After the owner retired and sold the business, we decided we were ready to embark on our own. My father was approaching retirement and partnered with us in 2015.
Today, Blue Sky is located in the same automotive shop location where they started. Jeff and I have been friends since almost day one—unusual to make that work in business, but we have. We were roommates in college and then best man at each other’s weddings. Heck, we were together with our wives last weekend.”
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment?
JB: I’m not sure if there was ever a “breakthrough moment,” but we always had the same vision and goals for the business. We are primarily self-taught when it comes to working on cars from being head strong in the industry and driven by the passion that comes out from it. We learned how to be businessmen from our previous boss, who, in a way, mentored us to think as businessmen. This has proven very successful for us as we have made a profit and grown since day one as owners.
SEMA: Tell us about your feature build ’66 Pontiac LeMans.
JB: It came from the original owner and was a streetcar, driven by the family, for years. It came into the shop for a paint job and the rest they say is history. The project exploded into what you saw at SEMA 2019. We are beyond proud and fortunate to have customers who allow us to build the kind of cars we dream up with them.
SEMA: What is in your shop this year? It is the year of the truck? We didn’t see that coming.
JB: We have a ’39 Ford TCI Chassis with Coyote—“ready to tow;” a ’72 F-250—period-correct “day 2 old-school lifted pickup; a ’78 F1-50—“California Sunrise;” a ’66 C10 – “the Christmas tree delivery truck;” a ’70 C10, which we are completing for a very good friend of ours who has always been a huge supporter; a ’68 Firebird 400 HO—numbers matching, four-speed, Meridian Turquoise with a white vinyl top and white deluxe interior; a ’69 442—numbers matching triple black convertible; and a ’90 Mustang LX—750 hp turbo streetcar. We have a constant rotation of at least 20 projects in the shop.
SEMA: What new and exciting projects do you foresee in the future?
JB: We recently purchased a chassis dyno from Dynocom, so we can now provide dyno services and tuning to our customers. It was a bucket list item we dreamed of when we became owners. Future projects include a ’62 Impala—“Low Touring”—Pro-touring build with low-rider inspirations, which we are working on with Brian at Problem Child Kustoms. We have a goal to have it at SEMA 2021. We also plan to work on a ’76 Gran Torino—original limited-edition “Starsky and Hutch” car that was one of the 1,300 cars that Ford sold through select dealerships, and a ’70 Mustang Convertible—TCI chassis, Coyote, wrapped in an “as-if” BOSS 302 convertible paint scheme.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young folks contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
JB: You have to have passion for this work. You can’t fake it or hide it. Never give up and focus on what you need to do to be successful. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t be successful.