By SEMA Editors
Raymond Bleiweis, an early SEMA pioneer and Hall of Famer, died February 23, 2015, in Los Angeles. He was 90.
Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1924, “Rocket Ray,” as he was known from his business Rocket Industries, was a family man, World War II vet, an entrepreneur and inventor. He moved to Los Angeles to follow the Dodgers and was an avid fan and longtime season-ticket holder.
Bleiweis joined with his brother in a California plating company in 1952, where their primary business was re-chroming automobile bumpers. Bumper and Auto Plating operated five facilities around the United States and was eventually renamed Cal Chrome. Bleiweis left the company in 1957 to form Keystone Automotive—his own bumper-finishing enterprise in California’s San Fernando Valley—and, eventually, nine other facilities around the country.
Bleiweis got into the wheel business while at Keystone when a customer asked him to modify an original-equipment rim. At the customer’s request, Bleiweis cut the rim apart, plated it and then put it back together backward. Thus was born the first “chrome-reverse rim,” as well as one of the precursors to today’s massive custom-wheel business. His custom wheel invention of the chrome reverse began a trend that is still going strong in the specialty-equipment industry.
Bleiweis sold his shares in Keystone Automotive in 1965 to form Rocket Industries with his wife Claire. In the late ’60s, Rocket Industries attended the first SEMA Show comprised of about 100 booths set up beneath the bleachers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, when Bleiweis became one of the association’s early members.
A memorial service will be held at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, February 27, at 2:00 p.m. Friends who wish to honor Bleiweis may contribute to the City of Hope in California in his name.