- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

GIBBON, Neb. (AP) - When Kyle Bond says cars fascinate him, he’s not just spinning his wheels.

Inside his 8,000-square-foot Gibbon Fiberglass garage on East Front Street, Bond and his two employees labor among dusty hubcaps, fiberglass pieces, wrenches, wires, tires, polish and paint as country western songs blare overhead and dented license plates dangle from the walls.

Bond builds cars. He restores cars. He paints and refinishes cars. On weekends, he races cars on dirt tracks. Pictures of cars circle around his office walls like stock cars speeding around at the Darlington Raceway.

Bond, 42, owns Gibbon Fiberglass Bodies by Bond. The company builds hot rods and fiberglass reproduction bodies of Fords from the 1930s and a few other models.

“Anyone can be driving a custom car for what they spend on the car they currently drive,” he told the Kearney Hub (https://bit.ly/1sY3al8 ).

He and his two craftsmen build or work on about 15 to 20 cars a year. His staff includes Cody Adams, 26, of Kennesaw, the fiberglass laminator who builds fiberglass bodies and parts for the cars, and Bobby Schutte, 34, of Shelton, who helps Bond do custom painting, mechanical and electrical work. Bond does the upholstery himself.

In his 18-year career, Bond has built and sold about 1,500 fiberglass bodies and classic cars. These days, he manufactures 12 body styles from scratch, specifically Fords and Packards from 1932-1934. He also builds parts for Ford pickups from 1948-1956 and Mercury parts from 1949-1951.

“Fords of 1933 and 1934 are the most popular, but if you wanted a ‘55 Crown Victoria, I might do it. If anyone can fire up my interest and vision, I will take it on.”

Bond defines a hot rod as any car that’s been modified, modernized or modified. A street rod is a hot rod manufactured before 1948. What he calls “custom cars” are from the ‘50s.

“These cars are quite user-friendly. It’s easy to reproduce parts, whereas it would be very hard to find parts for ‘30s Fords,” he said.

Finished cars rolling out of his garage may look old, but hiding under their fiberglass bodies are modern suspensions, power steering, power brakes and, usually, air conditioning. He uses his own “unibody” design in which there is no frame; the chassis is built into the body structure. “It’s the safest manufactured hot rod in the country. Structurally, it’s as strong as a race car,” he said.

Bond was born in 1971, the same year that his father, Dwight, opened Gibbon Fiberglass Reproductions.

Bond loved hanging out in his father’s shop. By the time he was 11, he was sweeping floors. By age 13, he bought a maroon 1955 Chevy and drove it throughout his years at Gibbon High School. “When I was a teenager, my buddies wanted me to paint their cars,” he said.

In 1994, Bond, then 23, moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and opened Gibbons Unlimited Street ROD center, where he built cars using the bodies and parts from his father’s manufacturing plant.

Two years later, Dwight retired and sold his business to his son. “My father only manufactured bodies and parts. I wanted to build finished cars,” Bond said. He combined his father’s business with his street rod shop and became the largest sales volume dealer for the Gibbon Fiberglass product line out of 100 dealers nationwide.

About 10 years ago, he and his wife JoAnn, a Gibbon native, returned to Nebraska. Their family was growing, and they wanted to be close to family, including his parents, Dwight and Sheila, who still live in Gibbon. For two years Bond ran his business in Kearney before moving it to a space behind Gibbon’s fire station, where it remains today.

“What I enjoy most is that it’s never the same car two times in a row. Everyone gets something special and unique. Customers pick the style and colors and give me the vision. I enjoy making reality out of that vision,” he said. “I have to be unique. Otherwise, they could just buy a car off a lot.”

Bond himself drives a 1957 Chevrolet El Camino that was a station wagon when his father purchased it in the late ‘60s. Hoping to restore it, his father cut off the top. It then sat unfinished for 40 years. “I hauled it out of his barn, and since it was sentimental to me, last year I finished it,” Bond said. He expects to pass it down to one of his sons.


Information from: Kearney Hub, https://www.kearneyhub.com/



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