Customizing and collecting have been a family business with SoCal's Kennedy Brothers for over 40 years. When Joe and Jason were growing up, Mom and Dad put food on their family's table by doing custom paint for car builders in East LA county's industrial zone. Coming of age under such circumstances predestined the brothers to a life of grime, and today Joe and Jason practice what their father preached in a compound in Pomona, California.
I hadn't met the brothers Kennedy before my visit, but our mutual friend Rico Fodrey always shares great stories about the way Joe and Jason do business. The Kennedy Brothers Bomb Factory flourishes quietly behind a fortified gate in a pre-WWII era job shop a few minutes' drive from LA county's dragstrip and fairgrounds. I say "quietly" for good reason. According to Rico, when a shop mishap severed phone lines at the Bomb Factory six months ago, Joe and Jason never repaired the connection. With no phone to answer or Internet to distract them, Joe and Jason can remain focused on the tasks at hand, namely turning rusting hulks into hundred-thousand-dollar show cars for happy customers. Of course, if you want the Kennedy brothers to polish your rod, you better know someone who can walk through the gate without spooking the two Italian greyhounds that protect their compound. During my visit a gentleman named Chris, himself a respectable bike builder and subtenant at the Bomb Factory gladly got my foot in the door.
I personally have never been a packrat, so the allure of this pathology often confounds me. Despite my disdain for dust and everything that collects it, many artifacts in the Kennedy collection left me green with envy. Their cache of Schwinn bicycles, for instance, blew my mind. I worked at a Schwinn shop founded in the '40s, so I appreciate both the scarcity and the divinity of these machines. Moving into the next catacomb on the Kennedy compound, my tour guide Rico pointed out a slingshot dragster, an old typewriter on the tiki bar and any eBay flipper's wet dream: a glass case full of Linkert breathers, Evel Knievel memorabilia and tchotchkes from Hollywood's golden era of B-movies. One part fab shop and three parts musuem, the Kennedy Brothers Bomb Shop is the kind of place that can put even jaded gawkers and grease monkeys in their place.
Curiously, two gentlemen who seemed much less interested in showing off all the cool stuff around us were the brothers themselves. When you work in the Smithsonian Institute of Motorhead Kitsch every day, very little probably surprises you. While Rico and I rubbed our grubby dick skinners over mahogany drag boats, custom minibikes, antique showstoppers and Beach Boys albums, Joe and Jason tweaked on rusty drive trains and old fenders. Both Joe and Jason were pleasant and friendly, but I left the Bomb Factory with a clear sense it's the work—not the spoils—that keep these Kennedys in their hot rod Camelot.