Paul Bosserman Carries on a Family Tradition of Fabrication and Craftsmanship at Old Anvil Speed Shop
Paul Bosserman grew up in the historic Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. In fact, Bosserman’s family can trace its lineage back 300 years in the area, and that means time-honored traditions can’t be too far behind.
Paul’s dad, Doug Bosserman, worked in a precision machine shop most of his life (he just recently retired after working there for 57 years), but still found time to build hot rods back in the ’60s, including a channeled and 392 Hemi-equipped Model A coupe. When Paul was a teenager, he worked at the same machine shop, learning from all the old guys who did everything by hand and adhered to a strong work ethic.
Though his dad gave up the coupe when Paul was young, Paul had Hot Rod magazines from 1968-72 stacked up in his bedroom as a pre-teen, and he read and re-read them endlessly. It gave him a dream about visiting California to see all the shops he’d read about – a dream amplified by a music teacher who frequently played The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming” in her classroom.
By the late ’70s, Paul’s dad started taking him to the huge Hershey car show and swap meet in Pennsylvania, when vintage car restoration was very popular. By the time he was 15, Paul bought his first car: a non-running ’57 Chevy two-door hardtop for $2500. The floor pans and trunk area were gone from rust, so he learned how to weld by fixing his own car. He restored it to stock (adding a Continental kit) and drove it into his early 20s.
One of his first jobs saw Paul working for a blade manufacturing company, where he learned how CNC machines worked and gained knowledge of metallurgy. This tied in nicely with the three years of mechanical engineering classes he took at Virginia Tech.
On a summer break Paul started doing some drafting work for a fabrication shop for the local mills near his home. They did work on a massive scale, using 30-foot long lathes that had a 48-inch diameter, or a press brake that could easily bend half-inch plate, further expanding Paul’s fabrication knowledge.
By the mid ’90s Paul had opened his own fabrication shop, filling it with the tools he had grown up around. This led to opening another shop, Metal Magic, where he found success building commercial stairs and handrails. That business lasted until 2008, when construction work evaporated due to the economic downturn. Fabrication work became scarce, but Paul was able to hook up with a British sports car restoration shop that also had a ’52 Vignale Ferrari that already had some work done by hot rod metal master Craig Naff. A lot of intricate trim pieces still needed to be made, which Paul was able to do, and the vehicle ended up being a 99-point car displayed at the Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach as well as at the Pebble Beach Concours in California. The coachbuilding techniques became another addition to Paul’s resume,
While working on the Ferarri, Paul took some time out to travel to the Rockabilly Rumble car show in Virginia and was introduced to a young woman named Jenna who was visiting from California. Paul and Jenna hit it off and, after visiting her in SoCal in 2013, he then returned in 2014 to see her and the Grand National Roadster Show. By this time, Paul knew he wanted to be in SoCal, so he brought along resumes to hand out. A job offer from Troy Ladd at Hollywood Hot Rods brought Paul to California in mid-2014.
After a year with HHR, Paul moved south to work for Shine Speed Shop for a couple of years, and then for Scott Bonowski at Hot Rods and Hobbies. After working on a handful of AMBR contenders through different shops, Paul decided to open his own place, call his own shots, work on what he wanted to, and build good relationships with his customers. In May of 2018, he opened Old Anvil Speed Shop in Orange, California.
Along with his now-wife, Jenna (they married in 2017), the couple has six talented fabricators working for them and 15 or so customer cars in 13,000 sq. ft. of shop space. He enjoys designing and milling one-off pieces to further a car’s design but, because the types of cars being worked on are quite varied, the common thread is they’re all being built with a meticulous attention to detail. And there’s always a bit of custom coachbuilding thrown in to make each vehicle just a little different from any other car out there. The shop farms out paint jobs and upholstery work, but everything else – from custom chassis work, distinctive drivetrains, upgraded suspensions, and a whole lot of creative metal fabrication – happens right at Old Anvil. Paul also works with designers such as Eric Black, taking illustrations and figuring out the programs needed to have parts CNC milled.
Paul’s great-grandfather used to shoe horses while managing a fruit farm 100 years ago and, back then, a horse was most folks’ main method of transportation. At 49 years old, Paul still uses his great-grandfather’s farrier’s anvil to shape metal and stay busy working on today’s preferred choice of transportation: the automobile. He’s using his decades of education, both practical and hands-on, to carry on his family’s tradition by giving new-age horses their shoes – several hundred at a time!
Old Anvil Speed Shop
Photos by Eric Geisert