LOS ANGELES (Feb. 27, 2015) — Raymond Lewis Bleiweis, founder of Rocket Industries / Rocket Wheel and a Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Hall of Famer, died Feb. 23 at age 90.
Born in the Bronx in 1924, "Rocket Ray," as he was known from his company, served in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II as a U.S. Army lieutenant.
He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s to follow the Dodgers baseball team. He was an avid fan and longtime season ticket holder.
There he joined his brother in a California plating company in 1952 but left that firm in 1957 to form Keystone Automotive, his own bumper-finishing enterprise. That led him to the wheel business, SEMA said, when a customer asked him to modify an OE rim.
At the customer's request, Mr. Bleiweis cut the rim apart, plated it and reassembled it, developing a process that became known as “chrome-reverse,” considered a precursor to today's massive custom-wheel business.
He sold Keystone in 1965 and founded Rocket Industries, specializing in custom wheels.
Mr. Bleiweis joined SEMA in its earliest days and was a Hall of Fame inductee in 2008. His work and that of other pioneers served as the basis for SFI Foundation Inc., the body that now provides industrywide specifications for a range of aftermarket products.
In his free time, he loved to play golf and sail, but mostly enjoyed traveling with his family.
Mr. Bleiweis is survived by his wife Claire and children Mark (and wife Stacy), Brad and Laurie; and grandchildren Jason, Alexander, Austin, Justin and Alanna.
Interested parties who wish to honor Mr. Ray may contribute to the City of Hope in California in his name.