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One-man shop builds show-stopping custom street rods and motorcycles using ESAB products.
Eight years ago, Dustin Maybin started fabricating custom cars and motorcycles. Today, he is winning at car and bike shows across the nation, and nobody is more surprised by his success than he is.
At 17 years of age, Dustin moved out of his parents' home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Having been raised in an environment where drugs and alcohol were prevalent, he cut ties with almost everyone in his family, save for his grandfather.
"I was truly on my own," said Dustin. "I graduated high school when I was 18, and I really wanted a cool car. When I was that age, the key to popularity was to cruise your car, but I didn't have a cruise-worthy car!"
With no money to purchase a car, Dustin was motivated to build one from the ground up. He was working 40 hours per week at his job painting in an auto body shop. He asked the owner of that shop if he could be trained on welding and fabrication, but was told "no."
However, Dustin was so motivated to have a car to cruise with that he learned to weld on his own. He found Tim Cox, a local welder who showed him how to set up a welding machine. He saved up his money and purchased his first arc welder and taught himself to weld, and then worked on improving his painting skills.
"I totally messed up that first paint job," confessed Dustin. "But, that just motivated me even more to improve. Even when the other cruisers would make fun of me, I just used that rejection to inspire me to do better."
Dustin would go to work for his full shift – six, and sometimes seven, days per week. He would work a full 8-hour shift and was never late for work. He would leave work and work until midnight on his car.
"I didn't have a girlfriend, I didn't go out and party, and to this day I have never touched drugs or alcohol," he said. "I needed all my money and time and energy to get that car done!"
When his employer retired, Dustin decided to strike out on his own and open his own fabricating shop. Eastern Rod & Chopper specializes in street rods (street racing cars) – both modified and built-from-scratch. The shop also builds motorcycles from scratch.
Brian Klock, a well-known custom bike builder and owner of Klock Werks in Mitchell, South Dakota, visited Dustin's shop and challenged him to build a custom motorcycle in 10 weeks.
Brian told Dustin to bring the bike to the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota – one of the largest bike rallies in the United States. Brian said if Dustin brought his bike to South Dakota, he would help get Dustin's name out.
Ten weeks later, Dustin made the trip to Sturgis, hauling his bike on an old trailer pulled by his pickup truck.
"When I got there, I wanted to turn right around and leave," recalls Dustin. "All I could think was, 'I don't belong here.' All these fabricators were there with their tricked-out trailers and there I was with my old truck, 1500 miles from home. My stomach was in knots and I seriously wanted to run away."
Dustin stayed because he figured he'd already invested 10 weeks in fabricating the bike and he was 1500 miles from North Carolina. Plus, Brian Clark had taken a chance on him – without Brian's invitation, Dustin could not have participated in the Sturgis Rally pro-class event, and Dustin didn't want to let Brian down.
Good thing he stayed – he impressed the other participants with his bike, and now he's winning the car and bike shows he attends. A one-man shop and only 30-years old, Dustin is competing against larger, more experienced fabricating shops, and he's winning.
Dustin attributes his success to his commitment to perfection. He has never fabricated a bike from a kit – they are all built from scratch. He didn't have the capital to buy a motorcycle frame jig, so he researched them and built his own.
The same holds true with custom cars: he couldn't afford to buy pre-built frames and chassis, so he built them all from scratch. In fact, he couldn't even buy a car frame table – he built that, too.
"I don't have a formal education," said Dustin. "But I've studied enough on my own to have a degree!" From internet searches, to books on welding and fabricating and painting, Dustin has invested time and money into educating himself to continuously improve his craft.
That investment is paying off. Eastern Rod & Chopper is a full-service shop with top-of-the-line tools – all paid for. "My favorite math equation is, 'hard work beats talent,'" said Dustin. "Sometimes people with a lot of natural talent can get lazy, but someone who maybe doesn't have a natural gift for fabricating or painting has to work harder. You get out what you put in!"
What does Dustin Maybin get out of all that hard work? "I really love the bragging rights," he proclaims. "I love the sense of pride I get when I show up and not only can I say I built the bike or car from scratch, I even built the table I used to fabricate it with!"
In a traditional production environment, fabricators are trained to produce quickly in order to manufacture a volume of products. Dustin, as a one-man operation, focuses on building slowly and to his exceedingly high standards.
Just as Brian Clark gave Dustin a chance to display his work, Dustin wants to help other young fabricators. He began looking for an apprentice he could train. Many aspiring builders hoped to apprentice with Dustin, but the young man he brought on was the most persistent. "This kid showed up and never left. He was kind of annoying, but he hung around and got to the point where he was handing me tools and he knew what I was going to need before I even asked for it, so I let him stay."
It's that drive and passion and commitment to excellence that caught Michael Burch's eye. A Regional Sales Manager for ESAB, Michael was impressed with Dustin's work ethic and products.
"I've used every brand of welder out there," said Dustin. "ESAB is hands-down better than anything else I've used. I love the NewTech helmet! The products are a step above – nobody else has welders that are this advanced."
"Dustin is the real deal," said Michael Burch. "He uses the ESAB CaddyMig 200 and is really an artist as well as a talented fabricator."
Dustin's focus on producing excellent work on a consistent basis has inspired many of the young welders and fabricators in Hendersonville. "If I can be successful, anybody can be – if they want it badly enough!"
That's the advice Dustin gives young workers – you have to want success more than you want to go out and have fun, more than you want to hang out with your friends, and more than you want to sleep in or party.
Today, Eastern Rod & Chopper has been attracting nationwide attention – both from fabricators and industry media. "I still work hard," he said. "But now I do have time for a girlfriend!"