Hand Made: Interview With Custom Car And Bike Builder Mat Seely

My name is Mat Seely, from Stanley NY, and I build custom cars and bikes. I usually focus mostly on the fabrication side of things.

I have been doing cars for roughly sixteen years, and bikes for ten years. My father was a drag racer and later on engine builder/machinist, so I grew up around some of the best fabrication and engineering inspiration there is to offer.

As a teenager I was fascinated with lowriders, it was the gateway to this downward spiral. I installed a hydraulic suspension setup when I was sixteen in my ‘77 Monte Carlo. I had to learn the hard way, breaking parts, making mistakes, leaks, fires, mishaps. It was beautiful. I'm still learning as I go, this type of art or life or complete waste of time and money can truly never be mastered. There's always a next level, another step in the stairway of punishment.

I've dabbled in many different styles over the years, but I always find myself drawn back to the simplicity of the traditional stuff. I'm inspired by the guys who can work magic with minimal tools. Not everyone has access to CNC machines, or laser cutting technology. I love seeing a bitchin’ car get built in a two car garage with hand tools and respect for those paved the way before us. So much has changed over the years, cars and bikes have been given these illusions of being safe or reliable and that's just boring and wrong. I'm just drawn to the chaos of the primitive stuff, the danger, or complete lack of common sense. That's what makes these things cool.

Clients who give me free reign are the best. I have been lucky to have a handful of really great people who trust me to do what I love to do, and not arm twist me into building something we both will end up not liking. Planning these projects can often be impossible, they always grow and evolve in ways that are unpredictable. Deadlines are the worst. Nothing ever goes right, setbacks, design changes, failures, they are inevitable. It helps to have someone as a customer who understands this. Yet I always try my best to satisfy everyone who trusts me with their vision, meet their deadlines and make them happy.

I really dig what's been going on in Japan for years. It's been said before, but those guys are rad, always pushing the limits and doing it with very minimal stuff. I saw a guy over there who build a mind blowing shovelhead chopper and his shop was a shipping container. Mind blowing inspirational. There's also a couple rad dudes in Sweden building crazy stuff right now too. Those guys just have so much dedication, ambition, and drive. It's humbling.

As for right now I am working on a Shovelhead chopper for a client who has been super patient, letting me test the limits of what we both can endure with this project. I also have been tinkering with my career ending 53 Chevy. That one has been ongoing for the last eight years, on and off. I usually post highlights and progress on Instagram. Dreams die hard.

Photo Credits: Charlie Becker Photography.

Follow Mat: @indawaitinroom.