SEMA hall-of-famer Raymond Bleiweis dies at 90
Raymond Bleiweis, an early member of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and 2008 inductee to its hall of fame, died Feb. 23, 2015, in Los Angeles. He was 90.
Bleiweis, who started his career in the automobile aftermarket business after serving in World War II, first worked with his brother re-chroming bumpers. In 1957 he started his own bumper finishing business, Keystone Automotive, and it was when a customer asked him to modify an original equipment rim that Bleiweis' true business calling began. According to his SEMA hall of fame biography, Bleiweis took apart the rim, plated it and reassembled it backwards. "Thus was born the first chrome-reverse rim."
In 1965 Bleiweis sold his shares in Keystone to form another business with his wife Claire. Rocket Industries' early days were dependent on the relatively new concept of custom wheels. In the 1960s Rocket Industries attended a trade show of about 100 booths held underneath the bleachers at Dodger Stadium. That little event evolved into the SEMA Show, which in 2014 included 2,379 exhibitor booths.
Bleiweis, who was known as "Rocket Ray," is survived by his wife Claire; three children, Mark, Brad and Laurie, and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.