Metal Fabrication in America
Matt Brandt, 2018 Trade Scholar
During the month of August, I began my BBM journey at BBT Fabrications in Mahomet central Illinois, United States of America. Getting acquainted with Troy Gudgel and his team of highly skilled coach builders, to work on various high-end car builds, using top of the range tools to complete several projects. BBT caught my attention through their social media, taking note of their works and show winning builds; knowing I had this opportunity to travel, I decided to contact them and before I knew it, Troy became my mentor and for the next six weeks I got to experience working in their shop, learning their techniques and skills- as well as experiencing the American culture.
During the couple of days before beginning my placement, I felt intimidated, lonely. It was hard to adjust to the different time zones, weather, the taste of their food. However, as soon as my placement started, I picked up things quickly and adapted with Troy and his team really easily; as they were all really easy going and helpful with adapting to the American lifestyle. I didn’t feel as intimidated, as lonely, I was beginning to enjoy my time, and was ready to see what the next six weeks would bring me.
One of the challenges I experienced would have had to have been the conversion of the metric system to the imperial system. Especially measuring things with small tolerances to fit exact specifications. From day one I was hands on with projects completing my first one with the guidance of troy making templates then fabricating a floor pan section for a Lincoln continental out of mild steel. I got to experience working with aluminium which included welding, shaping and stretching to fabricate interior panels for numerous projects one being for a car which was getting unveiled by BBT Fabrications at SEMA in Las Vegas in early November this year. I have learnt ample techniques that I would have possibly never been able to develop in Australia as the American custom car scene is a lot more advance and popular making it a high demand for top quality shops like BBT.
I personally think I grew a lot from my experience as I have never been overseas, especially on my own. I managed to meet and become friends with lots of different people and when I went to car shows or places on my own I was able to always meet someone I had met through BBT there. Driving was a different experience of its own, as I was driving by my second day of my placement, eventually by the end of my placement driving on the opposite side of the road and car became natural.
This opportunity to work with BBT, fly across the world, mix with people of a different culture/background and upbringing, was 10 x better than what I could have imagined. Expecting that the shop wouldn’t have been what I thought it was, it blew my mind with the quality and craftsmanship of the cars they had built and currently building for there customers across the country. I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the BBT family and have had the chance to go to car shows with the team as well as being a part of their personal lives, allowing me to experience what they get done as a family.
As time went on, I began to realise how I wanted to go about my career back home, moving on from smash repair to customisation/coach building. I would recommend for the younger generation to put themselves forward into Worldskills, which gave me this opportunity. I have been fortunate enough to be given many potential job opportunities within Australia and also being given a job offer by BBT fabrications which was a amazing feeling knowing I made a awesome impression on them with my short time with them.