Rebels with a vision: Brothers open shop specializing in cylinder repair
TAYLOR — Inside the newest building in this tiny town along Highway 10 sits Ryan Rebel’s pet project: a 1944 Ford pickup truck.
As he stood back to describe and admire the truck — something of a collector’s item as World War II all but halted the production of Ford pickups that year — Ryan described what it takes to restore a vehicle like that.
“You’ve got to have a vision when you start something like that,” he said. “When you start with some frame rails on the garage floor, you’ve got to have something in your mind — what you want it to look like when you’re done.”
It took a shared vision with Ryan and his older brother, 23-year-old Ross Rebel, to bring the building they were standing in to life.
The building is now home to Rebel Customs, their shop specializing in repairing cylinder heads for regular and high-performance engines. The shop opened at the end of January.
The brothers are graduates of WyoTech and the University of Northwestern Ohio, schools known for their automotive programs. They earned degrees in high performance motorsports from Northwestern Ohio, where they worked on the school’s motorsports teams.
“I kind of threw the idea around that it would be kind of cool to start a business,” Ross Rebel said. “Then one day, I was like, ‘Ryan, are we going to be serious about starting this business? Because there’s only a couple months of school left.’ And it’s not like you just start a business, you have a building, and it’s all grand and fine and dandy.”
So the brothers worked with their parents, Taylor Nursery owners Rory and Robyn Rebel, and BNSF Railway to buy land a stone’s throw away along Highway 10. The two businesses are separated by only their shared gravel parking lot.
Their 4,250-square-foot steel building is difficult to miss in the town of less than 200, and the brothers hope it becomes a destination for race car drivers or anyone else who needs custom engine repairs and cleanings.
They specialize in repairing cylinder heads, valve jobs, and seat and guide replacement but also do light welding, and engine cleaning and degreasing.
“We’re just starting with cylinder heads,” Ryan said. “A lot of people want us to do more. They want us to do blocks, they want us to do engine overhauls, crank grind — they want everything. It’s like, ‘That’s another hundred grand. Calm down.’ We’re just trying to get rolling and once we get rolling, we can get some more block equipment and stuff like that.”
The Rebels said they wanted to start small, specialize in cylinder repair and eventually build toward a bigger shop with more equipment. They learned just about everything automotive — except body repair — during college and, Ryan said, “can pretty much put our hands on everything.”
“We’d like to specialize in high performance and racing,” Ross said.
They’d like to become known in a “very broad radius” for their high-performance racing repairs and improvements, though they won’t limit themselves to that.
“We don’t know if there’s enough demand for it,” Ryan said. “We don’t want to say just high performance and then you don’t have anything to do all day. We’ve already done a couple projects for people. It can be pretty much anything. As long as it fits the capacity of our equipment, we can do it. Or our tooling. As long as it fits the specifications.”
Most repair shops steer clear of cylinder repair because it is challenging and requires specialized equipment.
One of the Rebels’ machines cuts one-thousandths of an inch off a cylinder head — less than a human hair.
They have engine cleaners — a “sugar” blaster that is equivalent and less harmful than a sandblaster — two engine cleaners, and a seat and guide machine similar to a high-end unit they learned on at Northwestern Ohio.
“At school, we kind of got spoiled with the nice stuff,” Ryan said. “We tried to get something that was close to that.”
During a grand opening in late January, the Rebels showed off the shop to locals and potential customers who were interested in seeing what their shop was all about.
“The locals, a lot of them don’t really understand what we do,” Ryan said with a smile. “But they support us.”
The Rebel brothers said they often think about the challenges they might face with the shop and the real-world, business-owner problems they will have to deal with while many of their friends are still in college or working in the oil field.
“Everybody our age, they’re working oilfield and making $30 an hour,” Ryan said. “Here you are, spending X-amount of dollars on something you hope works. But it still makes you nervous.”