By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Combining his love of muscle cars and his talent for art, “Atomic Bob” McElroy is one of the area’s few automotive pinstriping specialists.
McElroy puts the finishing touches on muscle cars and motorcycles at his Atomic Dice Studio Arts shop in Salem.
He’ll also appear on Monday’s episode of “Fat N’ Furious: Rolling Thunder,” the new Discovery series (10 p.m.).
“Fat N’ Furious” follows Tommy Christmas and his crew at Christmas Automotive in Boardman as they rebuild left-for-dead muscle cars into tricked-out street machines.
McElroy gets a chance to show off his talents — he hand-paints his vehicles — on the episode. The camera crew visits him at his Salem shop. “It was invaluable exposure for my business,” he said.
However, his introduction to the episode is as a car owner. He approaches Christmas with a job to supe up a 1951 Mercury Coupe.
A secondary plot involves a rebuild on a 1977 Chevrolet Vega — a car that was built at GM’s Lordstown Assembly Plant.
McElroy has been part of the Mahoning Valley’s muscle-car culture for just about his whole life, becoming a self-described “gearhead” — just like his father — as a young boy.
“When everyone was at the football game, I was working on a car,” said the 34-year-old Salem High graduate.
McElroy is also known for his ’50s look, which extends to all parts of his life.
“My fiancee and I, we live in the ’50s,” he said. “I’m covered in tattoos, and I got the slicked-back pompadour hairstyle, the cuffed pants ...”
After graduating from high school, McElroy attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. He began work as a commercial illustrator, doing hot-rod illustrations for magazines, before moving into automotive pinstriping.
“I’m an artist, and I’m happiest doing art and I’m making a living at it,” he said.
Monday’s “Fat N’ Furious” episode was partially filmed in April at a car cruise at the Top Notch Diner in Cortland. McElroy met Christmas at the shooting, although he had been familiar with his work for a long time.
“I remember seeing Tommy at the Salem drag strip, and seeing his cars there and hearing his name,” said McElroy.
An older friend of McElroy’s was on last week’s episode. Kevin Moore — who also sports a ’50s look — brought a Ford Maverick to Christmas Automotive on the show and had it rebuilt as a gift to his daughter.