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Transformers roadside attraction is more than meets the eye

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cruise down Highway 41 south of Fresno and something different might catch your eye.

David Trevino said, "You expect nothing but groves and trees and you see this big old Bumblebee sticking out of nowhere."

Trevino and his buddies couldn't help but stop to see Bumblebee one of the original cartoon Transformers.

This 18 foot tall giant is the creation of Tom Rhoads.

"I built it because I've always had a love for Transformers," said Tom. "When I was growing up four or five years old Transformers was huge, Transformers and GI Joe and I loved Transformers."

And when his first son Drew came along, Tom had a chance to share his childhood love with his son.

"I really wanted to have something special for my boy on his first birthday," said Tom. "And just kind of get a feeling to be what it would be to stand next to one of these guys and try to build one."

The original Bumblebee was based on a "Bug."

"The easiest character to make was the smallest one closest one to our size is the character Bumblebee and he's made out of a Volkswagen."

Tom got one just down the road from Ron Johnson, he restores and sells Volkswagen Bugs and didn't mind giving him a bug that was beyond restoring.

Johnson said, "When a Volkswagen's through on the road it can end up in somebody's yard."

It took Tom eight months to build Bumblebee.

"I built him in two sections right where the black stops and the yellow begins," said Tom. "The back of his head is actually the engine cover. I just did it all eyeballed it, I'm no engineer."

But Tom is an expert with cars. He makes his living restoring and building classic cars and hot rods. But his love of Transformers hasn't dimmed. His dream is someone to keep Bumblebee Company, he wants to build the head Transformer, Optimus Prime.

"I have the blue print drawn out for him and he's gonna be about thirty feet tall," said Tom. "He's gonna be massive, he's gonna be taller than that windmill actually."

Optimus Prime was based on a semi-truck, and Tom bought one just for the job. In the meantime, Bumblebee is there for all to see. Located on his parent's farm his father, Dan says he's proud of his sons work, and visitors are welcome.

Dan said, "I kinda like having people come by."

As long as they follow the Bumblebee rules, posted on the sign out front.

For Tom, this roadside attraction really was a labor of love, for his own kids, and for those thirty somethings like him, who grew up with Transformers cartoons.

Tom said, "I just wanted to enjoy that childhood memory again."

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