(By Greg Rourke and Bob Chiluk) – Just west of Morris, Il. on Interstate 80 is what looks like an old Stuckeys. And with good reason, it was an old Stuckeys. Instead of Pecan Log Rolls and greasy burgers it is now a one stop shop for all things automotive. With 23,000 square feet under various roof on four acres or land, the Hot Rod Barn can handle anything from minor repairs to complete restorations, to the wildest rods one can imagine.
Under the guidance of Technical Director Bernie Myers the shop has been at this location since 2002. Bernie spent 20 years as a crew chief for Dale Coyne Racing’s Indy car teams, working alongside Chicago Bears great Walter Payton. He won the Clint Brawner Mechanical Achievment Award, given to the top crew chief of the year. He knows his stuff and knows how to keep his employees motivated and happy. There are 14 employees handling the speed shop, graphics department, body and paint, heavy fabrication, and engine building. Cars move efficiently through the facility, a big advantage of not having to farm anything out.
Bernie explained they expanded to keep things moving on their schedule, rather than relying on specialty shops on their own schedules. They handle everything except powder coating and chroming. Engines are assembled in a clean room. They have a chassis dyno, as well as an engine dyno, they prefer to dyno tune all engines before dropping one into a customers car. Old school metalworking tools are put to good use.
On our visit we viewed lots of very cool stuff in various stages of their builds. A vintage Fiat that may have been a factory race car along side several Mustangs on rotisseries. A one family owned 36 Chevy restored to stock. What looked like a typical 90’s Impala SS was sporting a 410 cube, first gen small block with two big turbos putting out over 1000 horsepower. The shop truck going together was a 34 Ford pickup with a full house flattie and torsion bar suspension. A 500 inch Hemi in a 1968 Charger for a customer in Australia. Seneca High School’s Fox Mustang shop car was on the chassis dyno, sorting out its new 460. How cool is that? A high school class that builds and races, and the students also drive! A rare Q code, white-on-white Mustang convertible was getting its finishing touches. A passenger seat has been added to a former NASCAR cup car to scare the crap out of anyone brave enough to go for a ride.
Bernie reports business is booming, both in car builds and the speed shop. That’s good news, these guys have earned it.