Archive for the ‘Custom and other projects’ Category

The Great 1950′s T-Bucket Hot Rod Rivalry | Kookie Kar vs. The “Outhouse on Wheels”



Norm Grabowski Tony Ivo T-Bucket

Tommyy Ivo (top) and Norm Grabowski in his famous Kookie Kar square-off at the National Hot Rod Associations drag racing meet held at the old Santa Ana Drag Strip.



The T-Bucket Hot Rod craze started back in the 1950s, and is still alive and screamin’ today.  Norm Grabowski is the undisputed Granddaddy of the 4-wheeled art form, with his original Kookie Kar being an inspiration to the legion of copycat and followers that became a national craze.  It all started back in 1952, when Grabowski, newly discharged from the service and now a fledgling actor in California, got his hands on an old 1922 Model T Touring front half and dropped a shortened model A pickup bed on the rear.  It wasn’t nearly as simple as it sounds– Grabowski painstakingly cut and recut the frame, laboring long and hard to get just the right aesthetic and stance he was looking for.  The power was supplied by a ’52 Cadillac engine with a 3-71 GMC blower, and later evolved to a ’56 Dodge engine with a Horne intake sporting a quartet of Stromberg double-barrel carbs. The steering for the beast was supplied by a Ross box from an old milk truck.  Grabowski installed it at home, then discovered that the T-Bucket steered backwards.  He hopped in the dyslexic Hot Rod and nonchalantly drove her from Sunland, CA to Valley Custom in Burbank for a fix– having to steer in the opposite direction the entire way.  Why not?



Norm Grabowski Kookie Kar

Norm Grabowski behind the “wheel” of his famous Kookie Kar– a signature feature being the Bell three-spoke steering wheel mounted on the column which was in near upright position.





Norm Grabowski working under his Kookie Kar with a homemade hoist-- around '57 - '59 in Sunland, CA.

Norm Grabowski working under his Kookie Kar with a homemade hoist– around ’57 – ’59 in Sunland, CA.




Grabowski working at home on the Kookie Kar-- with baby riding shotgun.

Norm Grabowski working at home on the Kookie Kar– with baby riding shotgun. Check out the bloodied plaster skull shifter.




Norm Kookie Kar

Norm Grabowski and baby at home in Sunland working on the Kookie Kar.




Kookie Kar

OK baby, try ‘er now… Norm Grabowski turning the wrench on his Kookie Kar for the LIFE photog’s Kamera.




Norm Grabowsky-- what you'd call a hands-on kinda guy.

Norm Grabowski– what you’d call a hands-on kinda guy.




Somebody's gotta get under there...

Somebody’s gotta get under there… Norm Grabowski under his Kookie Kar.




Kookie Kar

Norm Brabowski ready for race day at the Santa Ana Drag Strip.




The Legendary Norm Grabowski Kookie Kar.  Paint by Valley Custom with flame job and pinstriping by Dean Jeffries.  Tony Nancy stitched up the rolled and pleated red interior.

The Legendary Norm Grabowski Kookie Kar — Identical clone by Franco ‘Von Franco’ Costanza. Norm’s original was painted by Valley Custom with flame job and pinstriping by Dean Jeffries. Tony Nancy stitched up the rolled and pleated red interior.



Grabowski’s T-Bucket was so hot on the scene, it soon spawned a movement.  Arriving home one day, he was more than a little surprised to find another actor/racer/builder, Tommy “TV” Ivo, in his garage measuring up the Kookie Kar so that he could make his own T-Bucket Hot Rod. Ivo later recounted– “I asked him (Grabowski) if he would let me take some measurements off of his car,” recalls Ivo, “but he wouldn’t let me.” So when that failed, Ivo took matters into his own hands and snuck into Grabowski’s garage one day when he wasn’t home and took all the critical measurements and visual data needed to go off and create his own.



Tony Ivo Drag racing his "outhouse on wheels" with it's signature white ragtop down for speed.

Tommy Ivo Drag racing his “outhouse on wheels” with it’s signature white ragtop down for speed.



With trusty T-Bucket measurements in hand, Tommy Ivo set out to on the first order of business — finding an old Model T body.  Scouring the dry California desert, Tommy finally found a suitable match– a 1925 Ford Phaeton front end.  Only problem was the desert had claimed the Phaeton for itself.  A Yucca tree had  grown straight straight through the middle of the cab, rooting the old ford in place.  Undeterred, Ivo claimed victory by chopping the Yucca down and hauling the old Ford back home.  With a little help from Randy Chaddock & Max Balchowsky, Ivo made short work of the project– equipping his new T-Bucket with a 322 Buick Nailhead bored out to 402 cubic inches, and setup to use one of three induction systems: a dual-quad manifold, the quintessential six-pack of Stromberg 97s, and the Hilborn fuel injection that has become the car’s trademark over the years.



Tony Ivo's T-Bucket Hot Rod was unmatched in it's class back in the day.

Tommy Ivo’s T-Bucket Hot Rod was unmatched in it’s class back in the day.



Despite its reputation at the strip, on the street, and the silver screen — Ivo’s T-Bucket is most remembered by enthusiasts as simply one of the top hot rods to evolve from the Southern California area. Perhaps its first claim to national fame was prompted by its appearance on the August 1957 cover of Hot Rod magazine. The Buick motor was shown wearing its Hilborn livery, and the car was featured inside the magazine on a two-page black-and-white photo spread by Bob D’Olivo.  –Street Rodder



Tony Ivo's T'Bucket Hot Rod went on to be as big, if not a bigger star than actor/racer himself.

Tommy Ivo’s T’Bucket Hot Rod went on to be as big a star, if not a bigger, than the actor/racer himself.



Tommy Ivo learned a lot about building hi-performance engines under Balchowsky. “He was my mentor in motors,” Ivo recalled. Ivo put his lethal motor skills into practice and started cleaning-up at the drag strip.  Most times he drove home with a trophy, or at least bragging rights to a trophy. “Sometimes I used to sell my trophies back to the track promoter,” recalls Ivo. “I’d take the money and buy more tires.” His passion was purely for the car and the thrill, not the glory. He adds, “All I wanted to do was race. I didn’t care about trophies back then.”  Ivo’s hot T-Bucket and racing skill landed him several Top Eliminator awards at the San Fernando Drags and later at Lions when it opened in 1960. The car was a consistent for 11-second elapsed times and a top speed of 119 mph.



Tony Ivo's dark red T-Bucket was accented with custom white pinstripes by none other than the legendary Kenneth Howard-- AKA Von Dutch.

Tommy Ivo’s dark red T-Bucket was accented with a custom white pinstripe job by none other than the legendary Kenneth Howard– AKA Von Dutch. His signature is visible at the far right end of the dash.



Tommy Ivo relates an interesting story about the radiator ornament. He had spotted it in his neighborhood on a decommissioned car that was owned by an older gentleman. Ivo asked if he’d sell the cap, but the stubborn gent said no way. Taking matter into his own hands, as he also did with spying Grabowski’s T, Ivo paid the old car a visit late one night. “I took it,” confesses Ivo 45 years later, “but I left a $50 bill stuffed in its place.”



Tony Ivo and the Road Kings crew at the Santa Ana Drag Strip--  sometime from '57 to '59.

Tommy Ivo and the Road Kings crew wait their turn to tear it up at the Santa Ana Drag Strip– sometime from ’57 to ’59.




The Road Kings, with Tommy Ivo standing at far left, seem ready for another pass at the Santa Ana Drags. The car appears much as it does today, with Hilborn fuel injection, race slicks, Mercury hubcaps, and full top.

The Road Kings, with Tommy Ivo standing at far left, seem ready for another pass at the Santa Ana Drags. The car appears much as it does today, with Hilborn fuel injection, race slicks, Mercury hubcaps, and full top.




Tony Ivo Road Kings Santa ana Drag Strip

The Road Kings take advantage of the view atop Tommy Ivo’s T-Bucket tires– Santa Ana Drag Strip.




...As Tony Ivo explained, the Hot Rod, with top up looked "like an outhouse on wheels." And so came the crescent moon cut-out window came to be.

…As Tommy Ivo explained, the Hot Rod, with top up looked “like an outhouse on wheels.” And so came the crescent moon cut-out window came to be.




Santa Ana Drag Strip Road Kings

There’s another clear benefit to no fenders.




Tony Ivo and the Road Kings crew at the Santa Ana Drag Strip

Tommy Ivo and the Road Kings crew at the Santa Ana Drag Strip




Tony Ivo victorious at Santa Ana in more ways than one.

To the victor go the spoils! After winning Top Eliminator at the San Fernando Drags, Tommy Ivo and the trophy queen make a victory pass.




Tony Ivo and his T-Bucket were featured in the Hollywood production "Dragstrip Girl". Ironically, Ivo played the heavy in the movie, and the script called for him to steal his own car.

Tommy Ivo and his T-Bucket were featured in the Hollywood production “Dragstrip Girl”. Ironically, Ivo played the heavy in the movie, and the script called for him to steal his own car.


SpeedView is an advanced speedometer application that uses the phone’s built-in GPS system to show your current maximum and average speed, as well as the direction, total distance, and time traveled. Suitable for running, car driving, biking, or hiking.

We use this app on our android Phone and Love it! Used it the on the maiden voyage and have never looked back. It does drain the battery on your phone , so I made sure the cigarette lighter was wired and now we just plug the phone in and charge it while we cruise.

  • High accuracy GPS-based speedometer that is more accurate than the one in your car.
  • Linear compass Shows your current direction of travel. A compass mode is also available.
  • HUD view Mirrors the numbers so you can place your phone on your car’s dashboard and see the speed reflected in the front glass. You can check out this video to see how it works.
  • Speed graph Displays a graph chart covering the last several minutes.
  • Display units Supports units such as miles, kilometers, and nautical miles.
  • Speed warning You can set the speed limits for three different types of roads so that when you go too fast a visual alert or sound will notify you.
  • GPX track export Enables you to save your current track to the SD card or email it to someone. The GPX format is supported by Google Earth and many other programs.
  • Background mode You can minimize the program and keep it running in the background. It will work as usual and even notify you when you exceed the speed limit.



CLEAR LAKE, Iowa–At 1 a.m. Friday, a handful of people will gather under a waxing moon on a gravel road about 5 miles north of here.

 As they listen to Don McLean lament “the day the music died” in his 1971 song American Pie, they’ll walk, as they do every year, to the site of the plane crash where singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died a few minutes after 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1959.

At a memorial in a farm field, the fans will say a prayer and sing a couple of songs. “We give thanks for the lives of these people that brought us all together and thanks for the music,” says Paul King, 66, a retired businessman from Northampton, England. He is a member of the British Buddy Holly Society and has made 24 pilgrimages to Clear Lake, including 17 for anniversary celebrations.

The after-midnight procession is the culmination of an annual celebration of the legacy of the three young rock ‘n’ roll singers and the survival of the Surf Ballroom, the venue in this town of 7,777 where they performed their final show.

The Surf, built in 1948 — after its first incarnation across the street on the shores of Clear Lake burned down a year earlier — is a shrine to the 1950s and the early days of rock music. It has its original ticket window, wooden dance floor and booths and a meticulously restored seashore-and-palm-trees motif. Faux clouds still roll across the black ceiling.

The ballroom, which will be packed this week during the annual four-day commemoration of the Winter Dance Party that brought the three young stars to town 53 years ago, has been designated a historic landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was listed last year in the National Register of Historic Places.

It is, says Jay P. Richardson, The Big Bopper’s son, “a temple of rock ‘n’ roll. If you want to pay your respects to Elvis, you go to Graceland. If you want to pay your respects to Dad, Buddy and Ritchie, you go to the Surf Ballroom.”

Once a hot spot

Clear Lake is a summer vacation hub in the middle of farm country, a two-hour drive from Minneapolis or Des Moines, the closest big cities. It’s the sort of place that’s bypassed by many national acts now, but in the days before everyone had TVs, musicians regularly toured small towns by bus, drawing capacity crowds from miles around to places such as the Surf.

The original ballroom, built in 1934, hosted all the famous acts of an earlier era: the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Count Basie, Lawrence Welk. By 1959, the new Surf was rocking.

Karen Spratt, 69, grew up on a farm near Clear Lake. “We milked cows twice a day and had a radio in the barn,” she says. “We learned all the words and sang along. My idols were Buddy and James Dean.” She was barely 16 when the Winter Dance Party came to the Surf, but her mom said she could go. Admission was $1.25.

It was, she says, “a fantastic night.” When she heard about the crash the next day, “we all cried. How could they be gone?”

Holly, the headliner, Valens and The Big Bopper had been touring the Midwest by bus. Dion and the Belmonts and Frankie Sardo also were on the bill. Holly was not accompanied by the Crickets, his original backup band. Instead, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup shared the stage with him.

The lineup included some of the hottest performers of the day, Allsup says. “Elvis was in the Army in Germany, Little Richard had retired … and Jerry Lee Lewis was at the bottom of his career,” he says. “There weren’t that many rock ‘n’ roll stars running around.”

Holly’s hits Peggy Sue and Rave On were radio staples. Valens’ La Bamba was a Top 40 hit in 1958 and the Bopper’s Chantilly Lace was released that summer.

The Surf was sold out that night to its capacity of about 2,000. In his 2011 book Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth, Dion Dimucci described what happened. Holly, he wrote, decided he couldn’t take another night on the tour bus and chartered a plane to fly to Moorhead, Minn., for the next stop on the tour.

The small plane had four seats: room for the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three more. In the dressing room, Dimucci wrote, a coin was flipped to see who would fly with Holly and who would ride the bus. DiMucci and The Big Bopper won, but DiMucci opted out after he was told the flight would cost $36 each. “I said to Ritchie, ‘You go,’ ” he wrote.

The plane crashed minutes after takeoff; all four men were killed. Light snow was falling as the plane took off. Investigators concluded the crash was caused by poor weather conditions and pilot error.

‘Not a sad place’

Bill Wobbeking was at the Surf that night. He had just turned 18 and was attending college in nearby Mason City. After the show, he and a friend talked about Holly’s performance. “We kept saying over and over, he’s better than Elvis,” says Wobbeking, 71, a retired bank controller who lives in Urbandale, Iowa.

He has attended several reunions at the Surf and says it’s a joyful place. “My last memory of being in there that night was a happy time,” he says. But Wobbeking can’t bring himself to visit the crash site.

Bob Hale, who was a radio DJ in 1959 and emceed the Winter Dance Party, has tried to walk into the field to the crash memorial, but he had to turn back. At the Surf that night, he says, Holly asked if he could touch Hale’s pregnant wife’s belly. They talked about Iowa’s tough winters, and Holly promised he’d come back in the spring to perform and go water skiing and swimming.

“As he was getting into the car to go to the airport,” Hale, 78, who lives in Park Ridge, Ill., recalls, “he said, ‘I’ll see you in the spring.’ ”

Richardson, who was born a few weeks after his father’s death, first visited the Surf in 1988 and met Maria Elena Holly, Buddy’s widow, and Valens’ siblings. “I never realized my father had the impact he had until I went to the Surf,” he says. He first performed there in 2000 and will host this week’s events.

“It’s not a sad place to me,” Richardson says. “The Surf is the last place I know my father was having a good time.” He recently loaned some artifacts to the Surf’s museum, including his father’s brown leather briefcase engraved with the initials “J.P.R.” It was recovered from the crash site.

Restored to glory

The Surf went through difficult times after the events of 1959. A succession of owners and managers neglected it and some skipped town leaving unpaid bills, says Jeff Nicholas, president of the North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum, the non-profit group that has managed the ballroom since 2008.

Over the years, the iconic pineapple murals in the lobby — a symbol of hospitality — were covered by wood paneling and carpet. When it rained, trashcans were arrayed on the dance floor to catch leaking water.

The day the music died

Pilot Roger Peterson and three stars of early rock and roll died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959:

Buddy Holly Age: 22 Hits: That’ll Be The Day, Rave On, Peggy Sue Note: The Beatles’ name was inspired in part by Holly’s band, The Crickets

J.P. Richardson Jr., The Big Bopper Age: 28 Hits: Chantilly Lace; wrote White Lightning, Running Bear Note: Credited for coining the term “music video,” he recorded videos for his songs

Ritchie Valens Age: 17 Hits: Donna, La Bamba, Come On Let’s Go Note: The Beach Boys, Carlos Santana and Los Lobos cite Valens as an influence

In 1994, the Dean Snyder family, owners of a Clear Lake construction company, bought the ballroom and began restorations.

The Surf hosted 40 concerts and events in 2011, including shows by 16 nationally known artists, and the annual February commemoration brings about $2 million to the area, says Nicholas, who owns the farm where the plane crashed.

“There just seems to be a mystery and a magic” about the Surf and its place in music history, Nicholas says. He once encountered a man standing near the crash site with tears rolling down his face. “Lots of memories,” is all the visitor would say.

A few weeks after the crash, a pistol that had belonged to Holly was found near the site. In 2007, Richardson asked that his father’s body be exhumed to resolve questions about whether the gun was discharged during the flight and whether The Big Bopper, whose body was found further from the wrecked plane than the other victims, had survived and tried to seek help.

The autopsy found that The Bopper died on impact and found no evidence of gunfire.

Nicholas says he gets goosebumps every time he walks into the Surf, and executive director Laurie Lietz says, “I come in every morning and I say, ‘Good morning, boys.’ Every morning. The Valens family swear they feel Ritchie’s presence here.”

‘Beyond nostalgic’

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top felt the history of the Surf when his band performed here for the first time in October 2011.

“To see it and walk through it was really a treat,” he says. “It’s a period-perfect piece of unintended leftover architecture. There’s something beyond nostalgic about it. There’s something quaint that is a standing reminder of the way things were.”

ZZ Top left with a Surf souvenir, Gibbons says: a vintage candy-striped popcorn machine on wheels. “It’s now in our recording studio in Houston,” he says.

This year’s Winter Dance Party, which begins Wednesday,  features concerts, dance lessons, memorabilia and art shows and a bus trip to the memorial site. Allsup will perform, and Pat Boone is the headliner. King and other Surf fans who created a music scholarship fund in 1999 plan fundraising events.

“I can’t wait,” says Jack Dreznes, 63, a Chicago record store owner who serves on the scholarship board. “It’s the music and the camaraderie of the people who love the music. It’s fun music, it’s innocent music, it reminds us old-timers of our youth.”

Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, says everyone should visit the Surf. “It is living history,” he says. “The music didn’t die.”

Allsup, who stood beside Holly onstage that fateful night and will stand in the same place this week, agrees. “The music lived,” he says. “The guys died, but their music lives on and on.”

I owe Bob “The Mad Scientist” Stiegemeier 

a gratitude of thanks for everything he did for us on the Merc! If it was not for Bob we would of never made it that maiden voyage of 270 plus miles to Decatur for the final Hunnert care pile up! If you haven’t seen a chassis dyno in action, here’s the deal. There is a lot of setup time, the actual testing is brief but exciting, and the resulting power numbers are usually numbing-but not in a good way. Invariably, Greasers and hot rodders alike think their vehicles make much more power at the wheels than they really do.

A chassis dynamometer measures power delivered to the surface of the “drive roller” by the drive wheels. Modern chassis dynamometers can do much more than display RPM, horsepower, and torque. With modern electronics and quick reacting, low inertia dyne systems, it is now possible to tune to best power and the smoothest runs, in realtime. In retail settings it is also common to “tune the air fuel ratio” , using a wideband oxygen sensor that is graphed along with RPM. Because of frictional and mechanical losses in the various drivetrain components, the measured rear wheel brake horsepower is generally 15-20 percent less than the brake horsepower measured at the crankshaft or flywheel on an engine dynamometer.

Now I have no clue what are motor made on a dyno as we did not test it.

The mad scientist does more than just chassis dyno work. Bob’s facility also does:


Stiegemeier Porting has taken the latest in engine air flow techniques and applied them to Eaton superchargers with great success. Testing done with a flow bench and a DynoJet chassis dyno.

Racing Heads

Stiegemeier Engine Air flow has been a leader in cylinder head development for the past 25 years. Call for stage options, flow numbers, and pricing details. They specialize in aluminum cylinder head repair.

Dyno Tuning

Stiegemeier Dyno tuning was the first Midwest Dyno Jet chassis dyno shop – installed in 1996. Featuring a NASCAR quality DynoJet 248x we have the experience you want and expect!

Maintenance Program

Maintenance packages designed to keep your Stiegemeier Ported Supercharger up-to-date. Rebuild and Repair They are a full-service supercharger rebuild and repair facility. In addition they are now an EATON authorized remanufacturer. They also never outsource their repair work.

Fuel Injector Service

They clean, rebuild, calibrate, and flow-test fuel injectors. Show Polishing High-quality and car show ready! We polish superchargers. Other parts possible – call for a quote.

Typical turnaround time is 1-2 weeks.

Stiegemeier is without a doubt the most skilled and reputable supercharger porting service in the industry. With over 2000+ supercharger ported you can be assured that you’re getting the best performance money can buy.

The mad scientist also has some new killer products for 2012:

Venom Coolers

Venom Coolers Venom Coolers greatly reduce front drive temperatures, keeping them equal to that of the back of the case – increasing reliability of bearings and seals and eliminating heat soak issues. Available Now! .

Lightweight Rotors

New Lightweight Rotors for Eaton Superchargers

            As I finish this post out I have to add Bob’s 32 Ford. This is one of the nicest 32’s I have ever had the chance to ride in. Let me tell you if you are one of the lucky choose ones to get a ride the pure adrenaline rush will last for days not to mention the headache comes free as well. This car is ridiculously load and fun as hell to ride in. Enjoy the pics guys and Bob if you ever need a co-pilot you can call me anytime.


 Once again THANK YOU BOB for everything!




Posted By Ace Eckleberry, December 9, 2011 in Interior, Rod Shops

Small shops have to adapt and follow automotive trends in order to survive. It’s very easy for us in the aftermarket to get stuck in our ways and keep revisiting the same styles, methods and materials. Many one-time great shops have faded into the background by not embracing modern automotive trends.

My shop is primarily based around making baby boomer street rod dreams reality, but over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed that the next two generations have started stepping up and spending money to have cars built to suit their personal tastes. Many more muscle cars and modern autos have been rolling though my shop lately thanks to these younger customers.

To adapt to the demand of the next generations coming into the hot rod scene, we’ve been trying to concentrate a little more on offering products and services that fit the newer trends and younger generations’ car desires, even if they fall outside of our traditional offering.

Our first venture outside of our comfort zone has been stepping into mobile electronics. ACE Custom Upholstery is primarily an interior-based business, and any new products and services we add need to also complement the demands of our already-established customer base. Most street rods we’ve dealt with have some entry-level sound system, but the new crowd seems to want several steps above entry level when it comes to mobile electronics. We recently added a wide range of mobile electronics to our offering. This addition complements our main line of business and gives new and existing customers the option to upgrade their entry-level sound equipment to a much-higher-quality component.

The past few months have proven the mobile electronics products have an audience, and this addition has positively impacted our sales. To take full advantage of the new customers and sales our mobile electronics offering is attracting, this coming year the facility will designate square footage to a showroom, dedicated electronics install bay and some level of stock warehousing. Our show trailer will also stock some products to sell at the events and shows we attend to help offset the expense of the expansion.

In past articles, the shop tow rig served as a mule for step-by-step installs of several of the components we now install. Having the products in my own personal vehicles gives potential customers a higher comfort level with the product. My hope is that they’ll think, “If a pro has it in his personal rides, then surely it will be of a high-enough quality for me.”

To expand upon the addition of the mobile electronics components, we’re adding new materials and types of fabrication to our offerings this coming year as well. I’ve received several requests from the upcoming generations for fiberglass fabrication and installs.

Although it has been used in the past in-house, fiberglass fabrication has never been a staple in our shop, so more space, materials and demo pieces will be added throughout this upcoming year to meet the demand for fiberglass fabrication. For example, many younger customers are requesting their custom-fit subwoofer enclosures be a fiberglass fabrication, or at least have a fiberglass fascia.

To capitalize upon the demand experienced by the new product lines, we’re now offering a wider variety of installation methods. Sometimes this type of expansion is harder for a shop to add, especially when these new methods don’t follow along the personal tastes of the one pushing the venture. Remember, though, business isn’t about offering what you personally like or want for your own vehicle, it’s about offering what products and installs potential customers are willing to pay for.

One of the challenges to adding the mobile electronics component sales has been increased traffic, which has demanded that I dedicate more and more time to the venture. By year’s end, we hope to add two new employees to compensate for the time demands.

The last growing pain planned for the upcoming year is the addition of an exclusive high-end interior facility that’s separate from our existing shop. The past year’s growth and massive interest has forced me to separate the levels of interiors we offer.

The 73,000-square-foot main facility will still offer all the interior and rod shop services it always has, while the 5,000-square-foot secondary facility will cater to a growing list of higher-end clients and will be centered more around efficient interior innovations. The controlled environment will allow for a higher level of concentration and attention to detail on these special projects.

Shop owners, as the new year begins, put yourself in the position to ensure the highest likelihood of your ongoing success. One way to do this is to make sure every square foot of your facility is profitable, as we’ve tried to do with our new products and services. Continually adapt your offerings to consumer demand and expand accordingly.

Ace Eckleberry is the owner of ACE Custom Upholstery & Rod Shop in Fairfield, Illinois. In upcoming Interior Insights columns, he’ll discuss technical processes, procedures and sales techniques. For more information on Eckleberry, visit his website, .


          Jamey “HandMade” Jordan is proud to announce the launch of his new custom interior company offering a full line of “HandMade” hot rod interior products. HandMade Seat Co. was established to give the serious hot rodder custom options to make the build and design of any interior stand out from the crowd. Beginning with a new spin on traditional Bomber style seats, HandMade Seat Co. is building new designs every single day to offer many unique styles to choose from.

     Or, if you want to depart from the standard designs, they will hand-build a completely one-off custom set, created to your exact specifications, that will never be rebuilt or sold to another customer even if requested, making your custom set truly one-of-a-kind.

 For more information or to place your custom order today, call 601.692.6448 or check out handmadeseatco  for photos of all the latest seats and accessories.

There will be more indoor vendor spaces and a larger swap meet (thanks to the Bombers). There will (hopefully) be antique tractors hauling people around. There will be great pre and post show parties in Clinton (that’s Friday AND Saturday nights, folks!!). Since this is our big 10th anniversary, we went all out with the bands, too! We even got one of the bands who played the very first Hunnert Car Pileup to come back (The Gravetones)!

Junior Brown
3 Bad Jacks
The Reckless Ones
Art Adams
Hot Rod Hucksters
The Gravetones
MG & the Gas City 3

It will be a killer show worthy of the 10 year anniversary…

It will also be the last Hunnert Car Pileup.

This was a very hard decision to reach. The Chrome Czars have devoted 10 years of their lives to this show, and we have an emotional attachment to it. We debated (and argued) about what to do, but finally decided that ending the show was best. It was time.

There are a variety of reasons behind the decision, and we struggled with it, but we feel the show is going in the wrong direction. It’s becoming more about the spectators and it’s getting harder to keep out cars that are not truly traditional. Fun for all, sure, but no longer the original intent of the show. The show’s “vibe” has been dimming and drifting as a result. We’d rather kill it while we still respect it, than let it go down in a smoldering wreck. 10 years is enough, and there are several other traditional car shows now that can carry the torch.

Furthermore, as the show grew, it became harder for us to manage it, even with the help of the Great Red Shirt Army. The strain on our day jobs and families started to turn the show from a Labor of Love to just Labor. We are not professional promoters.

A long time ago, we decided that we would rather stop doing the show, than to see it lose “the vibe” that made it so special. So, we would rather end it now while that vibe is still flowing through the show, and maintain its integrity.

For now, we are going to concentrate our energies on the Hunnert Car Heads Up vintage drag race event. There have been many shows that started because they were inspired by the Pileup, just like the Pileup was inspired by the Lonestar Roundup and the original Billetproof. The traditional hot rod flame is burning brightly in these shows. Go to the Blacktop Barons’ Road Block. Go to Vintage Torque Fest. Go to the Symco Shakedown. Go to the Rust Revival. Go to the Heads Up and Meltdown Drag Races. These are just a few of the shows in the Midwest.

We would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers in the Red Shirt Army who have donated countless hours over the years to making this show happen. They are the heart of the show. Thanks to the hot rodders who drove their cars from all over the USA and came to the show in the cold, rain, heat, and even snow. Thanks to all the spectators who were so inspired by what they saw that they returned the next year with a car they could drive through the gate. Thanks to the rat rods and street rods who challenged our interpretation of “traditional” every year and kept us on our toes. Thanks to the towns of Sycamore, Morris, Decatur and Clinton for welcoming all the crazy hot rodders over the years, and thanks to those rodders for keeping it peaceful and clean. And a special thanks to our families and friends for helping make this show happen, especially Catherine (DW) and Diane, who go that extra mile in planning the event.

We wanted to make this announcement in advance for all of you who keep saying “I’ll get the car done later. There’s always next year.” Not this time, friend. GET WRENCHING!!

Celebrate 10 years of the Hunnert Car Pileup on Oct 8, 2011. It will be an event that you’ll be telling your grand kids about!

Don’t miss it!!


Dakota Digital Series III instrument systems offer the latest technologies and features for your custom vehicle. High brightness vacuum fluorescent displays provide a lifetime of trouble free use while offering increased accuracy and features!

Full 6 Gauge Instrument System fits into OEM bezel for 1954 Mercury.

Fits directly into existing bezel. (not included)









Dakota Digital

Here at greaseralley are good friend Ace Eckleberry  the owner of ACE Custom Upholstery & Rod Shop in Fairfield, Illinois.  Will discuss technical processes, procedures and sales techniques. For more information on Ace, visit his website, .
Posted By Ace Eckleberry

Upholstery is a dying art with few people willing to put in the time and effort necessary to properly learn the trade. Schools teach the basic skill set, just enough for young people to get their foot in the door. With youth often comes an overabundance of confidence and I’ve seen countless young people with drive and determination get swallowed by the lure of starting their own business.

I strongly urge those with high business drive to start their own business, but to first find a successful mentor and listen to them. Nothing can come close to hands-on real-world experience under a master tradesman. If you want to be successful, you’ll want your career to start with the proper knowledge and skill set.

The correct equipment and materials are also essential to the trade. Your first step to success is choosing the correct sewing machine. My daily machine of choice is the Consew 20RB-5. You must use a similar machine that has compound feed walking foot and I highly suggest a reverse to have a lock stitch capability. I’ve found Seiko to be a carbon copy of Consew.

I recommend using a No. 69 or No. 92 UV-stable thread that’s specifically made for auto/marine applications. If your thread doesn’t have UV stabilization, it won’t last a year with sun exposure.

Selecting the correct materials is another essential component to finding success in this industry. Most reputable material distributors will help steer you in the right direction in what materials to carry in your shop or for general automotive use.

A good rule of thumb in choosing the correct types of materials is that if it’s available at your local super center store, then it isn’t suitable to use in our industry.

Ace Eckleberry presented a live cut-and-sew demo at the 2011 HRR Trade Show using Enduratex products.

Research your foam. Foam is a broad market with many applications. In auto upholstery there are two primary types of foams used, roll and sheet. Roll foams are generally ¼- and ½- inch-thick and used for quilting and sewing.

The foam used for seat decks is a critical choice. Almost any 1⁄2-inch quilting foam will work initially in making an attractive seat.

The wrong choice will cause premature failure, wear and aesthetic defects. Foam that’s too soft won’t fill the needed space; foam that’s too firm generally won’t have proper rebound life and will flatten out. Using a foam with no backing will allow the thread to work through and will not look right.

Street rod-style interiors use closed-cell foam. Closed-cell foams have very low rebound count and the uses for them are limited. They’re the base of most sculpting techniques.

Sheet foams are available in almost any size. Upholstery generally needs 1–3 inches in thickness. I suggest keeping a wide variety of foams on-hand to achieve professional results in your work.

Adhesives play a major role in upholstery. I recommend DAP Products’ Weldwood Landau Top & Trim High Heat Resistant Contact Cement. It’s   a solvent-based adhesive that has to be applied to both surfaces being glued together. Ample time for the adhesive to flash is required for the glue to work properly; generally 30 seconds to 10 minutes will work.

Working in an area with warm temperatures and low humidity is ideal because the cooler it is, the longer it takes to flash. The glue can be applied by roller, brush or, most commonly, an HVLP pressure pot spray gun. Aerosol applications are available but they offer nowhere near the quality or longevity.

The solvent-based adhesive can carry health risks associated with prolonged use. Proper ventilation and solvent masks are required as immediate risks are possible and long-term effects can be fatal.

Experience is really the only way to learn to glue or sew. There’s no substitute for learning under a master. Humble yourself, respect the many years put in by the old-timers and learn from them. Learning all of the industry’s new ideas and innovations won’t matter if the proper skill set isn’t in place to be able to translate them into a real-world application.

 Here  are a few pics of our 1956 Ford frame and the neighbor’s 61 Ford Starliner with 05 and up mustang GT brake kits.
We are going to start sell these kits soon I will post a new blog about whats in the kit and what the kits will fit.