In the world of hot rod suspension components, one name that should instantly come to mind is Heidts. For more than 25 years, the suburban company has cranked out suspension parts that have a solid reputation for being easy to install right out of the box and, more importantly, working right.
The man who started it all is Gary Heidt, who created the business in September of 1985 out of his home garage. The Rolling Meadows resident has since sold the Wauconda company and has retired, but his days of building hot rods are far from over.
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We recently had an opportunity to swing by Gary's place where he told us the tale of how he got started in the automotive aftermarket industry.
"I had just finished my '33 Ford, which had suspension parts on it I had made myself, and was wondering what should I do next. That's when I saw a buddy of mine at a St. Charles car show who told me I should make some more parts and sell them.
"I worked on a new set and brought them to the shop he owned. He asked if we could install them right then on a customer's car, so we did, took some pictures and started marketing. Shortly thereafter, things really started to take off."
While we were at Gary's, he also showed us his new personal custom creation, a 1932 Ford roadster. "A lot of guys start from the inside out, but I build from the outside in; I start with a look then build the rest around it."
Underhood, Heidt has installed a 383-cubic-inch Chevy V-8, fitted with a Weiand supercharger. "It's got a decent cam, not too radical," he says. On some recent dyno runs, it pulled 515 horsepower and 535 foot-pounds of torque at 5,500 rpm on pump gas. It's completely a street motor and something that will be driven all around.
"My wife says this is my 'lose my driver's license car' and it is very light with such a large motor, so we'll see if that's true or not. I do know it'll go sideways if I step on it."
When Gary feels like slowing down, he's got four-piston, Wilwood disc brakes installed at the four corners to bring his ultracool coupe to a halt.
"The interior will be all black leather in a real basic style. Nothing swirly or fancy. I really want a traditional hot rod look," Heidt says.
The Lombard Blue paint was applied by Island Lake hot rod shop Custom Classics, right after Heidt performed some body modifications on the rear deck lid. "There are 161 louvers that I cut myself. It took me four hours and was way too hard! I'd do it again but only on my own car."
The plan is for this drop-top beauty to be completed later this month, just in time for an August showing at the 43rd annual Street Rod Nationals, held at the Kentucky Exhibition Center in Louisville. After that event Gary has plans for a much larger, cross-country voyage.
"This year is the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Ford. A large group of enthusiasts are driving from San Francisco and ending up at the Indianapolis Goodguys show in September. I'm going to meet them in Lincoln, Neb., and backtrack all the way to Indy," he says.
That's not all the seat time Heidt has planned. Next year he intends to drive out to the 2013 Grand National Roadster Show in Los Angeles. "This car was built for driving and that's how I plan to use it; I don't keep a trailer in my driveway!"