Retro Restoration

For one week in June, the highways are transformed. A flashy flame-painted Corvette C5 and striped Mustang share the road with an old Mopar and an immaculate 1953 Buick. Each vehicle is buffed and shined, and monikers such as “Truck Train” and “Pavement Pounder” adorn doors and hoods. Last year, 4,850 cars made the 1,370-mile journey from Newton, Iowa, to Mobile, Ala., for the annual Hot Rod Power Tour. The trip was not without pitfalls. Hot rodders were scattered along the highway performing hasty roadside repairs, and only 1,512 cars completed the tour. But for hot rod enthusiasts such as Ryan Smith, owner and manager of Hoosier Hot Rods & Classics in Haubstadt, Ind., the seven-day, seven-city tour is well worth the risk. Even with gas surpassing three dollars per gallon, Smith is eager to participate again this year. “It’s a passion,” he says. “You’ve got to accept the good with the bad.”

Raised by a family that loved classic cars, Smith started his custom restoration business in 2004. “This is what I do, what I love,” he says. Though he pursued a college degree in computer programming and networking, Smith passed up the programming field to follow his family’s history of restoring cars. His shop spruces up aging automobiles with custom paint jobs, wiring, body work, sheet metal fabrication, and other services. When Smith founded the company, he was the manager, fabricator, and painter. Since then, he has hired nine employees, though he still is personally involved in every project. “It takes a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience, and a lot of time to get good at it,” Smith says.

When the doors are locked for the evening, Smith works on his own restorations. His current projects include a 1930s model Dodge rat rod and a 1939 Plymouth chop top, though his 1967 Mustang fastback is a personal favorite. “The new cars,” Smith says, “just don’t have the soul that the old ones do.”

Hoosier Hot Rods & Classics Inc.
812-768-5221 •

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