By Ashley Reyes
Hot Rod Specialties, Indianapolis company owner Brad Denney is no stranger to building and owning various types of musclecars and street rods. What was once a hobby turned into a rewarding career when he took ownership of the company in 2017.
In this week’s HRIA member spotlight, Denney tells us about the company’s NSRA Nationals-featured ’41 Willy’s Outlaw, what new exciting projects he is currently working on and changes that he sees in the industry.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your business. How did you start?
Brad Denney: I started getting the hot-rod bug back in the early ’70s. I was 14 in 1975 and my first car was a ’67 RS Camaro. One day it started smoking, so my older brother and I pulled the engine, rebuilt it and put headers and a new exhaust on it. That is where this all started. Over the last 40 years, I have owned more than 200 musclecars and street rods. I had a day job running a commercial painting business but was always working nights and weekends in my garage with my son. Three years ago, a buddy of mine was running a hot-rod shop, but had some personal problems that caused him to sell. I bought the business assets from him. We came up with a name and started a new shop in the same location. My son and my buddy Wade joined me, and the rest is history.
We currently have eight full time employees: Wade Sellers, Kenneth Denney, Kelly Yohler, Jarrod Firkins, Tony Spears, Jess Spears, Ron Barker and Mike Bowman who help our business thrive. They deserve just as much credit as I do.
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment?
BD: If I had to pick one it would be a ’41 Willy’s Outlaw body that we did. We put a blown fuel-injected Hemi in it, and we took it as a feature vehicle at NSRA Nationals in Louisville in 2018. We exhibited the car out in the lobby, and I feel like we talked to every person at Louisville that year.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now in 2020 and what projects are you working on?
Brad Denney’s ’41 Willy’s Outlaw featured a blown fuel-injected Hemi, and was a feature vehicle at NSRA Nationals in Louisville in 2018.
BD: We currently have 10,000 sq. ft. of workspace. The custom interior shop is about 1,000 sq. ft. and the body shop is about 2,000 sq. ft. The rest is divided up between our fabrication, assembly and mechanical areas. We are quickly seeing the need to expand our number of employees and our square footage with our current workload and an ever-growing wait list for everything from minor repairs to full builds. We are also beginning to expand our part sales.
It’s been tough to try and work in the shop and sell parts online and to local customers, but we have gotten to a point where we are going to be able to expand that area as well. The ’41 Willy’s is back in the shop. The blown Hemi was just too much for the street, so the owner decided he wanted us to swap it out for an 800-hp blown LS from Don Hardy.
We have a ’29 Pontiac that I watched being built next door to my wife’s (then girlfriend) house back in the ’70s. I watched the original build and now we are doing the re-build. We also have three other full builds going and an average of 10 other cars at any given time for smaller projects.
SEMA: What changes are you seeing in the industry?
BD: We see the Pro-Touring thing continuing to grow. I am sort of old-school, and I see more and more of the later ’70s Camaros and Mustangs coming in. I have also seen more trucks and square bodies beginning to be more popular. I hope to turn this business over one day to my son Kenneth and continue the legacy. I want him to keep it going and he is totally on board.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young folks contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
BD: You must have the passion. If you don’t, don’t try to fake it, you can’t.