By Ashley Reyes
Customs & Hot Rods of Andice (CHRA) has been named as this week’s SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) council spotlight member. In HRIA’s Q&A with Shop Foreman Michael Kaiser, Kaiser tells the story of his collaboration with company owner Harold Chapman, how their crew of craftsmen came to be, the ’33 Ford Roadster build that launched their breakthrough moment, and the ’40 Ford truck that was, and still remains a special build for their shop.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your shop. How did you start?
Michael Kaiser: Harold Chapman, the shop owner, had started a small hot-rod shop with two guys for his personal cars because he kept getting taken advantage of by several shops. In 2008, Harold contacted me while working at Pinkees Rod Shop. He had seen my work and wanted to add me to the small shop. Upon coming to CHRA in its infancy, I was able to share my vision with Harold for the shop, and he had a similar vision of making it a world-renowned top-shelf custom shop. The deal was if I could run it, he would allow it and facilitate its growth. I hired and let go of several people to find the great crew of craftsman we currently have on tap. Now we have 16 full-time guys, two contractors and an incredible facility.
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment?
MK: Our breakthrough moment was our small new crew building a ‘33 Ford Roadster for Harold that went on to win Best Hot Rod in Detroit, America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod and several other large awards that helped us get our foot in the door. In 2016, our crew built Billy Thomas a Riddler Award-winning ‘39 Oldsmobile that went on to win Street Rod of the Year and the Legends Cup, as well as several other top honor awards. We were off to the races.
CHRA is building a host of racecars and high-end cars, including a ’51 Merc, ’41 Willys coupe, ’57 Oldsmobile, ’88 convertible, ’70 Ford F-100 bumpside, ’34 Ford Vicky, ’69 Chevelle, ’57 Cad Beritz, ’55 Buick convertible, ’62 Nova and ’65 Mustang convertible.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now in 2020.
MK: We are building a host of crazy racecars and high-end cars. Some examples are a ’51 Merc tube chassis car with a twin-turbo 540 all-billet for Drag Week, a ’41 Willys coupe—all-wheel drive , active ABS, rear steer, twin-turbo ecoboost V6, chopped sectioned, and scratch-built fenders, along with a ’57 Oldsmobile, ’88 convertible, ’70 Ford F-100 bumpside, ’34 Ford Vicky, ’69 Chevelle, ’57 Cad Beritz, ’55 Buick convertible, ’62 Nova, ’65 Mustang convertible and several more.
SEMA: Tell us about the ’40 Ford Truck.
MK: This was and is a very special build for us. Greg Weld was fighting cancer when we first met him. Greg approached me about doing this truck and it was truly a friendship that blossomed. Greg was a car builder himself, a racer and a very knowledgeable guy. I was also fighting cancer, so we bonded both personally and professionally. Greg became a personal mentor for me and we finished the job in a year and a half. Greg was so knowledgeable. He never took the perspective that we were taking too long or that he wanted it done quicker. He knew what was involved. Christian Dotson, our in-house designer, brought the vision to life on paper, and Jay Schluter did killer work on the interior trim. It was a CHRA collaboration.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young folks contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
MK: Young folks need to understand it isn’t like they see on the TV shows. It is hard work, long days, and nights and weekends that make you successful. Don’t be misled.