Most guys who have built their cars out of their humble home garages will tell you one of the most difficult aspects of building their car was finding the time to get out into the garage and get it done. Scheduling some "garage time" was often placed at the bottom of the list, well below work and family. Mike Hood knows this fact all too well. Being a husband and a father of two, as well as a business owner, Mike admits that there were times the car simply sat in the garage, waiting for him to get a few hours of free time to tinker on it. Add to that the fact that most of us can't just plunk down thousands of dollars at once and buy everything we need, nor do we have the capabilities to do everything down to paint and interior, it's easy to see how a six-month project can turn into a four-year burden. Mike has been there, done that, but in the end, his patience paid off and the end result speaks for itself.
Mike has owned a few street rods in the past, notably a '34 Chevy sedan and a '47 Chevy woody, but never built anything of substantial caliber. A few years back, he decided to build a car that reflected his taste in sleek, highboy design. He wanted to build an open-wheeled car that was well-powered, easy to drive, looked good, and was versatile. With his two past cars being closed cars, Mike also wanted to build a car that would give him that "wind in your hair" exhilaration. There was one problem with building a roadster: Mike lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and, for those of you who were at the NSRA Nats this year know, it can rain in a moment's notice. And it doesn't just rain-it pours. If there's any doubt of how quick it can happen, just check out our coverage of this year's Nats (SRM, December 2005). With these issues addressed, Mike had a few decisions to make.
One of the styles that really caught Mike's attention were those of Bobby Alloway and his Rat's Glass-produced SpeedStar bodyline. Those bodies had the lines he had been looking for, but the roadster line didn't have a top available at the time. Mike made the decision that if he bought a coupe body, the top could always be whacked off and modified into a hardtop for his newly converted roadster body. A deal was struck with Bobby and not long after the body and chassis had arrived at its new home in Mike's garage, he was at work with the Sawzall hacking the roof off.
Mike had already decided to install a big-block Chevy engine and had an extra one lying around to use for mock-up purposes. The only problem was that the motor he had was a tall-deck block and when he had Mike Keown Racing Engines build him the monstrous 540ci / 800-plus-hp motor, that block had a standard deck height. Mike wrestled with the fitment of the girthy motor until the pan cleared the steering linkage and crossmembers and the air cleaner and valve covers cleared the hood sufficiently. Once the motor was shoehorned between the 'rails and the Heidt's frontend was hung, the Winter's quick-change rearend-with Wilwood inboard disc brakes and Koni coilover shocks-was put in place out back to put all that power to the pavement. With the car all pieced together and rolling around, it was time for it to depart on a four-state body shop tour. Mike attributes the length of time spent in the various body shops partly to his own high standards and also to their sub par work-manship.
Although it seemed like it would never get finished, Precision Coachworks in Jasper, Indiana, did the unthinkable and finished the House of Kolor Organic Green and flamed paint scheme. Once Mike got the roadster home, though, his life was busier than ever and time was becoming harder and harder to find as his business took off and his children grew up. The car sat for nearly a year, and as Mike likes to say, he "let the paint cure" before final assembly began in earnest. Once underway though, he's quick to mention his right-hand man-his 9-year-old son, Garrett-as well as his head progress inspector-his 15-year-old daughter, Taylor. With those two backing him, Mike had himself a formidable team, lead by none other than his supportive wife, Sandy, who, according to Mike, has developed quite the lead foot. As Mike tells it, his wife and daughter decided to cruise the fairgrounds at the NSRA Nats this year and after a lengthy absence, returned grinning from ear to ear. Inquiring as to what was so amusing, Sandy coyly responded, "It'll chirp in second gear!"
Mike is quick to point out that without the help and support of his family, none of this would be possible. He said the convertible is truly a family affair and tells us that with his daughter's 16th birthday right around the corner, she's already full of talk about taking the car to her high school homecoming. While a trip around the fairgrounds or up and down their block might be OK, we're not quite sure the 800-plus-hp SpeedStar convertible is the best choice for a youngster's first car. What we are sure of though is that it definitely sounds like the Hood family is having a good time with their newest street rod!