Mac’s Hot Rod Shop Is Filled With Nostalgia And Friends

To many, a shop is as important of a creation as building their hot rod(s) that go in them. Mac Frederick, who lives near Shelbyville, Illinois, is no exception. Still in his 30’s, Mac developed a love affair with all things related to ‘50s and ‘60s nostalgia which extends far beyond his 1955 Chevy.

Mac’s first hot rod possession was a 1955 Chevy 4-door at the ripe age of 12-years old.

“I sanded on that rust-bucket and cleaned each individual part on that car before I was old enough to drive,” he says. “Just before my 16th birthday, I scored a ’55 Chevy 2-door post that I customized and drove the wheels off all through high school.”

Mac developed an appreciation for all things nostalgia beyond his cars. He operates a successful concrete business along with his father and brother. While working at various locations, they picked up old signs and other memorabilia. He constructed a steel building on his homestead titled B&H Speed and Custom; it is now brimming with his collected artifacts.

As his memorabilia collection grew, the idea to construct a complete mini-diner was born. "My wife, Becky, was trying to figure out what to do with all this accumulating stuff," Mac jokes. "I didn't want to sell it, and I don't want to be a hoarder. The diner was just an idea that gave us a great hangout right beside my shop."

“The speed shop sign above my shop door is named after my sons, Boone and Hank,” Mac continues. “I took them to the local dragstrip and car shows. Even at their young age, they wanted their own racing t-shirts like they saw others wearing. We had some shirts made with a pic of their ’55 and made up the logo; it has stuck ever since.”

Inside his stable are two hot rods: a 1955 Chevy 210 Delray and a 1931 Ford coupe. "The '55 is kind of a Two-Lane Blacktop car with my own touches such as the blown 408 big-block Chevy," Mac continues. "The dropped I-beam axle is from a '57 Chevy truck that was in the weeds behind my neighbors' house.

The 55’s 396 Chevy is bored .060-overbore and uses an Isky Cams solid flat tappet Z33 grind and a cross-drilled General Motors Performance steel crankshaft. Mildly ported GM iron 215 heads use Harland Sharp 1.7 roller rockers are under an old set of Cal Custom valve covers. Credit for the long-block build goes to Richard Ketchum of Ketchum Engines.

Mac used TRW forged pistons that calculate to 8.5:1 compression. The 6-71 blower is set up with pulleys to make just shy of 7-lb of pressure at wide-open-throttle. Mac uses what he calls “special recipe” Edelbrock Performance 750 carburetors. Though there is nothing “high tech” visible to onlookers when the front end is tilted, there is a Holley Performance/MSD-6 ignition system hidden to keep the supercharged engine lit.

With a mix of Two-Lane Blacktop influence and his own preferences, Mac's '55 has two-inch primary fenderwell headers run through 3.5-inch pipes to a pair of 4-inch Dynomax race bullet mufflers. "I use the term mufflers very loosely," Mac jokes.

For the drivetrain on the Chevy, there is a Turbo 400 with a 34-element sprag converter that was built by his friend Wayne Snearly from Findlay, Illinois. The 12-bolt differential is from a ’69 Camaro. Mac put in 4:56 gears and mounted it with vintage Ansen Ground Grabber bars and leaf spring packs he personally built from various cars.

Rolling stock uses vintage Fenton Gyro wheels on all four corners. The slots measure 11-inches wide out back and 3.5-inches up front. Mickey Thompson 295 ET Street tires drive the ’55, and the fronts are “generic skinnies,” as Mac puts it.

On any weekend, you can find friends and family stopping by to talk hot rods and down a little soft-serve ice cream from the diner. Left to Right are Cheyenne Pieszchalsic, Tyler Pieszchalsic, Owen Pieszchalsic, Chase Tavenner, Brock Reedy, Mac Frederick, brother Mike Frederick, and Uncle John (Whopper) Frederick.

One of Mac’s fondest memories came from photos of his shop and sons that circulated online. “While I was working in the shop, my young sons would watch hot rod movies on a small TV projector like a mini drive-in. The photos also showed my ’55 in the background,” Mac continued. “I heard from the daughter of Richard Ruth. She saw the pictures. Ruth is the original builder of the ’55 Chevys used in American Graffiti and Two-Lane Blacktop. I told her I worshiped everything about those cars he built.”

The bright red interior was created around one item, the steering wheel. "I was helping an elderly neighbor who had tons of of old cars and hot rod stuff," Mac says. "Percy Miller kicked the vintage red metal flake steering wheel towards me from the ground. He told me 'Clean that up; it would look good in that Chevy you're building.' He died soon after that, and I made it my mission to create this interior to remember him by."

Mac received a call from Ruth himself who saw the photos and heard about his tribute car. “We talked for a long time, it gave me goosebumps,” he describes. “I was even lucky enough to have him sign the glovebox door on my ’55. Those are some serious memories I cherish.”

His '31 coupe is a two-year work in progress. It's the current focal point for all friends to stop by and hang out. Mac has chopped the top 3-inches, recessed the firewall, and put the body on a Last Refuge Hot Rods chassis.

The relatively tame 327 Chevy in his new Model A project will host an Offenhauser tri-power setup but will be a mild-mannered driver compared to his other hot rod. Mac says with a smile, “If I want violence, I’ll drive the ’55.”

Mac found a 1959 Chevy dashboard during a recent junkyard crawl he is currently modifying for the coupe. His next goal is to find a ribbed roof panel from a donor car to fill the coupe’s roof. For rolling stock, he uses Cragar S/S wheels with Towel City Tire pie-crust cheater slicks on the rear and Rocket Racing Launcher spoked wheels up front. He uses a Super Bell dropped-beam axle in the front and a 9-inch Ford rearend mounted on QA1 coilover shocks.

There is no great rush to complete the coupe. Just like his hardcore workshop and adjoined diner, he finds cool stuff here and there to continue the build.

The diner addition became a place to invite friends over, grill hamburgers on the authentic 1950's grill, and dispense soft-serve from a working vintage ice cream maker. Every detail has a story, from the pop bottles and cigarette matches, to the gum-ball machine.

The diner has provided a lot of memories for the entire family. “It’s cool when we have big groups here,” Mac says. “For one party, we grilled 150 cheeseburgers and pumped a lot of ice cream. It was so much fun.”

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One such story is the rare Jadeite green 1945 Frigidaire refrigerator seen at a local auction. “The fridge was plugged-in and worked well, so the price started high,” Mac says. “When the auctioneer got down to $25 as the starting price, I quickly held up my number, and with his impatience, I immediately got it. It still amazes me that it runs like a top and I spent 25 bucks.”

Another of his favorites is his 1957 television in the diner. Mac describes how he bought it at an antique store on the cheap, but not working. He installed new TV inner workings and plays black & white movies through the original aquarium lens. Mac says, “I just love doing that kind of stuff.”

Mac, his wife Becky, and son Hank sit on the cool diner stools located both inside and outside their mini diner. Even this writer had to get into the act of signing the Fredrick's "guest book" on the pavement in front of their homestead.

Mac remembers the background of the yellow Formica iced table in the shop. “Becky and I bought that at a secondhand store,” Mac spells out. “The seats were 1950’s hideous (laughs). The owner said an old boy named “Blind Bill” owned it. Everybody asked Bill how he could stand that ugly table. Bill said, I don’t care – I’m blind.”

Some items hold personal memories. “My son was having a rough day at grade school, so I picked him up to spend the rest of the day with me,” Mac says. “I dragged out some magazines for him. He sat at that table and cut all those hot rod pictures out and put them all over my shop cabinets. I sprayed shellac on them, and they’ve been there ever since.”

We experienced the Fredericks’ tales on each rarity they own for hours. Wife, Becky said, “He’s always told me this is what I’m going to do with each thing, and he does it.”

“Many people who visit the shop ask about all of those black marks on the road,” he says. “Those are good times, I respond. I ask friends to do me a favor and sign my guest book when they visit with a burnout. Just this morning, there was a big Dodge dually pickup trying to do a burnout with a load of firewood stacked above the cab. I loved it.”

If you’re ever out and about in central Illinois, take a moment to stop by B&H Speed Shop. It may be more of a shop to build hot rods rather than a prim-and-proper “museum,” but the Fredericks have put the tone of hot rod heart into their shop. You can even “sign the guest book.”

You won’t regret it.

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
Read My Articles

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