We continue our Stateside Shop Tour, by making the trek to Midnight Hot Rods in Waukesha, Wisconsin, who specializes in building custom hot rods and race cars. Steve Schmidt and his crew have been building custom cars, race cars, and street rods for the past 25 years.
“Midnight Hot Rods came to be, because of how customers were treated at other local shops,” Steve said. “The customer is king, and we will not take any shortcuts to get the job done. Our mission with every project is to treat the customer with respect, and give them more than they expect, no matter if it’s a full build or a quick repair.”
But, like you, we’re interested to see what they’re building, so let’s talk about some of the projects they are working on. First up, we have a 1953 Chevy, which has been he recipient of some serious changes.
“It’s been chopped 6 1/2 inches, with the front stubbed using a ’70s Monte Carlo stub,” said Steve. “The body is very solid, but there is still plenty of work to be done.” Other notable modifications on this build include a 454 cubic-inch big-block engine connected to a Turbo 400 automatic transmission.
The crew is also working on a 1949 Chevy pickup. “We completely revamped the chassis, battled tons of rust, and chopped the top 2 1/2 inches,” Steve said. “We’re giving the pickup an independent front suspension with disc brakes.”
The team added a four-link rear suspension with coilovers and a 9-inch rearend. “We boxed the frame in the critical structural areas, and repaired some rusted holes in the frame,” Steve said.
The next Chevy the team is working on is a 1964 pickup. “This truck was rescued from another shop, where it sat for a good 10 years with nothing getting done,” Steve said. “When we picked up the truck, it was buried in the back, with paint over spray on it, and the body repaired with Bondo.”
This pickup’s cab, after replacing the floors and rockers, sits on a completely custom chassis. It has a set of Penske coilovers on all four corners, and has fabrication written all over it. “The front bumper is pulled in 2 1/2 inches, the grill is pulled in 2 inches, the headlights are pulled in 2 inches, and the hood has been lengthened 2 inches,” Steve said.
Other fabrication includes changes to the engine bay, with the addition of a custom firewall, heavily-modded inner wheel wells, an aluminum radiator, custom shrouding, and custom oil cooler. Steve tells us, “We also put together a custom air filter housing for the LS7 engine, which is connected to a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission.
The body line has great continuity on the pickup, where it follows the bottom of the rockers, runs over the front wheel arches, continues down the front to the bottom of the fender, and continues around the front of the truck with the bumper. With much more to be done, we like the direction this pickup is taking.
Another project the crew worked on was a 1946 Chevy pickup. “In 1996, this truck came into a shop where I previously worked,” Steve said. “I built it using the stock frame, boxed it, installed a Mustang front suspension, and installed a four-link rear setup. It sits on coilovers, a custom crossmember, and houses a ZZ4 350 crate engine and Turbo 350 transmission.”
“The truck was already painted when the customer bought it, so everything needed to be done without touching the paint,” he said. “We also installed custom bucket seats, which are mounted so they can be tipped forward to access the storage space under the seats. We also installed a hidden stereo in order to retain the original shape of the dash.”
With plenty of project builds and experience under their belts, the craftsmanship should not be question at Midnight Hot Rods. According to Steve, “I think the guys are driven by getting better and better every time they do something. I push them to reach and think outside of the box, which has made hot rodding what it is today. We all want to be the best at what we do, and there is always something new to learn.”