October '19

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OCTOBER 2019 THE SHOP 9 STEERING WHEELS & GASSER KITS Mike Freund owns Classics Plus Ltd. (, a family busi- ness in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Thanks to his dad Dick and uncle Bob, Freund was raised with a love for postwar classic cars. Dick worked at Mercury Marine when owner Carl Kiekhaefer fielded a NASCAR team that raced '55 Chevys, Mercurys and Chrysler 300 Letter Cars. Mike's interest in hot rods continued growing during his teenage years, when he started building his own cars. He was 19 when he painted his first car. Freund realized he had the ambition and talent to restore and modify cars. As his reputation grew in Fond du Lac, he began building cars for friends. In 1988, he opened Classics Plus LTD as a hot rod and restora- tion shop. Since then, he's been cranking out cool rides ranging from traditional hot rods to straight-axle Tri-Five Chevys. Freund believes in providing quality work and exceeding a customer's expectations. He also branched off into other automotive specialties to satisfy the growing wants of his clients. He polishes stainless steel and restores 1940s-'50s steering wheels to look like works of art. He is also marketing a gasser kit for Tri-Five Chevys. Freund has built cars that placed in the top 100 show classes in the United States. But his sidelines play important roles in his success. When buffing and restoring stainless steel trim, Classic Plus Ltd. inspects each piece for dents, dings or scratches. These are removed and the piece is block-sanded smooth. The piece is buffed to a brilliant, show-winning shine with five different compounds and five different buffing wheels. Steering wheel restoration starts when a customer sends in a wheel with their name and phone number attached to it. It is inspected and the customer is contacted with a price and due date. After approval, bad sections of the steering wheel rim are cut and ground away. The wheel is repaired with a two-part industrial epoxy that adheres to the existing wheel. After the epoxy dries, the wheel is sanded and color is applied with a poly- urethane paint. Steering wheel restorations start at $250, with an additional charge for chrome plating. One of Mike Freund's specialties has been building straight-axle Gasser versions of cars, especially Tri-Five Chevys. He has turned out dozens of such cars and has developed great expertise in setting up straight-axle front suspensions. Freund realized that a lot of hobbyists were building similar cars at home and fabricating their own straight-axle setups, some of which were unsafe in terms of steering, braking or suspension geometry. His answer was to come up with a kit that he could sell through the shop and add even more to the bottom line. The Classics Plus LTD office has a trio of restored 1950s steering wheels hanging from the ceiling. This sideline has helped the shop's bottom line.

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