New Manchester hotrod shop brings out latent cool-factor in Old School restorations
It’s kind of different…the art side of cars – like a painting. If you see it, you do. If you don’t you don’t.
Hawk Hardware Speed Shop, with a newly opened shop in Manchester, is turning heads nationally with some custom rebuilds on some of the past’s coolest rides.
The venture is a meeting of minds for Hawk’s James Cartwright and well-known custom builder Ricky “Ricky Bobby” Brown, owner of the Ricky Bobby’s Rod Shop, whose 1930s cars have garnered him the attention of national hotrod publications.
While the Hawk’s shop specializes in pre-1972 automobiles, Ricky Bobby’s love is pre-WWII cars.
“A 1930s car, it would be almost impossible to mess one up,” said Ricky Bobby. “They had so much cool factor on their own. Every one I see, I want to own them all.”
For Ricky Bobby, restoration is more than restoring a vehicle to its showroom finish. His street rods are redesigned and reworked with in-shop fabrication work on the frame and body.
Some are designed to never see paint.
It’s a unique look, one that takes many car show enthusiasts by surprise.
Ricky Bobby loves to talk cars. His current project, a ’29 model sits in pieces around the shop.
“This guy wants this to be loud, low and mean lookin’ and it’s going to be definitely fast.”
The car is designed not to be painted, so the steel body has been remade from scratch.
“We cut [the body panels] and made it… that way we get a really nice piece of metal. The rest will be bare metal.”
Ricky said that there is understandably a lot of effort in owning a car with a bare finish, keeping the panels oiled, but that the look is worth the effort.
Ricky Bobby’s cars also sport a reworked frame. He said that when he first started building cars seven or eight years ago, all the cars were very squared off.
“[They all] looked like a building block – really cut and dry.
“I come up with [a more fluid design]. One, it looked killer and two, it had a clean sweep to it.”
And the designs are still evolving.
“If we’re going to stay cutting edge, we have to constantly changing things, and we’re far from cutting edge.”
A future project in the works is to build a ’30s racer from the pieces of a modern Corvette.
The demand for these cars is high, but as with anything new, initial perceptions were chilly.
“I took the first car I’d ever done to a car show and people were afraid to walk by it.
“People were like, ‘It’s not normal, it’s not painted or anything.’
But the look is catching on. Ricky Bobby has built cars for clients like a Los Angeles Police Detective to a wealthy car enthusiast from Kentucky.
“Folks have run out of things to buy, so they’ve gone to the art side of cars.”
In addition to offering a full service shop, Hawk Hardware Speed Shop offers a complete line of street rod accessories.
“My whole family is into hot rods,” said Cartwright.
The passion turned into a niche market while the store was still in Tullahoma.
“We started with one vendor. People kept coming in asking for this or that, so we kept growing that side of the business.”
He said that the demand for speed shop products became hard to balance with the hardware business.
In January, Cartwright opened in Manchester.
“The main thrust was to be able to work on cars. That was something we couldn’t do before.”
Cartwright said that the proximity to the interstate is also convenient to customers coming in from across the country.
The shop officially opened August 5. Hawk Hardware Speed Shop, located at 115 Park St., off the Woodbury Hwy., held a grand opening Saturday.
The shop does paint and bodywork, frame fabrication, air conditioning and fuel injection retrofits and wiring harness work.