schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

Modern Manners – Giving Classics Updated Handling and Power at Schwartz Performance

Everyone knows about the generation-defining weekend and music that overflowed out of the Woodstock festival in the late-’60s. For the past 15 years, there’s been a steady flow of serious horsepower and performance machines rolling out of a different Woodstock – the small Illinois town where Schwartz Performance is based.

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

The main building hosts the company’s chassis fabrication facility, offices, as well as a final assembly area. The back building comprises the paint booth, teardown, and final road test prep and pickup for customers.

Schwartz Performance was founded by lifelong road racer Jeff Schwartz with his son Dale. Both share a passion for road racing performance, yet also understand the importance of a safe, controllable and comfortable ride. Back in the early-2000s Jeff proved that combination by building a 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham which he and Dale drove on a number of Hot Rod Power Tours, and then really proved its merit by winning the Car Craft Magazine Real Street Eliminator in 2002.

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

There are two Schwartz guys behind Schwartz Performance, Jeff on the right and his son Dale. The duo is celebrating 15 years of building serious hot rods that handle yet are comfy for a cross-country road trip.

Jeff continued to push his race-car performance for the street in a white, twin-turbo, LS-powered Ultima GTR. This mid-engine beast weighed in at over a single ton with 1,000 horsepower, yet the father-and-son team cruised it again on Power Tours, followed by Jeff taking the win in the 2006 0-200-0 Silver State Classic. And, how does 211mph in the standing mile sound?

All of these miles on road tours and shows proved to Jeff that a properly designed chassis, with the right driveline in a well-built car, could easily handle the open road yet still perform well on a track. Remember, this was the infancy of pro-touring, and most suspension kits and chassis were geared toward street rods.

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

A rolling G-Machine chassis with a fresh LS3 goes through a series of quality control checks before being loaded for a customer’s home where it will be finished. Some customers go for a whole build, others want to finish the project themselves.

In 2005, Jeff made the command decision to make his hobby and passion his career by launching Schwartz Performance. The emphasis would be to create cars that could capably handle the track while just as easily cruise the family to the local DQ. Their first customer build was Jimi Day’s 1970 Poison Dart, followed by the launch of their G-Machine Chassis for GM A-bodies the next year.

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

A pair of new chassis awaiting their bodies.

By 2007 they doubled the size of their shop and launched a full “bolt-in” chassis for unibody cars with the Chevy II/Nova and first-gen F-Body. As their chassis sales and development took off, they found many customers asking if the business could source a drivetrain, recommend a painter, or even just build their car. The answer, of course, was, “Sure, we can build your whole car!”

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

The ’63 Chevy II SS in the background is not getting a Hemi swap…only because it already has a 650hpLT4 between the fenders.

Fifteen years later, Schwartz Performance spans more than 25,000 sq. ft. shared between chassis manufacturing and project cars of all makes and models. When we walked through the shop earlier this year there were at least 15 different vehicles in various stages of build. Nearly all of the builds are based on the company’s G-Machine chassis with a modern driveline, big brakes and wheels, A/C, butt-gripping seats and clean interiors, but there was nothing in common with the makes and models.

schwartz performance, shop profile, hot rod shop

A few projects either waiting for delivery or a final sign-off on by Jeff after a several-hundred-mile test drive. There’s more than a couple we’d like to drive!

There was everything from a Ford woodie wagon to a ’79 Hurst/Olds, even a Hudson and two Studebakers. Hellcat engines, supercharged LTs, and a number of Coyote engines were in chassis and under hoods getting plumbed and wired. The shop has done its share of B- and E-body Mopars, classic trucks, Tri-Fives, Mustangs, and Trans Ams, even a ’29 Ford Depot Hack. No matter what the project, they are all built to be driven and enjoyed and are equally at home on the street or on a track.

Schwartz Performance

Todd Ryden is first and foremost a car guy and admits to how lucky he is to have been able to build a career out of a hobby that he enjoys so much. He’s owned muscle cars and classics, raced a bit and has cruised across the country. With over 25 years in the industry from the manufacturing and marketing side to writing books and articles, he just gets it.