We had to turn around at the light and go back because we drove right past the place the first time. Denny Lesky, owner of Ionia Hot Rod Shop in Ionia, Michigan, gave us good directions, but, with the building set back from the road and with no signs announcing anything, it's hard to tell that this plain-looking pole barn is any kind of business, and even harder to imagine the serious hot rodding taking place on the other side of those weather-beaten walls.
After retiring from a career at the Olds plant, Denny decided to turn his hot rod hobby into a business and started building cars out of his low-key shop in central Michigan, with help from his son, Matt, and Jeff Higel. He specializes in traditional-looking frames with modern materials and a lot of innovative techniques, which have earned him some loyal customers and a niche in hot rodding. We got our first look at Ionia Hot Rod Shop via photographs when we met Denny at the Goodguys Nats in Columbus. After talking to him for an hour and flipping through the photos in his album, we decided to arrange to see this place in person a month later.
The Deuce sedan in the driveway has a story all its own that goes back way beyond 50 years. Today we'll tell you about the work-in-progress inside the shop. This '32 roadster pickup is not a customer car, but Denny's own ride, and the test mule car for a lot of the chassis modifications he develops. The steel body was completely disassembled and reassembled with a steel inner structure. The '32 chassis has been drilled with more than 100 doweled holes to reduce weight.
You probably won't have to go to Ionia Hot Rod Shop in person to see Denny's roadster pickup. He's planning on finishing it soon and showing it off on the hot rod event circuit. Until then, these photos will give you a better idea of Denny's talent.