Chad Hill’s career has become a perfect marriage of creativity, commerce and compassion. At Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle, he and his partner, Kevin Tully, lovingly restored a 1965 Mercury Comet that was later sold to benefit a veteran’s organization. Chad’s other business, Django Studios, used the Comet as the centerpiece of a promotional campaign for client Craftsman Tools.
At the end of the campaign, the Comet was sold at auction for $100,000 and Craftsman donated the proceeds to Special Operations Warrior Foundation. This organization is presenting awards to Chad and Kevin, on Sept. 17 in Tampa, Florida.
Restoring muscle cars has long been a passion for Chad. He developed his love for rebuilding vintage machines while growing up on his grandparents’ farm, in Lebanon, Indiana. There he helped his father restore a 1929 Ford tractor. After refurbishing all of the farm’s tractors, they entered them in tractor pulls.
Chad’s father, Gary, also had a thing for restoring classic cars. His first was a 1936 Ford Coupe, which he bought from a junkyard for $150. This beauty now sits behind Chad’s house and has been displayed on Cruise Nights along Madison Street.
After fixing the Ford, Gary Hill purchased seven Chevelles. One of them became Chad’s first project.
Chad continued honing his mechanical skills on the farm before going off to Ball State University to earn his degree in Graphic Design. After college, Chad landed a job downtown, where he designed Trivial Pursuit for Hasbro and created ads for Hot Rod Magazine. In 2006, he joined forces with Kevin to rebuild muscle cars. When they finished the black Comet, Chad became the car’s primary pilot, competing in seven races across the U.S. It was a rush to take it down straightaways at 120 mph and negotiate turns at 90.
Months of racing culminated in selling the car at auction in Reno, Nevada. The foundation that received the donation provides for the families of soldiers killed in action, even sending their kids to college. This organization is close to Kevin’s heart, as he served 18 years in the Air Force Special Forces. Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle is in perfect chemistry with Django Studios (“Gearhead Driven Design”).
After they rebuilt a red GTO, for example, Chad designed the packaging for the toy version. Four thousand of these striking cars were given to customers as part of the promotional campaign for Raybestos. Chad has also launched campaigns for automotive giants like NAPA, Stewart-Warner and Peak Antifreeze. For the Craftsman Comet campaign, videos were made of the restoration and posted on a variety of social media sites.
Besides mastering car-building and graphic design, Chad somehow found time to play guitar for a rockabilly band called the Hot Rod Hucksters. After releasing three successful CDs, though, the band played its final gig in 2013. Having two jobs and two kids made it too tough for Chad to keep playing.
He moved to Forest Park in 1999 and completely renovated his house, uncovering its historic character. He lives there with his wife, Libby, 8-year-old Tucker and his little sister, Sadie. They will accompany him to Florida to attend the awards banquet.
Chad and Kevin are not through restoring race cars to benefit the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Next time, though, it won’t be a generous corporate donation. The costs will come out of the pockets of an Air Force veteran and a soft-spoken man, who first found his calling down on the farm.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.