Barnhardt’s ZL1 race wins and championships were many.
West of Chicago, you’ll find the Town of Elgin. Back in the day, it was home to Oswego Drag Strip. From it came many nationally- known Chevy racers. Three record-holders and national class winners were Larry Teeter, Bud Richter and Ken Barnhart. A fourth early Elgin racer-turned custom car builder (on Elgin’s historic Sadler Avenue) was Ed Suhajda (Su-hada). For the record, other top custom and paint shops in the area were Dave Puhl’s House of Customs in Palatine and Skully’s Customs in Wheeling.
As life goes, you never think you’ll see these legends you’ve met or even their friends, plus well-known customers—after you move away like I did. But I’ve run into many, “Mr. ZL1” Big Ken Barnhardt multiple times. I think of these three and read of their exploits in old issues of Drag News. But what about Ed Suhajda? Recently, I was 10 miles across the California/Nevada border in Pahrump (40 minutes northwest of Las Vegas). While having lunch, I overheard a voice behind me at the next table, which I plainly recognized from long ago. Yes indeed, it was my number one custom car builder pal, Ed. Holy cow! Small world! When I said hello, he exclaimed, “Doug, I’ve been reading Super Chevy for years!”
A decade ago, Barnhardt purchased a new ’02 ZL1 Camaro dressed out like his ’69. He’s the
Tired of blustery Midwest winters, he and wife Marge moved west. Today, I am happy to report he is still going strong in the custom car building trade—still pretty much by himself, as he always preferred. His moto: “One car at a time, start to finish.” Outside in his truck were photos of a just completed, really trick, yellow ’64 Chevelle.
So what’s in this story for you? If you live in a western state, you should put Ed’s info (see below) in your toolbox for future consideration. Towards the end of our chat, I asked Ed how he has stayed in his line of work all these years. Absolutely loving what he does, he said, “I meet my deadlines, I do good work, my cars are show winners, and I stay within the agreed-to budget.”
If you are looking for a veteran custom car builder, give Ed a call. I will certainly hold his feet to the fire (so to speak). He’s at P.O. Box 3563, Pahrump, NV 89041 (775-537-9090). One more thing: Ed loves to talk and he’s very thorough. Great seeing you, pal. Keep in touch.