The first time I heard of Pit Pal Products was at the Iola Old Car Show when I found myself staring at one of the best-preserved Art Deco car dealership cabinets I had ever seen. On second glance, I realized the cabinet was actually a reproduction.
A tag identified the manufacturer as Pit Pal Products. Jody Schmeisser owns Pit Pal
I met him later on and picked up one of his thick catalogs. He mentioned having a garage and invited me to come to it. A weekend trip to Chicago was planned last fall. Jody’s garage is basically a super-sized home shop and storage facility that very comfortably holds six cars, including his wife Nikki’s 1953 Buick Skylark, three 1966 big-block-427-powered full-size Chevy hardtops, a ’69 Camaro Z/28 and a 1966 Nova L-79 Sport Coupe. Two of the big cars are stored on 4-post lifts above the other two. The Camaro sits in a third garage stall. The cars face a wall lined with work benches, tool chests, cabinets, posters, petroliana and automobilia. The white Nova sits in an angled alcove, facing in the opposite. Behind it are restored gas pumps, light-up reproduction neon dealership signs, a Coca-Cola cooler, a Sun 504 distributor tester with cabinet, a Phillips 66 petroleum products display unit and even a wall-mounted Charlie McCarthy puppet. A huge, aluminum handcrafted “427 Impala SS” emblem hangs on the brick wall. Jody explained that he and his friend Dave DeVito began bracket racing at the local drag strip in the 1970s, while still in high school. Before long, they moved up to Super Gas competition. Soon, Jody and Dave had S & D Race Cars up and running and put together cars that took six NHRA National “Best Engineered” Awards. They won the U.S. Nationals in 1988. As they worked on the racing cars, they noticed that their workspace started to get cluttered nents. This led to fabricating shelves and racks designed for mounting to the doors of their racing trailer. Pit Pal Products was officially formed in 1982. Today, the company makes hundreds of items for trailers, garages, shops, homes and offices and, naturally, a number have found their way to the Pit Pal Palace.
As palaces go, the royal digs are small, but very enjoyable. And for a former racer who spent many years working out of a trailer, you can tell that utility and organization were important elements in the design of Jody’s great garage.
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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