The Volvo Infestation

Recently George and I made a trip over to a friend’s shop who happened to have quite the inventory of Volvos. Ranging from an immaculate garage kept 1972 142, to some 240 wagons, to some new sedans, and more.

George, being the Volvo guy he is, couldn’t leave without one. Or two. Or three. It started out with us checking out the 142, which I am completely infatuated with. It ended with George picking out 2 wagons and calling it a day. When I returned to work the following week, we also had a 240 sedan sitting out front. They were breeding and I couldn’t keep up. Is the 142 coming here as well? We’ll see!

The 240 sedan has been cleaned up, the maintenance has been done, and she’s ready to find her forever home.

But the wagons, now that’s where the fun is. There’s 2; a stripped blue one with some super sick flames on the windows and a nice clean white one that had been crashed, leaving behind damage in the front. The blue wagon is not running, but it is manual. The white wagon is running, but it is automatic. Can you guess what’s happening? We will be taking the transmission from the blue wagon and putting it in the white one to have a nice fun wagon for shop use. Beyond being the shop wagon, we have big big plans for her. With some Kaplhenke coil overs already installed, we’ve lowered the car 2.5 inches in the front and 1.5 in the rear. We’ve done a flat head conversion and we’ve installed a flat hood egg crate grill, and we’re in the process of mounting the Euro headlights and corner lights! George found some pretty clean taillights he had laying around for us to install, and a new radio of course. Once the maintenance is completed, it will be ready for action and we will drive it around and fix any issues that may arise.

After that, the fun stuff starts… We have STS Machining LS mounts, and George will be making the transmission cross member here in house for a swap!! We will also install a 9 inch Ford rear, and an S60R big brake kit on the fronts and rears.

There’s a lot going into this build and in order to find out what we’ll be dropping into the engine bay, you’ll just have to stay tuned!

That’s all for now folks,

Sunni, 01.22.2019

Making Things Happen

2019. Another year in the books. A year with a lot of potential, a year that, despite the best efforts of the holidays and flu season, we have made it into alive and well. Our first new year together as a new business, and for that, we are so thankful. If you’re waiting on a new year, new me post…. Don’t hold your breath! New year but we’re just the same guys working even harder!

A new business not only entails figuring out how to make money, market, reach a larger audience, but it also means finding cool stuff to give to that audience that you (we) are so lucky to have. Cool stuff could mean a whole lot. And so it does!

Cool stuff doesn’t just appear, unfortunately. Unless you’re like me and you forget about things you’ve ordered, then cool stuff really does just appear. In order to find cool things for you all, I’ve been doing research, taking into consideration what it is that you all want and need, what you bring in, comparing numbers, writing emails, making calls, responding to emails, and waiting on responses. But why? Who am I bothering with my persistent questions? To that I say, the larger players in the industry.

Post PRI show, we’ve been having discussions and creating relationships with potential partners (of the performance industry variety) to develop dealer relationships. We are doing this because we want to offer a wider range of products geared towards everyone’s wants and needs, at the best possible cost. We want to grow, but beyond that, we want to create an approachable and affordable environment for our clients.

So happy new year, I hope it is the year for you. And for your race car 🙂


-Sunni, 01.03.2019

Talking Trash & Driving Fast

Grudge, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a transitive verb that means to be unwilling to give or admitgive or allow reluctantly or resentfully. This leads me to my next topic, racing. It’s been said that “if you’re not first, you’re last,” (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, 2006), and that rule has never been truer than it is in grudge racing.

If you know what grudge racing is, you can go ahead and skip over my attempt at an explanation. Grudge could be considered gambling, but it’s all about knowing your car, and hoping others don’t. When it comes to this branch of racing, you have to be able to analyze others’ cars and driving and make sure you’re able to beat them, but don’t beat them too hard because you don’t want other people to think they can’t beat you because then there’s no racing for you at all!! Now that I’ve gotten through that complete run on sentence, I can explain that the big rule to remember is do not let others know what you have. Your engine bay is off limits to photography of any sort, and your hood is to never be popped in public – you have no idea who could be spying!!! These races are about the money and trying not to lose it. OH, and the trash talking. You cannot compete in a grudge match without being able to talk smack and make your car and driving seem way better than everyone else’s – but don’t be too convincing, you still need them to race you.

Interesting stuff right? Well, we thought so too. Which is why a grudge car is now being built here at HRJ. We have a 2002 Camaro sitting nice and empty in our shop. We will be building a 25.3 NHRA certified cage to keep the car safe and legal! In the rear will be Mark Williams gun drilled 40 splined axles, Viking double adjustable rear coilovers, and some Team Z suspension components. The whole car is being mini tubbed to fit a 275 and 315 radial. And as for what will be put in the bay, determined or not, is none of your business! (Meant politely with love.) But I will say this, turbo(s). And that is all I will say.

If you’d like to see this Camaro come together, you are welcome to follow our social medias (Instagram and Facebook), or check back here for updates!

-Sunni, 12.28.2018

The Pro Mod: A brief history

Imagine this. You’re driving home from work and all of the sudden you see 3,000 horses stampeding down the highway. They’re approaching quick and the next thing you know your car has been pushed by a gust of wind and the horses are almost out of sight! Sounds crazy, right? So now think about what a car with well over 3,000 horsepower means. This is something that doesn’t just happen. It is a dream, a goal, and years of work.

Joe Watson, a close friend of George’s, has chosen us to finish the work on his pro-mod. His car holds just a bit under 4,000 horsepower and has been in the works for over 5 years. “It was the November of 2011 that I bought the car… I had been diagnosed with cancer that year and bought the car anyway, I guess you could say I’m chasing a dream,” Joe told me when I began to ask about how his pro-mod came about.

After the car was purchased from a friend in New Jersey, it also resided there for a few months until they were able to transport it here to Maryland. “I bought it as a roller, but it was really more than that,” Joe said. It had a transmission, a rear end, and a racepak computer system, which would all end up coming out. The first motor built for the pro-mod was a Keith Black Stage 10 Hemi. “You know my friends have all helped. I provided the parts and they provided the wrenches and the work.” They say it takes a village to raise a kid, but this village was focused on building Joe’s racecar!

On Easter Monday in 2014 the car was finally ready to fire and do some runs. “I think I did three or four sixty footers and shut it off, it’s been in limbo ever since.” He sold a lot to “buy better everything,” but life, as it does, also got in the way, he admitted. The car ended up going from 7 minutes away at a friends’ shop, to 7 hours away in North Carolina. This past August George helped Joe get it back up here to be finished.

Now that it is here at HRJ Customs, we are restarting the project. We are checking the entire car over, we want to make sure all systems are running properly. We will be taking care of any repairs, and getting the body mounted so it’ll look like a real car! The next big step will be getting Joe to the track. George has reached out to the Roy Hill Drag Racing School in North Carolina about training. Once the car is fired again, Joe will head down there to learn how to handle his power and get track ready. More than anything, this is about Joe having the opportunity to drive his car – and that’s what we are going to make happen.

-Sunni, 12.11.2018

Getting to know our owner, George Mitchell

In our crazy day to day lives we all must find something we love, something we are passionate about, something that drives us. And this is exactly how Hot Rod Jonz / HRJ Customs came about. George Mitchell, our owner and lead fabricator, turned his “side hustle” of rebuilding motors and drag racing, into his main gig. The excitement we receive from cars is what fuels us to turn other enthusiasts dreams into their reality.

George began his work with cars while still in college. He took a job with Bob Harris, otherwise known as “Bethesda Bob Harris,” an infamous East Coast drag racer. At the start, with guidance, George was deconstructing and rebuilding motors, because that’s just what you do when you’re the new guy at the shop who has a whole lot to learn. After college, George grew up and got a big kid job and traveled the world with his work. But, one thing that never changed was his passion for cars. While working his 9-5 job, he maintained a garage not far from the shop he owns now. Over there he stored and maintained some of his car collection, helped friends out with their cars, and built and rebuilt his current drag car, the probe. George didn’t intend to open up shop and start bringing in clients, but when the time came for him to find a bigger space to expand his work, that’s when he realized he could make his hobby his day job.

Besides helping other’s build their cars, George drag races himself. He competes in the comp eliminator class in NHRA drag racing. Through this he met his now friend and employee, Grandville. Grandville also drag races, but he uses a street car. Due of the nature of Grandville’s racing, grudge, we can’t discuss too much about his car besides the fact it is a 5.0 fox body, and that thing is fast!

You may wonder what is it like to throw yourself down a straight away, aiming to exceed easily over 100 miles per hour. The thing about it is that you are breaking every rule you’ve taught yourself about driving, you have to go against all of your body’s reflexes and muscle memory to keep your foot on the gas! George has even admitted that there’s been times he’s gone down the track with his hand holding his right leg down on the gas because lifting off of the throttle is your body’s first reaction, and the last thing you want to do.

Can you imagine that? Steering with one hand, shifting with the other, fighting all of your instincts and speeding down the strip? Having to possibly use a hand to hold down your nervously shaking right leg? If this sounds exciting to you.. maybe you should give us a call!

-Sunni, 11.24.2018