1965 Pontiac GTO

One of the most popular muscle cars has to be the Pontiac GTO.  It was certainly popular with Craig and Mickey Miller, who were itching to get their hands on one.  They found one and inquired about purchasing it.  Unfortunately the owner, who was the 6th person to own this GTO, said he was not interested as he knew that one day he would restore it.  Well, fast forward 25 years, and the man had been so focused on other projects throughout the years that he had never touched the car.  So he called Craig and told him that he could have it for free.  You can only imagine Craig’s reaction when he got that call!

Craig began the ’65 GTO project in October of 2008.  There were so many things that he wanted to do, but finding the previous owners became task #1 after finding an old parking ticket in the glove compartment.  After many phone calls and emails, he was able to find not only the original owner, but the ones in between the original and most previous owners.  Over the years, they have remained in contact and have become good friends.  One of them even got married in the GTO!  It’s amazing how a 50 year old vehicle can bring people together.

Back to the restoration.  After all of the searching he had done over the years, Craig was determined to make his GTO one of a kind.  He partnered with Al’s Body Shop, Bill Dwyer Body Shop, and Hot Rod Auto to work on the exterior of the GTO.  There was a good amount of rust as well as bumps and bruises from being raced, used in wedding processionals, and everyday driving.  Many parts were fixed or replaced as a result, including the quarter panels, inner & outer wheel tubs, trunk cross members, trunk panels, driver side floor plan and the entire passenger door.  Once the body was fixed, it was time to give it some color.  The guys over at Hot Rod & Auto took over and painted it with a House of Kolor paint called Kandy Brandy Wine red.  This color is so rich and beautiful; the pictures don’t do it justice.  It’s a must see in person, and if you want the same color, you’ll have to negotiate with Craig…he bought it all.  One of a kind GTO, remember?

After the exterior was complete, Craig turned his focus to the interior.  Dave over at D & E Upholstery did a complete makeover, replacing everything that he could.  The GTO received new seat covers, head liner, floor carpet, Juke tray, said panels, arm rests, and trunk liner.  He also added an autometer tach where the clock used to be, giving the interior a cool, sleek look.

Now for the good stuff…under the hood.  The GTO has a 455 engine built by A-Team.  Craig was secretive with the horsepower, but by the looks of it, this car has plenty of power to move quickly.  The engine may look like a bit of a sleeper, but Craig had several aftermarket parts added including a competition valve job, Edelbrock worker, comp cam, and many others.  As an added kick, it also has a nitrous kit installed.  To keep all of that power on the road, Craig outfitted the GTO with 70 Cragar wheels, wrapped with BF Goodrich tires.

This GTO truly has a great story behind it…so much so that I told Craig he should write a book about it.  If you see it at a car show, be sure to get up close and listen to one of the many stories he has to share.  The most paramount thing is the bond that has been formed between him and the rest of the owners.  All of them arrived while I was doing the shoot, including the couple that were married in the car.  I could definitely feel the mutual admiration they all had for each other, and how happy the car has made each of them over the last 50 years.  Thank you all for allowing me to capture the story and this beautiful 1965 Pontiac GTO.

Finally bought a Hybrid..

For the last several months, I have been reviewing all types of vehicles, including hybrids. At first, I just knew I was not a fan and couldn’t justify spending an average of $10,000 more than the average gasoline only vehicle.  You would think I would be just the opposite since I live in a huge city and hybrids are designed for maximizing mpg.  After driving and reviewing several different hybrids, I have learned more about them and have found myself actual liking them.

I have had the opportunity to drive hybrids by various manufacturers including Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Honda and Nissan.  When you think of a hybrid car, of course the first vehicle that comes to mind is the Toyota Prius.  This vehicle has been the flagship of today’s hybrid vehicles, but is it really?  Personally, I was never a fan in its appearance.  Yes, it is functional, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice looks to get one.  It’s apparent that other manufacturers have taken note, and you can see that other hybrids have come a long way in both looking stylish, efficient & performance.

In the last couple of months, my wife and I began discussing the purchase of a new vehicle.  We slowly realized we needed to focus on maximizing our mpg being that we lived in the lovely city of Chicago.  We currently have a 2 year old son and have another boy due at the end of the year.  Space was a concern for us since we would soon be traveling with a larger family.  Getting an SUV was the direction we were heading, but wasn’t ideal for everyday driving in the city.  In my experience, you really don’t save much gas, if any from all, from the hybrid SUV’s I have driven.  We liked the space offered, so we were considering some normal crossovers, such as the Kia Sorrento, Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe.  These certainly were our favorite to date, and thought they were a good value for the price considering the options that came with them.

We ultimately decided that we weren’t ready to take the leap to a SUV, so we decided to look into four door sedans that might fit our needs.  At the time, we were driving a 2008 Honda Accord EX-L.  We loved the car and found it to be very spacious, but the miles were getting up there and some major maintenance was due.  I was at a Honda dealership getting normal maintenance done, and made the mistake of walking into the showroom.  This is where I first laid eyes on the new Honda Accord Touring Hybrid.  I was impressed at the big improvements Honda has made throughout the years, and upon seeing all of the gadgets and safety features, I automatically fell in love.  Since we had an Accord already, we were familiar with the brand.  The interior hadn’t changed much from what we were currently driving, so it was already comfortable to us.  The main thing we knew was the reliability of the car, and felt that it was enough room to travel with two sons even with the loss of space in the trunk.  We weren’t too crazy with the interior, but I really liked the safety features it had.  Having cool features also came with a hefty price tag.  Not crazy expensive, but enough to take step back and say am I really going to pay close to $40k (after all of the add-ons we wanted) on an Accord?  It did give an approximate 50 mpg city driving which I liked.  We decided to leave a deposit and order one in mid-June.  If you know the history of the Accord Touring Hybrids, you’ll know that there was a long waiting period, especially for the color we wanted.  So we got ready to wait.

As we waited, my wife and I talked about the Accord, but one particular car that kept jumping in the conversations was the Kia Optima Hybrid.  We had had the chance to drive it, and both actually loved the car inside and out.  She and our son especially loved the panoramic sunroof, not to mention all the features it came with including heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel, to name a few that the Accord didn’t offer.  We had opportunity to drive both the Hybrid and SX turbo model for some time so we knew the car.  We knew it had lots of room inside, which was a plus since both of us are tall and we wouldn’t lose much leg room by having the Britax baby seats in the rear.  I liked how it drove and how I felt driving it.  Everything was easy to control and figure out.  The Optima Hybrid didn’t get close the advertised mpg of the Accord, but it was still the second best from all that we have driven. 

We were just playing the waiting game with Honda, and were happy to be told the car was going to go into production the week for July 6th.  We were excited and were getting ready for our delivery in the first week of August.  Well, the first week of August came, and when I called for an update I was given some bad news.  We told it wasn’t coming and the actual production date was pushed back.  I asked when and I even stopped by the dealership to get answers but was told I would get a call back later in the day.   I then went home and called around several Honda dealerships in the Chicagoland area to see if anyone had a touring model with black interior.  No luck.  I called couple of times to ask for GM and said he would call me back.  Here is when I made the decision while waiting for my wife to get home from work that I wanted to take a trip to the Kia dealership.  

Long story short, Kia had the model I was interested in on the showroom floor with everything I wanted except mud flaps, which was not a deal breaker in the slightest.  They gave me a price I couldn’t refuse, so I called the GM at Honda and asked status of my order immediately because I was at a Kia dealership about to purchase a vehicle.  He told me hesitantly that it wouldn’t be built until late August and delivery would occur in September.  I thanked him and told him that I would most likely be purchasing a different vehicle and would notify him in the AM to cancel my order.   As it turns out, we drove off that very night with a brand new Kia Optima Hybrid with all the bells and whistles for about $10k less than the Honda Accord Touring Hybrid would have been with about the same features.  Yes the Accord had a couple more features like the blind side camera and adaptive cruise control, but the Optima far outweighed those with the added features that it offered.  We did lose mpg per stated rates, but for the price and not having to wait, it was a no brainer for us.  We didn’t want to wait any longer since we were moving at the end of the month and my wife was getting further along in her pregnancy by the day. Ultimately, the Kia was our first choice; we just didn’t realize it until we got over the Accord euphoria and actually talked about another car.  I am more than ok with saving $10k over having the additional 10 mpg.  

Since we’ve had the car, we have driven approximately 1,000 miles, and we just love it.  Everywhere we go we get complimented on the car, and get asked about the car from curious admirers.  It has a very modern luxury style to it that you can’t stop looking at it.  Yes it’s “just” a Kia but if you haven’t seen, driven or spent time with one you just don’t know.  You get a lot for your buck plus a warranty that will put a smile on your face.  We are really glad we stopped in at the Kia dealership and drove away in the new Optima Hybrid.  We know we will enjoy this vehicle a lot more than we would have the Accord.  

I am averaging 34 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway.  I am very happy with my purchase, especially after having driven many different hybrids this year.  I’m not left with the “what if” thoughts since I have a really good feel for what the other cars have to offer.  I also noticed today that the price of the Accord Touring Hybrid has jumped up a few hundred bucks.  We will probably add a SUV in a year or two, and after looking at the SUV line up, we are leaning towards the Kia Sorento AWD Limited.  Purchasing the Optima has made it easy since we both loved the Sorrento and now know that we are truly getting a great product in Kia.  The SUV write up will come at a later date once we purchase it.  It will be interesting to see what we end up with!

Thank you all for reading.  Both dealerships that helped me were very friendly, and are both located on the north side of Chicago.  Grossinger Honda at 6600 N Western Ave is a new dealership formerly called Carrs Honda.  We bought the Kia Optima from Grossinger Kia at 6750 N Lincoln Ave.  They have a great staff and got me in and out in no time.  I will be writing about our experience there soon.  At Honda ask for Bill and at Kia, Jerry will take care of you.  Both are very professional and will make sure your purchase experience goes smoothly and hassle free.


Jerry at Grossinger Kia - http://www.grossingerkia.com

Bill at Grossinger Honda - http://www.grossingerhonda.com

All photographs from Honda Accord Touring Hybrid are from the web.

Photographs of Kia Optima EX Hybrid provided by Chris Chavez Photography

Chicago Blackhawks Camaro Giveaway Commercial

2014 Chicago Blackhawks Chevy Camaro SS Convertible.  Brought to you by Chevy Drive Chicago.  

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to photograph the highly anticipated Chicago Blackhawks Camaro.  This is a vehicle that was created in conjunction with Chevy Drive Chicago, The Chicago Blackhawks and RealWheels Corporation.  Many were involved in building this vehicle, with a lot of time and effort put into it.  On the reveal day at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, it was well received quickly became a fan favorite.  Chevy Drive Chicago uses many still shots for promotional use, many of which were ones that I had the exclusive rights to take.  One night as I was watching a Blackhawks game, I saw the commercial for the Camaro pop up.  My first thought was, "Wow, what an awesome commercial".  Then I noticed that the still shots used were the ones that I took.  I've been published before, but this was a definite surprise and I was very excited to see my work out there for all to see. 

If you like to see the full story of the build of this immaculate vehicle, click on the image below.

Click on image to read full article on the Chicago Blackhawks Camaro give aways.  

Click on image to read full article on the Chicago Blackhawks Camaro give aways.  

If you like to register to win this vehicle, please click on the image below to be redirected to official website. 

Thank to Kelly Marie Campbell for the pose.  

Thank to Kelly Marie Campbell for the pose.  

2014 Chicago Blackhawks Camaro SS

2014 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible Chicago Blackhawks Edition 

ChevyDrivesChicago.com, in partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks and  the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Chevy dealers, has commissioned another exciting vehicle for one lucky fan to win in the annual Chicago Blackhawks Camaro giveaway.  For the last 5 years, a one of a kind Chicago Blackhawks themed Chevy Camaro has been built and given away to the winner at the end of the hockey season.  This particular vehicle will hold a special interest to many hard core fans as it celebrates the 2013 winning season, and the drive to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. 

Image from Chicago Blackhawks



RealWheels Corporation and Project Manager Cory Polka have again taken on the challenge to make 2014 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible the best Blackhawks car yet.  Cory really wanted this one to be special since the Blackhawks are the defending NHL Champions.  Advance Composite Specialties sent over their latest body kit, the ACS-T4.  This kit included  new rockers and a front splitter, which gave the car the aggressive look they were aiming for.  He added to the aggressive feel by giving the car 22” 2Crave No.14 rims on 245/30/22 tires in front and 295/30/22 tires in the rear. The rims were custom painted with team colors with the team name added on the lip. The  new stance was created with a Ground Force lowering kit.


As in previous years, the exterior of the car was painted in the team colors, with a few special accents added in. Estrada Customs took care of the custom painting  using a combination of True Black and Victory Red with a Pure White accent  to bring the car to life.   The Black racing stripe was  added to complete the fierce look and accentuate the new air dam featured in the 2014 model Camaro.


Katzkin Leathers created the customer interior using the team colors, featuring a black body with special Crimson Carbon inserts that mimic the teams jersey. Blackhawks logos embroidered on the head and arm rest finish off the seats.   A custom Blackhawks silhouette on both door panels is covered in red suede to give it an awesome embossed 3D look.  With red Varad accent lighting, the custom billet features from RWC really pop.  The most exciting part of the interior is the custom made shifter.  Not only was it custom made with a hockey puck, it is signed by both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.  And since no car would be complete without new sounds, Cartronix Inc added a premium Phoenix Gold Audio system.

Under the hood RWC had Liquid Ink add some of their special touches.  Starting with the engine cover using hydro-graphics, they wrapped it in a tow-tone bred and black carbon fiber.  This carried into the stabilizer bar and was finished off with the straight black carbon fiber on the air intake and fuse panel covers. 

I’ve been fortunate to photograph some of the previous years’ editions, and I have to say that this year’s car is hands down my favorite.  From the planning to all of the hard work put into building this, you can tell how much ChevyDrivesChicago.com and RealWheels Corp care about producing a quality product.   When you go check this out at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, be sure to take a close look at the custom upper and lower grilles featuring custom silhouette Blackhawks logos.  Cory added a VERY special something extra that no other NHL team can say they have.   I will not spoil this extra feature; you will have to look very carefully to find it!

Trivia -  If you look behind the Chicago Logo, you'll see the Stanley Cup


The Camaro will debut at The 2014 Chicago Auto Show, and will be on display at all Blackhawks home games. It is scheduled to make appearances throughout Chicagoland for the remainder of the Summer.   You can register to win this awesome car at any one of these locations and the winner will be announced at the end of the 2014 NHL season.  One lucky fan will take delivery at the annual Blackhawks Convention in downtown Chicago…it could be you!  For more information please visitwww.chevydriveschicago.com

Top four photographs from previous years starting in 2010.  Photographs from web. 


Pictures provided by Chris Chavez Photography