In The Shop: Orange County Hotrods

Touring the Corona, California, Based Hot Rod Shop

By Eric Geisert    –  Photography by the Author

At an early age Aaron Hamusek was spending a lot of time with his hot rodding father checking out car shows and automotive swap meets in the ’70s-era Southern California. Yes, he liked skateboarding and building scale model cars, but what he gravitated toward was customizing stuff like using rattle can spray paint jobs on his bicycles.

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02 The father and son team of Aaron (left) and Kevin Hamusek are the two principles in the business
The father-and-son team of Aaron (left) and Kevin Hamusek are the two principles in the business that also employs three other builders/fabricators.

Shop Tour: Old Anvil Speed Shop

In his high school years Aaron was into metal fabrication, machining, and welding, and by the time he got his driver’s license he had already built a single-seat buggy with a two-stroke 618cc engine with a full Independent Rear Suspension and Independent Front Suspension setup. His first car (in high school) was a 1955 Chevy 210 with dual quads over a 327 to which he began milling aluminum parts for (about the same time Lil’ John Buttera was doing it for Boyd Coddington).

03 This low mile ’72 K5 Blazer came to Orange County Hotrods for a full LS swap
This low-mile ’72 K5 Blazer came to Orange County Hotrods for a full LS swap (LS engine and 4L80E transmission) as well as wiring, gauges, and a Vintage Air install.

In 1986, he got a job at Danchuk (the Tri Five Chevy superstore) and worked there for 15 years before making a huge change by designing, fabricating, and building armored vehicles and a four-year stint maintaining Special Forces vehicles in Afghanistan and Jordan. By the 2009 economic downturn, Aaron found himself back in SoCal working as a mobile mechanic (even removing the passenger seat from his Honda Civic so he could carry his air compressor to appointments).

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04 LS engine and 4L80E transmission as well as wiring gauges and a Vintage Air install

Read More: 1955 Tri-Five Chevy Station Wagon

But even with a life that had presented him with many challenges, in 2017 he took the plunge and opened Orange County Hotrods in Huntington Beach, California, but soon moved the business to Corona (in neighboring Riverside County) and hasn’t looked back since. Though known for his skill and knowledge with Tri Five Chevys, Aaron has a wide field of vehicles in his shop on any given day, though you’ll always find a 1955 Chevy or two in his parking lot.

05 this ’86 Chevy C10 Square Body that was finished up by Orange County Hotrods
Built during the COVID-19 crisis, “Pandemic” is the moniker given to this ’86 Chevy C10 Square Body that was finished up by Orange County Hotrods after a new owner bought the project mid build. Not a lot of late-model custom trucks have been built to this level, but this one was slated to get twin 72mm turbos for the 1,100hp 427 Dart block built by Nelson Racing Engines.

While we were visiting there were four Roadster Shop chassis in their wooden shipping crates in the parking lot waiting for their turn to be slipped under one of their customer’s rides, with Aaron commenting, “I like using them; they just work.” Chassis swaps happen to be very popular with his customers right now, including Jeff Thisted (one of the announcers for the Goodguys autocross competitions) who has posted videos on his YouTube channel of Orange County Hotrods swapping in a Roadster Shop SPEC chassis under his 1955 Chevy wagon.

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06 this one was slated to get twin 72mm turbos for the 1 100hp 427 Dart block built by Nelson Racing Engines

In the Shop: Kugel Komponents

Aaron’s passion for metal fabrication has carried over to the employees he has hired—all of whom are young fabricators in their own right, eager to learn and expand their own talents with the projects that roll through the hot rod shop. Whether it be small repair jobs or all-out, high-end builds, Aaron and his Orange County Hotrods team can make it happen.

07 The finished Pandemic Square Body Chevy made a big splash when it was finished
The finished Pandemic Square Body Chevy made a big splash when it was finished. It recently held court at the prestigious 2023 Grand National Roadster Show’s Building 9 display honoring 100 historic and influential trucks from the last 50 years—and rightfully so.

08 It recently held court at the prestigious 2023 Grand National Roadster Show

09 Nic Cantrell is another of the young fabricators on the Orange County Hotrods team
Nic Cantrell is another of the young fabricators on the Orange County Hotrods team. Here he’s designing and fabbing up a 3-inch crossover exhaust system for a customer’s car.
10 This 1957 Chevy sat in the owner’s yard for 20 years before it found its way to Orange County Hotrods
This 1957 Chevy sat in the owner’s yard for 20 years before it found its way to Orange County Hotrods where it not only received a new Roadster Shop SPEC chassis but also a supercharged LT4 backed to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The heavy kick in the rear will give the pickup its extra-low stance.

11 it not only received a new Roadster Shop SPEC chassis but also a supercharged LT4

12 More of Cantrell’s handiwork is seen with this multi baffled aluminum fuel cell
More of Cantrell’s handiwork is seen with this multi-baffled aluminum fuel cell for a unique application with certain size restrictions.
13 A ’67 Camaro will be getting this Roadster Shop SPEC chassis
A ’67 Camaro will be getting this Roadster Shop SPEC chassis that has been set up with a Track4 Baer brake kit (12 inches in the rear, 13 inches in the front).
14 Rob Sanchez’s stunning ’63 C10 arrived at Orange County Hotrods already painted
Rob Sanchez’s stunning ’63 C10 arrived at Orange County Hotrods already painted but without an engine or transmission so Orange County Hotrods added a dressed-up SBC crate engine with an Eddie Motorsports front pulley system, a 700R4 transmission, and upgraded the truck’s disc brakes.

15 Orange County Hotrods added a dressed up SBC crate engine with an Eddie Motorsports front pulley system a 700R4 transmission

16 This 1956 Chevy was a nice daily driver when it rolled into Orange County Hotrods
This 1956 Chevy was a nice daily driver when it rolled into Orange County Hotrods, but the owner wants to replace the 17-inch rollers with a 20- and 22-inch wheel combo, update the rear suspension from the stock leaf arrangement to a four-link design, and swap out the Camaro rear to a Ford 9 inch rear end.
17 One of Kevin’s specialties is wiring this challenging project for a 1940 Dodge
One of Kevin’s specialties is wiring; this challenging project for a 1940 Dodge incorporates a special relay setup for multiple motors that will operate the flip-front nose section and other electronic features.
18 The owner of this highly customized 1956 Ford is based in England
Some projects have been inherited from other shops. The owner of this highly customized 1956 Ford is based in England but he is looking forward to having Orange County Hotrods finish up his truck for him, which includes finishing the paint, glass, and interior along with a custom lifting wood bed.
19 a 1945 International bus Orange County Hotrods widened the front fenders shortened the wheelbase
Lest you think Orange County Hotrods is all about trucks and Tri Fives, how about a 1945 International bus? Orange County Hotrods widened the front fenders, shortened the wheelbase, added a dually front suspension, and then lowered the stance—by a full 2 feet!

20 a dually front suspension and then lowered the stance

Orange County Hotrods
(714) 514-3887
ochotrods.com

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