Technical Editor Jacob Joseph paid a visit to the Detroit-area tuners Ice Nine Group, and found them to be real enthusiasts.
Even when they come factory-standard and designed to appeal to as many people as possible, cars can be pretty divisive. It's rare that I'll agree completely with anyone about cars, but all the more so when we're talking about cars which have been modified. Ice Nine Group first piqued my curiosity by virtue of being the only tuner that I've ever seen to take their name from a Kurt Vonnegut novel (also a Joe Satriani song).
We've also run a couple of stories about cars built by them, and I liked what I saw. I figured these would be people who were worth talking to, so I stopped by their Clinton Township shop, just outside of Detroit. Assembled there was such an eclectic group of cars that I knew I had the Ice Nine Group guys pegged right. The company is the brainchild of Keith Strong, who says that he got into this business as a matter of necessity. He explains this by saying that cars have always been in his blood, and he knew that if he was going to have nice cars of his own, he was going to have to build them himself.
This is the kind of car guy logic which works well with me, and I spent quite a bit of time just talking cars with Keith as well as his son, who also works in the shop at Ice Nine Group. In fact, family and cars seem to be fairly intertwined in Keith's world. It was his father's 1970 Road Runner which first inspired his love for cars and it was his mother who first took him to visit GM's design studios when he was a child, a visit which he has now been able to repeat in a professional capacity as an adult. His wife runs the office for Ice Nine Group, and the shop has the kind of inviting atmosphere that comes when a family is sharing a given space.
Of course, Ice Nine Group does have employees who aren't related to Keith, but they do seem to keep the staff at a small number of highly competent people, good help is hard to find. The cars at the shop were both new and old, foreign and domestic, but not one of them was boring. I found myself gravitating towards a couple of Pro Touring projects at one end of the shop. These were older muscle cars which have been extensively modified to allow them to handle like modern cars. These labor-intensive projects produce '69 Camaros that can pull 1g on a skidpad, and similar things.
They are also actually usable as daily drivers, and Keith preaches their virtues as the future of hotrodding, a position which seems likely to me to be correct. The cars were varied, and some of them were quite valuable, but none of them were over the top. They were noticeable, but tastefully done, always a relief to see when talking about tuners. Keith tells me that the varied nature of the cars found at the shop is the result of an inability to say no to work, but I suspect otherwise.
It seems more to me like an inability to say no to a car, and it's this kind of unabashed love for all things automotive that we at CarBuzz respect above all else. So we present you with Ice Nine Group, true enthusiasts if ever there were any.