defines “legacy” as “something handed down
from one who has gone before.” In Mike Spitzer’s
case, that legacy came in the form of a love for automobiles
and racing, as well as an affinity for building things. The “torch,” fittingly
enough, was handed to Mike from his dad, Ed, who was an extraordinary
craftsman and campaigned Midgets throughout the Midwest in
the ‘40s and ‘50s.
the time Mike was 12-years-old he was a certified gearhead.
His first car was a 1949 Chevy, which he promptly set about
modifying. He attended the first NHRA Nationals to be held
in Indianapolis in 1961 and dreamed about someday owning
a racing team and participating at Indy. Ultimately, the
dream came true.
1971 Mike built a unique rear-engined C/Dragster in his home
workshop. This was at a time when rear-engined cars were
just starting to appear in Top Fuel and nobody thought the
concept valid for a smaller Competition Eliiminator car.
Mike and his brother, Jim (who drove), promptly went out
and set the NHRA National Record for E.T. and speed, igniting
the rear-engined revolution in the Sportsman ranks. Other
racers, impressed with Spitzer’s trend-setting
designs, sought to have him build cars for them, and for
the next decade Mike did double-time as a vocational instructor
(auto body) during the day and a race car builder in the
demand for Spitzer’s cars grew and Mike
was forced to decide whether to devote his full energy
to building race cars or stick to teaching; he couldn’t
keep doing both. Obviously, racing won out, And the rest,
they say, is history.
outgrowing several leased shops, Spitzer Enterprises found
a permanent home in the eastern Indianapolis suburb of Greenfield.
The facility has expanded several times over the years and
now encompasses some 30,000 square feet.
as Mike had been infused with race cars from his dad, Ed,
so was the case with Mike and Karen Spitzer’s son,
Dean. By the time he was 12-years-old, Dean was helping out
in the shop. It was quite evident that Dean would follow
in his father’s
footsteps. In addition to learning the fabricating
side of the business, Dean studied Mechanical Engineering
at Purdue University.
the late 1980s Spitzer Enterprises fielded a 4-car team,
fulfilling Mike’s boyhood dream.
Dean, driving a unique Super Comp dragster was part of
the team, as were noted TAD campaigner Keith Stark and
Comp standout Wayne Henderson. Tragically, Dean died
in a highway accident in 1989. The building that houses the
composites shop was named “Deanco” in his
family aspect of the business stayed true, as Mike’s
wife, Karen, joined the firm full time in 1990
and their daughter, Sherri Blackburn, came aboard in 1999.
They remain active through this day. Rick Forish, a
long-time family friend and racer, signed on as General Manager
years ago Mike recognized the many benefits of carbon fiber
components and how they would enhance the competitiveness
and safety of Spitzer Race Cars. So he set about manufacturing
components in an entity now known as Spitzer Composites.
As a sidenote, Mike has spent considerable time in the wind
tunnel testing both bodies and components, with Spitzer Composites
benefitting from this expertise.
products manufactured in the composites shop range from complete
bodies down to nose pieces, air scoops, wings and ducts. And
you’ll find components for IndyCars, boats and
Bonneville cars being produced at Spitzer Composites as
well. The shop’s
processes include vacuum bagging, oven curing,
pre-preg carbon fiber and autoclave curing.
the years a number of specialized street vehicles have come
out of the Spitzer Enterprises shop, and the demand has increased
to the point where Spitzer Concepts was created for this
side of the business. The two go hand-in-hand, with no
better example than long-time customer Paul Romine.
only did Spitzer build Romine an IHRA Championship-winning
Top Fuel dragster, and most recently the “Man O’ War” Nostalgia
Funny Car (itself winner of two DRO Championships),
but the cars that thundered down the track have been joined
by a radical Viper V10-powered ’34 Ford coupe, a
gorgeous 1957 T-Bird with modern enhancements, plus a neat
1956 Ford F100 pickup.
Concepts is also responsible for building the unique “Indy
Boat Tail” roadster, which was featured
in Street Rodder magazine, the distinctive “Ed’s
Ford track roadster that paid homage to
dad, and Bill Holland’s AMBR Contender “23-GT” track
roadster that was featured in Hot Rod magazine. The
most recent Spitzer Concepts creation to
grace the pages of Hot Rod was Jim Mitchell’s “Road
Road Runner, a car that blends awesome
performance and handling with a sleek body that features carbon fiber panels
and CNC-machined billet aluminum trim.
to say, the Spitzer Race Cars side of the business has likewise
been turning out award-winning creations like
the two-time U.S. Nationals-winning TAD
of Marty Thacker and 2011 IHRA Pro Nitro
Champion “Shredder” of Michael Manners. Many
of the nation’s leading competitors
in the Top Dragster category rely on
Spitzer cars, and the firm supports the
Series in NHRA’s Division III.
the years numerous accolades have been
bestowed upon Mike and the company.
These range from many “Best Engineered
Car” and “Best Appearing
Car” awards for customers
to several “Sportsman Chassis
Builder of the Year” from
Car Craft magazine’s fabled All-Star
team. The company has often been named
NHRA Division III’s “Best
Supporting Manufacturer” and
Mike himself named “Person of
the Year in 2007.” His life-long
contributions to the sport also earned
Mike a spot in the NHRA National Hot
Rod Reunion Hall of Fame.
Spitzer Enterprises enters its fifth decade,
the company can point with pride
at over 5,000 cars coming out of the shop
to date. Each car represented a commitment
to provide the customer with a quality
product that embodied performance and safety.
The term “Trend Setter” still applies today, as Mike
Spitzer and his team of talented craftsman
remain focused on employing cutting edge technology. It’s all part of “The
Mike and Karen Spitzer taking a break at one of the
many events they attend.