Builder Spotlight: Henry McDonough (@henryautomotive)

Builder Spotlight: Henry McDonough (@henryautomotive)

 The future is here, and generally, that future doesn't appeal to the grassroots purists in the aftermarket automotive community. Speaking for the majority of us: we do not want a vehicle we can't hop in the garage, crack a cold beverage with friends, and turn some wrenches on (i.e. electric vehicles). A sad reality that the days of powertrain upgrades are dissolving into thin air like a set of cheap tires at a Formula Drift event. Compounding that problem, more states are adopting the emissions standards shadowing C.A.R.B. (California Air Resource Board). The future looks dismal for the core builders and enthusiasts in the automotive industry.

  With that, The next generation of mechanics is understandably turning to software development and substituting wrenches for laptops. However, there are a few of the Gen Z generation that understand there will always be a need for certain automotive processes in performance, restoration, and repair. Fortunately, there are a handful of programs that offer the younger generations the opportunity to pursue their passion which is now becoming extinct. We sat down with one of those youths, attending one of the most prestigious colleges in the automotive industry, to talk about his experience and what the future looks like for Henry McDonough of McPherson College.


Henry McDonough in front of Volvo 242


So you have had a few rides, tell us about them!:

  I guess the first car I had would be my XJ. I got it when I was like 15 years old in high school (now currently 18). The Jeep was semi-optioned from the factory with an NP242 transfer case, factory power seats, and some nice interior, etc. I threw a 2.5” lift on with some Fox 2.0 shocks, Method NV 301s, 31” BFG km3 mud terrains, JCR crusader front bumper, Rigid Dually lights, reupholstered the seats, and a bunch of other stuff I'm probably forgetting.


Red Jeep XJ Cherokee


After the XJ, I got a 67 Chevrolet C10 short wide bed. The truck came equipped with factory electrical boxes installed at the dealership as well which made it really unique. The Chevy originally had an inline six but at some point, a previous owner put in a small block that I tuned up with a new carb, intake manifold, etc. I then turned to the suspension and drop spindles and lowering springs from CPP, as well as a disc brake conversion and a handful of small things to keep it restomod-ish haha.  


Red Chevrolet C10

  Next on the list was The 1978 Volvo 242 DL 2-door. I swapped the engine and trans over to an LS2 and a T56 manual trans out of a GTO. It uses a shifter from a F Body Camaro and a custom 5 link and full floater Moser 88 Rear end and a Detroit Truetrac differential. It’s tuned on a Holley terminator X with a Holley Pro dash and FI-tech fuel injection. After the motor and suspension was done I slapped on the Brembo 4-piston brake system in the front and Wilwood low-profile brakes in the rear. I reupholstered the whole car and slapped some custom BBS RS finished in (Porsche) Weiss gold, step lips, and SSR hardware, and the specs are 17x8.0 +7offset front, and 17x9 -2 offest rear. The last mod included installing a set of KC Headlights from 9AM! It's a fun sleeper-ish car man and gets a lot of looks!


LS swapped Volvo 242

  The most recent one is the 1965 Jeep Gladiator! I found it on Facebook and it belonged to a guy that was a rock-racer. I went to check it out and ended up staying there for over a month building out the custom high pinion 44 in the front and the rear is a 14-bolt Chevy with a posi-trac. Aftermarket disc brakes all the way around on that to stop the new 35” Toyo MT tires wrapped around Black Rhino wheels. The Jeep is lifted roughly 10” compared to the factory using custom leaf springs and some custom shackle relocation brackets with some Remote res. Fox Shocks. The previous owner swapped out the factory engine for a built Ford 460 big block and a 4-speed manual trans. The engine features roller cams and lifters, Edelbrock aluminum heads, Weiand intake, 850 carb, and some long tube headers with some Flowmaster 40 series mufflers. It's a beast of a rig.


1965 Jeep Gladiator in front of ocean

I happened to be there when you turned your first wrench (assisting with a clutch change on the 9AM S13) since then you have had a couple of jobs in the industry: 

  Well, when I was 16 I started working at Carlsville Engineering in Wisconsin doing some basic stuff just getting myself comfortable using tools and dipping my toes in using machinery like lathes and mills and such. The work was generally small engine stuff really.

  From there I did an internship for Kindred Motorworks in San Rafael. That is when I really got into the restomod thing. One project I distinctly remember was 5.0 Coyote swapping a (fully restored) first gen Bronco. Truthfully, I had my hands in a few of their builds which included a first-gen Camaro, first-gen Bronco, Datsun Z cars, a 1951 Chevy, etc. They were heavily into electric conversions using Tesla motors in those classic cars. Ultimately I learned a lot about shop processes, operations, and business in general. I worked that job until I graduated high school in December of 2022.

Now you are attending a pretty prestigious college, tell us about that:

  Yeah man, I am attending my first semester of McPherson College in Kansas working towards my Bachelor's degree of ‘Science in Restoration Technology’ with two emphases, one being the prior, and one being ‘Automotive Art Design’. The college is an amazing place to be. For instance; We just had a car, fully restored by students, went to Pebble Beach this year, and took second in class, which is crazy! It's like the small-town football team winning the Super Bowl haha. I am learning a bunch of things that are going away in modern vehicles; like metal crafting, upholstery, and even clay models, so everything feels really intimate. It's awesome doing things that have been lost in time. Also, we have had some serious investors including big names in the industry like Jay Leno, Ferrari, Sema, and so many more. I am really grateful for the opportunity to be here. 

And what are your plans for the future?:

  Well at this point I just want to have my name synonymous with craftsmanship. I ultimately want to be able to work around a great team of people working together on the cars and builds I feel passionate about. I hope to one day, maybe a decade or so from now, be able to open my own shop and get commissioned to build vehicles with the processes I feel suit them best. I don't see myself pumping out concour restorations for a living, more likely 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s commissioned builds. Giving those cars a new life and making them enjoyable again is my dream.

Before we go, is there anybody you want to give a shoutout to?:

  9 Aftermarket Motorsports as always! Definitely my parents Marcia and Tim for their support over the years. Randy Avery for teaching me how to set up gears, diffs, etc. he was super helpful to this day even when I have a question. Jeff Galasco from BRE Race Cars for selling me the Volvo and being very responsive to every question I have. A family friend Joe Kezo for the extra hands building the Volvo while on the farm in Wisconsin. Finally, My dog Hiccup is the best shop dog ever.


  We have spent almost a decade watching Henry evolve and will continue to support Henry's pursuit of his passion in the automotive industry. We can't wait to see what's next for him and the future youth of the aftermarket community.

Follow and connect with Henry McDonough:
Henry McDonough Instagram - @Henryautomotive 
Henry Mcdonough Website - *Coming Soon*
Back to blog

Leave a comment