The need for exploring off-road is a notion that we feel we can find across the entire United States. That’s the drive behind our new column, Stateside Shop Tour. Come with us as we tour the nation looking at shops that build capable off-road machines of all shapes and sizes, as well as the parts that support them.
Our previous stop put us in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where we got the scoop from owner Phil Norvold about how his shop, Max-Bilt, was taking care of new and old Jeeps to get them ready for off-road business. This week, we make our way to Bartelso, Illinois, to talk about Carl’s Four Wheel Drive & Performance Center with the man himself, Carl Huels.
Huels began his gearhead journey back in high schools with friends. “I did car work with my buddies, working on race cars,” he said. “I was in sheetmetal work for four or five years and wanted to have my own shop. When I was 25, my dad sold me a couple of acres on his farm, and that was where I started my first shop in 1977. It was about 2,000 square feet and had three bays.”
Huels caught the wave of off-road enthusiasm in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and moved out of the farm-based shop to the location he’s at now, which has been the base of operations for the past 29 years. These days, the customers are coming in with Jeeps, duallys, gas trucks, and everything else that’s good for fun in the mud.
“We recently had a New York doctor who bought a 2015 GMC dually,” said Huels. “He had us do a seven-inch lift and 37-inch tires on 22-inch wheels. We did some EFI tuning and a bunch of add-ons, and then hauled it up to New York. He was really pleased with the results.”
Lift kits, wheels, and tires are the bread and butter of Carl’s 4×4, but Huels and his nine employees can help with just about anything needed on a rig. “We can do drivetrain work, installing locking differentials or upgrading axles to heavy-duty Dana 60s and 70s and so on,” said Huels. “Fabrication isn’t something we do, but everything else is fair game.”
With an average of 8-10 vehicles getting worked on in the shop in a given week, there’s no shortage of work to be done at Carl’s 4×4. Look them up online, and stay tuned here on Off Road Xtreme for more great shops as we continue our Stateside Shop Tour. Next stop: Indiana!