Twin brothers, the world’s largest Mustang shop, and . . . TikTok?
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What do a 35-inch lifted Ram pickup and a race-prepped 1990s Ford Fox-body have in common? Both represent the patience and passion of their 29-year-old owners, identical twin brothers who apply the same discipline, 70 hours a week, to the rotating cast of Ford Mustangs in their family’s restoration shop.
Preston and Cody Ingrassia are the heirs to the world’s largest Mustang restoration business, measured by builds completed annually. The Chicago company is at an inflection point. The Ingrassias’ father, Christopher, founded it in 1980 with a yellow Mustang given to him by his father, who had brought the family over from Italy.
Christopher can still be seen on the shop floor seven days a week, in his cowboy hat and white coat, but he’s preparing to hand the business down. The most obvious change is in the name: once Mustang Restorations, now The Mustang Brothers.
“We love bringing something back to life,” Cody says. He freely acknowledges that his show-worthy Ram, nicknamed Goliath, once belonged in a junkyard. “Anybody can go out and buy a clean truck and build it. I’d rather put the money into that and bring it back to life.”
Preston butts in. “It’s huge. He gets gas at night because he doesn’t want anybody to take a video.”
Cody laughs, not denying the jab. “I wasn’t blessed with height.”
Christmas Day, 1920, the Ingrassia family came to America from Italy. After getting kicked out of Oklahoma for bootlegging, they moved to Queens, New York, where the father bought a Sunoco gas station. He taught his son, Christopher, to pump gas and change oil and swap wiper blades. When the father’s job took him—no legal prompting this time—to Chicago, Christopher eventually followed. The younger Ingrassia was the last of his family to leave New York. He took with him the yellow 1960s Mustang coupe that his father had passed to him when he started high school.
“If he had bought a Corvair,” Christopher says, “This shop would be filled with Corvairs.”
Christopher worked as a stagehand at the Chicago Opera House before quitting to start his own business, setting up a small shop near the Chicago riverfront, where the casino boats are now. Today, Mustang Brothers occupies an expansive warehouse in the suburban town of East Dundee.
The five full-time employees who round out the eight-man crew have each worked there longer than Preston and Cody have been alive. One currently lives in an apartment that the family built for him above the shop; he’s suffering through double kidney failure, and travel to and from work had become miserable. Cody and Preston trade off telling the story.
“We’ll tell him, ‘Don’t come in,’ and he’s—”
“—he’s down here at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning.”
It was these people to whom Christopher and his wife showed their newborn twins, going straight from hospital to shop before taking their babies home. Amazingly, Mrs. Ingrassia didn’t object—either to the detour or to the black Mustang limousine (yes) in which they made the trip.
“When you’re a little kid, what do you want to be? You want to be rich and famous,” Christopher says. “What comes with that? A limousine. Well, when the rich-and-famous part wasn’t coming along, I could [at least] make my own limousine, and voilá.”
That car, built around 35 years ago, now sits in the shop’s back room, near Christopher’s high-school Mustang, the space doubling as unofficial museum. Neither brother has children yet, but each plans to recreate the hospital trip when the time comes. Preston and Cody call the limo a “legacy car”—they clearly love its glamour and delight in pointing out the quality of the stretched Ford’s bodywork, how its long flanks lack the waviness of most aging limo conversions. “We’re Italian,” one told me, “so we had to have the gangster whitewalls on it.” (Forgive the lack of attribution on that quote—as twins, the men sound so alike on an audio recording that you can’t always tell them apart.)
The Ingrassias may have a taste for flash, and the sons a penchant for tattoos and slim-fit shirts, but the shop doesn’t steer away from more humble projects. It accepts Ford’s most famous model in any vintage and condition, from barn-find to well-loved.
Over there is the 1968 Casca Ford, a big-block 428 race car and a $120,000 restoration, the car bought sight-unseen and its work commissioned by a man who had never met the brothers or visited East Dundee, only read reviews online. Near the limo is a six-cylinder automatic coupe from the early 2000s; the owner loves it so much that she recently contracted for a thorough freshening costing more than the car is worth. Nor is the patience only for the mechanical. A 1969 Mach 1 has hunkered in the back of the parts room for close to 20 years, its owner long since disappeared.
Many customers, the Ingrassias say, sneak their rides in for work without telling family. Illinois law lets a shop take possession of a vehicle with no contract after 30 days, but the brothers don’t want to file a lien—and anyway, they add, the work is paid for.
In 43 years of business, the shop’s best were 2021 and 2022. Some of that boom came in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—in the family’s estimation, because owners were working from home and around their vintage cars more often. But many more commissions came because, when faced with a Mustang flooded to the doors by Hurricane Ian, the brothers pulled out their iPhones before starting the engine. The video they posted to TikTok showed seawater blowing out the exhaust and pouring from the cylinders when the spark plugs were removed. It racked up 400,000 views in a day.
“We are now getting calls from around the world,” Preston says. “People have seen us out there, seen the company out there.”
When either man picks up a phone during work, then, it’s usually to document a build, texting photos to the owner or posting to TikTok a tastefully cut video overlaid with electronic music or hip-hop. Customers love it, they say, but perhaps more important, the choice reflects a conviction that classic cars belong in modern pop culture, that the greasy work of restoration is worthwhile and cool.
Nobody needs an appointment to visit. Customers who happen to be in the area can simply walk in. The brothers send build-progress pictures and videos to those who can’t.
They are not nervous about the future. They don’t have much in the way of competition, they say, have never seen the business slow down. What do they think of the modern iterations of Ford’s pony car? They’re good-looking cars, they say, and fast. Sound great. But not, Christopher specifies, “the Mach-E one. Not the electric.”
“Preston and I have talked about eventually maybe putting electric motors in these older cars,” Cody says. “Is this something that we want to do? Definitely not. I love the carburetors…”
“…but if you don’t innovate,” Preston adds, “you’re left behind.”
“Yeah,” Cody says, nodding.
“Talk to my dad about fuel injection and stuff like that. It’s like talking to a wall.”
The two men have not said a word about the work that waits as we chat. When I ask if they need to get back to it, they are unflappably polite. Preston walks to a red GTA convertible on a lift, reaching into the engine bay. Cody kneels by a weathered white coupe, test-fitting a bumper. Each picks up a wrench.
“If you need us, just let us know, okay?”
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The best article Hagerty has posted! These guys are the best!
Finally, an article that doesn’t compare any Chev as being equal. Nice read I hope the young men will do good. If work ethic was anything to do with it they will produce some really nice cars.
Hello guys, I once own a 66 convertible 289. I’m interested in a Fastback or convertible.
Chris did a ton of work on my ’67 back in the late 80s, not long after that limo graced the cover of Mustang Monthly. Glad to see the shop is still going strong.
Mustangs are great to restore since parts are mostly easily available. You could almost build an entire car from resto parts. More fun to do it yourself, but to each his or her own.
Need more articles like this
Indeed. Many more!
I love my 1966 Ford Mustang my twin sister and me cruise together all the time I’d love to upload a picture maybe I’ll try that this is the best article by far I’m a Mustang fan
I love that you are featuring shops that still work on these classic cars. So many shops are closing and these skilled people are retiring. Nice to see the younger people getting trained and continuing to have a passion for doing this tough and dirty work. Thanks, Hagerty
OMG. So wonderful that Chris and his East Dundee shop receiving the respect and recognition they deserve. Christopher knows EVERYTHING about Mustangs and I was so pleased on the restoration of my 1966 Mustang convertible. I recently sold my filly because after a move, couldn’t find anyone who could maintain her like Chris and the crew. Thanks
Excellent article!! This is one I have finally read and enjoyed.
That’s my 1969 Mach 1 you are talking about. Call me, I need it. Had one and totaled it back in 1975.
Good read. A new generation of Hot Rodders, hope they take the electric transplant on and record the process. The only way to keep older vehicles on the road will most likely be ol’sparky.
We used to live in Crystal lake and you did trunk floors and wheel houses on our 65 back in the early 90’s. Fantastic to see you are st
ill going strong Chris!! It is very encouraging to see the younger generation dive into something they enjoy!
Looks like a red Dodge Charger behind them on the first photo, how did that sneak in there?
I think you meant Tasca not Casca??
My first thought too! And the “35 inch Dodge” – probably referring to the tire size?
Man, I wish I lived closer to these guys. I remember when I took my 84 GT in for carb service about 10 years ago, nobody knew what to do with carburetor. I ended up just replacing it with a new Holley.
That’s what happened to my beautiful 1966 Convertible Filly. Moved and couldn’t find a quality technician to fix the car correctly. So difficult to find a mechanic where we live and sold the vehicle. I truly understand the frustration!
Increasingly when you talk about carburetors or distributors to a mechanic you get a blank stare. My ’69 convertible doesn’t get driven much lately but I have been a Mustang lover for years.
Not even a recent phenomenon, back twenty odd years ago where I was working talk in the break room turned to carb tuning and distributors and the real young “factory trained” guys had no idea what we were talking about. Then we really stumped them when we brought up “dual points”. I couldn’t resist adding to their confusion by “pointing” out (no pun intended) that there’s two different systems too, four lobes and eight. Lots of dropped jaws and head shaking.