About Sport and Specialty
We are dedicated to preserving the art and fun of vintage sports cars and believe that people should enjoy driving their cars more. We specialize in Austin Healey and Jaguar cars, but have experience in many other marques, including most British cars, Alfa Romeo, Corvette, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and early Lotus.
Our work includes all levels of restoration services, (full, mechanical, cosmetic, etc.,) simple repairs, ongoing maintenance, and vintage race preparation. In addition, we also offer rebuild services for our customers who prefer to do some of their own work. We also can rebuild your engine, transmission, overdrive, differential and many other individual components.
Our shop is a 10,000 plus sq. ft. facility in Northern Illinois in which we can do everything on premises except heavy machine work or sew interiors and tops. We use exclusive partners for those specialties and work very closely with them during our projects, at both their facilities, and ours.
With more than seventy years of automotive experience, our staff each has their own mechanical and restoration specialties. We are all car people here, and provide not only technical expertise, but true craftsmanship in every job we do.
For any sized repair job, or long-term restoration project, we strive to provide our customers with the most value for their investment possible. We are a “hands on” working shop and always looking at new ways of offering more value to our customers.
We maintain a low overhead, which in turn provides a reasonable shop rate. Our many awards and finished cars speak volumes as to the high quality of our work. We also stand behind all work and can provide references upon request.
Please take a look at the many photos provided on our site, and feel free to call or contact us with any questions.
John is a life long car guy. All of his favorite toys had wheels. Growing up on the north side of Chicago, two of his favorite early memories includes drives down Lake Shore Dr. in an MGA with the top down, (which really started his love of British Sports Cars) and when the orange pedal car was brought downstairs for a sidewalk drive. That was officially his first car. His second was a fairly ratty, but still loved red 1960 TR3. There were a variety of cars in the early days, foreign and domestic. A 1969 Road Runner, a 1973 Grand Am with a four speed, and a 1972 MGB were among a few early cars. Later came a long string of practical and sporty BMW 3 and 5 Series cars. Somewhere in the late 80 and early nineties was a 944 Turbo.
In 1996 John bought a 1963 Austin Healey BJ7 3000. He met his long time friend Mark Baker when Sport and Specialty did some much needed maintenance on the car. Re-bitten by the British Car bug, and deciding it was “now or never” John found a 1960 Bugeye race car and brought it back to racing duty. Next he joined North Suburban Sports Car Club and went to his first driving school in 1998 and received his Novice Competition License. He has held a competition and instructors license for the past 18 years. He also holds a Chief and Operating Steward’s license from Midwestern Council, and serves as the Vintage / Historic Racing Chair and Vintage Motorsport Council delegate. He still owns and runs the Sprite occasionally, but has been mostly campaigning his lovely yellow 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV with MCSCC and the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association (VSCDA) in general vintage races and the B Sedan Trans Am series. After running his Caterham in 2015, John has decided to restore a wrecked Lotus Seven and run it also when completed. The work is currently in process.
After a long and successful career in sales and marketing and general management, John knew it was time to do something he truly loved. After the passing of his friend Mark, the business that he knew so well through his friendship with Mark was in danger of shutting down. The business had a talented and dedicated crew and good business basics in place, so after helping the family operate the business in 2012, he began discussing some purchase options to keep the business alive and growing. At the end of 2012 he purchased the business and hasn’t looked back. He couldn’t be happier, he works with a talented crew, gets to go racing when he can, and has successfully turned his passion into his livelihood! What could be better?
Ken grew up surrounded by British cars. He and his dad would take the family-owned Triumphs to countless car shows and racetracks whenever the opportunity arose.
In 2014 Ken returned to his roots with cars and racing by serving as the Director of Operations for Fall-Line Motorsports in Buffalo Grove, IL for 4 years prior to joining Sport and Specialty in the Fall of 2018 as the Operations Manager.
In between, Ken served 6 years in the Air National Guard at O’Hare Air Reserve Station while attending Southern Illinois University for 4 of those 6 years. Ken earned his A.A.S in Aviation Maintenance Technology, his A&P Aircraft Mechanics License as well as a B.S in Workforce Education & Development.
This led Ken on a 20-year corporate career path with 15 of those years spent working for The Boeing Company in Florida, Alabama and eventually back home to the Chicago area. Ken’s career has spanned various roles including Technical Training, Leadership Development, Workforce Planning and HR Generalist roles.
We excited to have Ken here on the team and look forward to sharing his car passion with our customers.
Body Work and Fabrication
Ryan can look down the fender line of an Austin Healey 3000 and within seconds tell you if it runs too high, too low, or just where it should be. Because Austin Healey’s individually pressed doors were hand-crafted in England, very few of them follow the same exacting lines that Ryan is accustomed to in the Sport and Specialty body shop.
Eyeing up lines like that took years of mentoring from former shop owner Mark Baker who hired Ryan from a Craigslist ad and decided to take a chance on the kid. Now, with eight years and hundreds of hours of fabricating, welding, pounding, and block-sanding behind him, Ryan is responsible for making sure everything comes out of the body shop looking better than they came out of the factory.
Kathy was introduced to Austin Healeys when she met Mark Baker in 1985. They were married in 1987 and moved outside of Rockford, IL in 1990 to a farm with enough space to build a shop to restore antique autos. Mark opened Sport and Specialty, which has won multiple awards for the excellence of its restorations.
When Mark unexpectedly passed away in 2011, Kathy, Steve and long-time friend John Saccameno teamed up to help run the business, which John subsequently purchased in 2012.
Kathy continues to do the general business administration and accounting for Sport and Specialty. She is an important member of the S & S team, making sure the wheels are greased with the outside world, and still gets excited when new projects come in. In addition, Kathy puts her degree in fine arts to use pursuing many photographic and local community art projects and competitions.
Interiors, Electrics, and Detail
For as long as he can remember Bill has been involved in building and restoring classic cars and antique airplanes. Earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Printing & Graphic Communication he worked more than 20 years as a production artist in the printing/Photoshop trade – while building cars and airplanes as a hobby. Bill has completed full restorations on several Pontiac GTOs and Firebirds in the past years. In 2011 he came to Sport and Specialty and specializes in the detail-oriented areas such as paint prep, polishing, wiring, upholstery and assembly.
Body Work and Fabrication
Little did Max know that his first car would lead him to Sport and Specialty. That 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider started his fascination with vintage cars. With a machinist as a dad, he got to see how things were created from scratch. Since then he’s fixing, creating, and now recreating classics. As a tradesman of many tools, Max built two of the last three houses his family has lived in, worked at modern body shops, and has a VW Squareback project in mind for the winter – that is when he and his wife aren’t chasing around their two very active daughters. The family spend much of 2016 traveling 49 states visiting 29 national parks and now they’re happily settled in Beloit.
George Cichon Jr.
George got his first taste of import cars when he was only 16. His father said he’d buy him his first car, but it had to be a project. So, the two of them found a 1969 Opel Cadet Fastback for $50, rebuilt the motor, got it on the road, and George has had his hands on imports ever since. His 38+ year of experience include working as a BMW technician (Master Status,) Field Service Engineer, and as a race shop technician working on competition vehicles and vintage restorations.
Shop Maintenance Apprentice
Cameron joined us part time in 2016 during his summer vacation to help keep the shop tidy and take on some needed shop storage clean up. He then worked through his senior year on his work study program and joined us full time after graduation in 2018. We count on Cameron to keep the shop clean and now is steadily taking on added responsibilities including working on his body and fabrication skills.
Bill Oakes and Mark Atkinson
Bringing Sport and Specialty to life in graphics and digital, Mark Atkinson and Bill Oakes are the creative team that produce what you see on SportAndSpecialty.com, they’re also part of the racing team that Sport and Specialty sponsors. Mark is responsible for the new logo, graphics, and advertising you’ll see around the Internet and in magazine ads. Bill is our content strategist and website manager
Glade Snodgrass - RIP 2019
Mechanical Repair and Maintenance
Since Junior High in Rockford Illinois, when Glade got his hands on his first copy of Sports Car Graphic, he has had an affection for small cars that handled. That first car love was a Triumph Spitfire. While there were Spitfires in his future, his first car was a Renault Dauphine. He will proudly tell you he learned how to slide a sports car with that Dauphine. While he owned more that a few Chevy’s and Jeeps, he realized his dream of a Spitfire in 1973 when he bought a used 1969. He blew up the engine in 1979, and after a trip to Blackhawk Farms Raceway to watch some road racing, he decided to rebuild the car for the track.
Starting out in the small engine repair business in the 70s, Glade eventually built up a small fleet of trucks which he maintained until he sold his business in 2003. Since then he remained a truck mechanic until 2015, when we were lucky enough to him join us here at Sport and Specialty. His affection for sports cars remains. He still races that Spitfire today!
Sport and Specialty was founded by Mark and Kathy Baker in 1991 as a British car restoration and repair business primarily focused on the Austin Healey and Jaguar marques. They left the graphic design industry to pursue a livelihood in maintaining and preserving the cars Mark was so passionate about. The Bakers moved to Durand Illinois from the western Chicago suburbs and began the process of restoring an old farm into their home and place of business. A new Sport and Specialty building was constructed on the farm property behind the barns.
Over the years the entire property was reconstructed and became the Baker family home and work place. The business grew within the new building to take up additional functional space. Mark designed this space to be able to do all mechanical, fabrication, paint, and interior assembly within the four walls over time. In the next twenty years, Mark and his crew maintained countless British and European cars, and performed a wide array of total restorations. Many of them award winning and one of a kind designs.
Mark’s sense of design and mechanical skills allowed him to engineer and innovate modern conveniences such as air conditioning and cruise control, as well as high performance mechanical upgrades using currently available technologies to boost drivability and owner satisfaction. Mark was also a noted expert within the Austin Healey community and became a go to person for many people when simple troubleshooting wasn’t enough.
Sadly, Mark passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at 56-years-old while jogging. In addition to a devastated family, he left a legacy of respect from many grieving industry friends and customers. He also left behind a respected business, a shop full of cars, and an extremely knowledgeable crew in Steve, Ryan, and Bill.
John Saccameno, a long time friend of Mark’s and the Baker family volunteered to help keep the business moving forward as options were considered for what to do with the operation. John worked closely with Kathy Baker and Steve Messer, the senior man in the shop, to re-organize the business without Mark’s presence. John had a significant knowledge of the business, as both a customer and Austin Healey owner. He and Mark had joint projects in process and John knew about many of the projects that were currently in house.
Over the next year, Kathy, Steve and John kept the business alive and on track. Late in 2012, after seeing an opportunity to continue and grow the business with a knowledgeable and energetic staff, John discussed the options to buy Sport and Specialty with the Bakers.
John purchased the business at the end of 2012. Since then, John, along with Steve, Kathy, Ryan, Bill, Glade, and Sally have continued to grow Sport and Specialty in keeping with the manner Mark had founded it. Since 2013 there have been additional investments in tools, parts and technology. Additional marque business has been welcomed and developed, and a solid team of automotive craftsmen has been built.
Sport and Specialty will remain a shop that prides itself on high quality work of all types and looks to build on the success Mark began over 20 years ago. The future continues to remain very bright!
Marque Club and Industry Support
We are dedicated to the support of the collector car hobby and industry. Without the support of the industry, the ongoing enjoyment by enthusiasts of the vintage and historic cars we support would be in jeopardy. In addition, the various marque clubs offer most owners the direction and support to truly enjoy their ownership.
We believe in supporting these clubs and belong to the following:
AHCA – Austin Healey Club of America
JCNA – Jaguar Clubs of North America
AROC – Alfa Romeo Owners Club
BMWCCA – BMW Car Club of America
VSCDA – Vintage Sports Car Driver’s Association
NSSCC – North Suburban Sports Car Club
MCSCC – Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs
VSC – Vintage Sportscar Club
AMA – American Motorcyclists Association
ACM – LeMay-America’s Car Museum
British Car Union
We have been hosting shop tours at Sport and Specialty for years. Sometimes they are simply layovers for long distance driving tours, or a single destination for the morning. We also host annual events for some clubs as a social event.
Our guests have included the Austin Healey Club, The Alfa Romeo Club, MG Club, Sports Car Club of Rockford, Madison Sports Car Club, Jaguar Club of Illinois, and the Kickapoo Joy Ride Tour Group.
Contact us about bringing your group here soon!