It’s not every day that a photoshoot for Rod & Custom is what pushes you over the edge into engine building, but that’s exactly what got Mike Herman to begin his journey building V8s. Of course, this photoshoot wasn’t Mike’s first time being around engines, but before that moment, he hadn’t taken time to learn and understand the work.
Mike’s father, Max Sr., started an engine shop back in 1972 doing Model A work. As Mike tells the story, he was just out of college and decided to join his dad at a car show in Scottsdale, AZ where Jim Rizzo of Rod & Custom came through the booth.
“He asked if we wanted to do a Flathead article,” Herman recalls. “My dad said, ‘Sure, we’ll do it.’ He stuffed me in all the pictures. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know how to work a boring bar or anything. The issue took like nine months to come out, and it was like 10 pages in one issue, and then nine pages the next. The phone never stopped ringing, and I just had to learn on the fly. I shadowed my dad to learn all the tech and read whatever I could. I learned how to break everything and fix everything.”
That push into engine building was exactly what Mike needed, who said he might be working a desk job otherwise. Herman soon took what he learned from his dad and started his own shop, H&H Flatheads in La Crescenta, CA in 2003 – March 2023 will be the shop’s 20th anniversary.
At just 44 years old today, Herman has successfully built a name for himself and his shop in the vintage V8 world, focusing on Ford Flatheads, Lincoln Flathead V8s and V12s, Y blocks, Hemis, early Cadillacs, Nailheads, and others.
“I was fortunate enough to enter the industry at the right time, because within two years, I bought Navarro Racing Equipment from Barney Navarro,” Herman says. “That was perfect timing because I was up and coming and he was retiring. Since then, I’ve acquired seven other companies. I have eight vintage speed equipment companies under my H&H Flatheads brand.”
Now, Herman gets to add one more accolade to his shop’s name – Engine Builder’s and Autolite’s 2022 America’s Best Vintage Engine Shop award. H&H Flatheads is a modest shop on the surface – around 3,000 sq.-ft. of space, Kwik-Way boring bars, Sunnen hones, a Hines digital balancer, a Storm Vulcan surfacer, some hot tanks, and tons and tons of old and new engine parts.
Despite not being a fancy, state-of-the-art set up, Mike and his team at H&H have a great thing going. The equipment does exactly what it needs to, his team is experienced and the shop has built thousands of vintage engines for customers everywhere.
“After something like 1,500 Flathead builds, I can confidentially say we know a thing or two about Ford’s finest,” he says. “However, we also rebuild other classic engines, and with a full machine shop, we can pretty much tackle anything.”
Herman also does a nice job of promoting his engine work across social media, and some of that marketing prowess is thanks to Mike getting his degree in business management and marketing.
“Beyond the engines themselves, we also make a bunch of speed equipment for them,” he points out. “I make a couple different kinds of heads, five or six manifolds, a blower kit, and more.”
After 20 years of building vintage Flatheads, you might think Mike would be sick of it, but his passion is as rich as ever, and he says one of his favorite builds is the Ardun.
“I love doing the Arduns, the overhead valve conversions, just because they’re so massive,” Herman says. “I’m doing one right now that’s super, super rare. There’s less than 12 ever made or something like that. This one is for Roy Brizio Street Rods in San Francisco. I’ve been very fortunate through the years. I’ve done motors for Ford. I’ve done them for Chip Foose in his personal car. I’ve done them for Roy Brizio and Boyd Coddington and Wally Parks. I’ve been able to meet a bunch of these super cool, high-profile people. Most of those guys are normal car guys.”
That’s the kind of work that comes with being one of the best at what H&H Flatheads does, and has been doing, for nearly 20 years. The shop can rattle off some high-profile customers and has other industry awards and recognitions to boast about, and we’re proud to add to that list by naming H&H Flatheads our 2022 America’s Best Vintage Engine Shop.
“It means a lot,” Herman says. “I’ve been working towards this for 20 years. It’s quite an honor to be recognized like that – it’s wild. It’s more than I thought would ever happen. I thought I would just have a nice living and make some decent money, but to get recognized like this is pretty crazy. It’s surreal.”
Naturally, Mike isn’t one to rest on his laurels, and the future of the shop is always top of mind. He told us a CNC machine might be the next big purchase to keep the shop at the top of its game.
“We’re always trying to update, but our machines are so set up for these vintage motors that it’s so easy to do as is,” he says. “Eventually, a CNC is the next thing on the horizon to do all my cylinder heads and intake manifolds in-house. I make probably 80 different variations of heads, intakes, main caps and crank pulleys. A CNC would help.”
Make sure to check out H&H Flatheads online and on social media to see for yourself all the great work this shop does and why this shop is deserving of the America’s Best Vintage Engine Shop award. EB