Breathing new life into an old classic – Classic and high-performance shop now open in Canton

John Holthaus is pictured in front of a 1957 Chevy Nomad dragracer that he recently worked on. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Charlie Warner)

By Charlie Warner

John Holthaus is pictured in front of a 1957 Chevy Nomad dragracer that he recently worked on. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Charlie Warner)

“Naturally aspirated.” Half a century ago, nearly all gas-powered vehicles were naturally aspirated… or had a carburetor. That all began to change in the early 1980s, when fuel injection started becoming more popular.

Fuel injected vehicles don’t need a carburetor. Carburetors, in some aspects, went the way of the dinosaurs. And, with the decline of the carburetor, so too went those mechanics who specialized in making a car with a one barrel, two barrel, four barrel, three deuces (three two-barrel carbs on one engine) or dual quads (two four barrels on one engine) run like a dream.

“There are not many of us left,” said John Holthaus, owner/technician at John’s Autohaus in Canton, Minn. Holthaus recently opened a shop on Highway 52 just west of Canton that specializes in dealing with classic and high performance cars, trucks and motorcycles. 

“Most of the mechanics still working never worked on anything but a fuel-injected motor,” Holthaus said. But most classic and older high-performance cars and trucks still depend on, and utilize, a carburetor. And that’s where Holthaus comes into the picture.

Holthaus grew up north of Decorah and graduated from North Winneshiek High in 1976. From the time he was a youngster (aged 8 or 9) he could be found taking apart lawnmowers and garden tillers to figure out just how they operated. By the time Holthaus was a senior in high school, he had a school picked out. He enrolled in Lincoln Tech in Des Moines where he learned the ins and outs of carburetors, fuel systems, brakes, front end suspensions and transmissions. 

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While attending Lincoln Tech, Holthaus worked at several different full-service gas stations to help pay for his schooling. Once out of school, Holthaus moved to Rochester, Minn., and spent the next two decades working at various garages and auto dealerships as a mechanic. He also worked for a construction company in Byron where he worked on everything from concrete saws to bull dozers.

While sharpening his mechanical skills, Holthaus got acquainted with many racing enthusiasts. He’s worked on stock cars, dragsters, funny cars, mud boggers and racing bikes, as well as many Harley-Davidson motorcycles. 

When asked what were some of the more expensive vehicles he’s worked on, he replied several Lamborghinis, a Bentley Continental with a twin turbo V-12 and a Mercedes-Benz AMG 650 nitrous-powered V-12.

“I can do just about anything that’s mechanical or electrical, but I don’t do body work,” Holthaus noted. He added that what he enjoys most about his work is breathing new life into an old classic. 

John’s Autohaus is located at 400 West Highway 52 in Canton. For more information, contact Holthaus by e-mail at jd58holthaus@gmail.com. 

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