Photograph by Steve Barker
Cookouts and cars go pretty well together, a fact
that hasn’t escaped custom grill maker Steve Barker.
The former kitchen and bath renovator extended
his love of muscle cars beyond souping up ’ 55
Chevys in his spare time. He made BBQ history a
couple of years ago when he tricked out the grill in
his backyard to resemble a hot rod engine, attaching
exhaust pipes to release smoke. Now, he’s moved
on to more pressing matters — a newspaper dispenser that serves steak instead of headlines.
The muscle car grill became such a conversation
piece that Barker decided to build a BBQ business.
Today, his cookers start at $1,300. In addition to
the headers, he also welds diamond-plate shelves
onto homemade stainless steel grill boxes, and uses
Wysco pistons as control knobs. A shifter handle
opens the lid, and each grill is mounted on an engine
stand so that it swivels. Barker even customizes
the grilling surface so racing fans can brand the
name of their favorite engine (a Hemi, say) onto a
The clever grills eventually caught the atten-
tion of a newspaper publisher in North Carolina.
Instead of a hot rod, the client craved a grill made
from an old newspaper box. Barker gutted, sandblasted, and powder coated a dilapidated vending
machine, then installed a burner, an igniter, and a
porcelain-coated grill. He also cut out the back to
fit a propane tank and set the thing on wheels. “It
came out perfectly,” says Barker. “I even cooked
a couple of hot dogs on it before I sent it out, just
to test it.”
But Barker’s pièce de résistance might just be a
BBQ he’s assembling in the form of a baby grand
piano. Five feet wide and 6 feet long, the lid opens
into a dining table. Inside is a storage area, a refrigerator, even an icemaker. When he finishes the
masterpiece, Barker intends to leave his native Ohio
for Florida … where you can grill all year long.
—Megan Mansell Williams
>> Steve Barker’s Grills: musclecarbbqgrills.com