Free Features from the Archives

We here at The Rodder’s Journal hope that you and your families are safe, healthy and adjusting to the unusual circumstances of the day. As more people are sheltering in place, we thought we might be able to help cure a little bit of stir-craziness by digging into our archives to bring you some of our favorite feature stories that you can view in their entirety—photos, captions and all—absolutely free.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting all sorts of car features and historical stories to our website. We still think these stories look best on the printed page, and if the issue they originally appeared in is still available, we’ll let you know. But in the meantime we hope they’ll help you pass the time and keep readers’ minds on brighter things—like hot rods!

Though we’re not hosting visitors at our headquarters for the next few weeks, TRJ is still open and available to take your calls, answer your questions and fulfill orders. We’ll kick off our “Free Content Series” with our baremetal feature on the Pierson Brothers’ famed ’36 Ford three-window coupe.

Click on the images to read the full articles.


Article #1: Preservation Project, by Pat Ganahl | originally published & printed in TRJ #63

We usually present baremetal features in The Rodder’s Journal to display a metalman’s talents or a customizer’s tricks—to show the wizardry performed in sheetmetal and lead before it’s all covered in silksmooth, mile-deep paint. That is not the case here and, frankly, the person performing the metalwork on this historic car was concerned that this particular feature might not reflect positively on his metalworking capabilities.

OK. Right here I must do what the big newspapers call “Full Disclosure”: Bill Ganahl, owner and operator of South City Rod & Custom, the shop entrusted with the full, historically accurate restoration of the Bob Pierson ’36 Ford coupe, is my son. I think I can be objective in the following report.

Jim Bobowski, the car’s new owner and rescuer, has given Bill a very strict mandate. In his own words, Jim says, “I’m a stickler for originality. I’m driven by history. I want to be…

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Article #2: Many Happy Returns, by Ken Gross | originally published & printed in TRJ #40

Post-World War II dry lakes pioneers established the definitive hot rod look, and it still holds up. By the late 1940s, the classic ’32 highboy, as evidenced by the roadsters of John Ryan, Bob McGee, Hank Negley, Ray Brown, Ed Stewart and countless others, had become a model for the ages. Devoid of nonessentials like fenders, spare wheel, running boards, bumpers and cowl lights, the result resembled the stripped-for-action racing roadsters that ran at tracks from Elgin, Illinois, to Mines Field, California now the site of Los Angeles International airport. Hundreds, if not thousands, of those ’32 roadsters were built, but they weren’t all equal. Some had the look. Some didn’t. Hot Rod magazine and the “little books” like Rod & CustomCar Craft and Hop Up, while unfailingly West Coast–centric, featured the better-built rods. Living back East, and largely unimpressed with cars featured in Rodding and Re-styling and Car Speed and Style, kids like me devoured those magazine features, cutting out pages and tacking them to our bulletin boards. We planned the car we’d build (when we could afford to), right down to the smallest detail. And we unabashedly copied one another’s good ideas. 

Case in point, and the single biggest influence on my own ’32 roadster, was an elegantly understated Deuce that popped up in the pages of Hop Up magazine in January 1952 and reappeared in a 1953 Fawcett Publications one-shot called Best Hot Rods. In a two-page Hop Up feature simply titled “Morrison’s Roadster,” four basic photos artfully illustrated what seemed to me the quintessential…

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Article #3: All in the Family! by Joe Kress | originally published & printed in TRJ #49

1934 Ford hot rods have a special place in the Forbes family. It’s a connection that goes back to the late-’30s when Ray Forbes’ uncle, at the tender age of 16, bought himself a nice black ’34 Ford three-window coupe for $65, hot rodded it and then raced it on the dry lakes outside Reno, Nevada, where the family has lived for generations. “And I was bound and determined to continue that tradition,” Ray says. A longtime grass-roots hot rodder himself, Ray was finally able to find and build that lakes-inspired ’34 coupe of his own “… just like my uncle and the rest of those guys used to build ’em and race ’em,” he says. Ray’s battleship gray coupe, number 617c, was a labor of love.

Rory Forbes, Ray’s 22-year-old son, is equally enthused. “My passion for hot rods,” he says, “started when I was just a kid. Dad had brought home a Deuce roadster and a road trip in that car to a show down in California is a lasting memory, something I’ll never forget.” By the time he was 17 and a senior in high school he’d already built his own hot rod, a heavily chopped and channeled Model A coupe. The first car he’d ever built, it landed on the cover of Rod & Custom back in 2006. Influenced by his father and the Don Montgomery books laying around the house, “I guess I just got stuck in the 1940s,” he says, and after running across a picture of Roy Seigner’s channeled, lakes-racing ’34 Ford roadster kicking up the dust he knew what his dream hot rod had to be—a traditional roadster just like that one, something that would have been found out at the lakes during the 1948-’49 season. Miraculously, an Internet search netted…

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Article #4: Renaissance Men by Bill Ganahl | originally published & printed in TRJ #37

Lee Pratt and Jimmie Vaughan have been friends for just about a quarter of a century and each has been active in the custom car community for an even longer period of time. When we saw this pair of new mild customs which they had just completed, on display, end to end, at the San Francisco Rod and Custom Show last January, we decided that it would be more than appropriate to photograph them together. Lee’s ’49 Ford Coupe and Jimmie’s ’54 Ford Victoria did indeed look really good together, and for many show attendees conjured up images of just what it may have been like to be part of the very best of the mild custom scene in the mid 1950s.

Both Lee and Jimmie are well known in the custom car and the larger hot rod car community. Each has had multiple cars featured in The Rodder’s Journal as well as a host of other magazines. Lee is perhaps best known for his early Olds-powered gold ’40 Ford coupe and his lace-painted ’58 Impala, while Jimmie’s previous efforts include a lime green Buick Riviera, a wonderful Fleetline Chevy, and his subtly chopped ’61 Cadillac.

Their friendship and creative endeavors, however, go much deeper than just custom cars. The truth is that if they are not doing something reasonably creative in nature they probably aren’t doing much of anything at all. Lee makes his living as a sculptor, working mainly in wire and plastics, and states that “my work is mainly about…

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