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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Article #5: The Old Masterpiece by Greg Sharp | originally published & printed in TRJ #52

 It was a memorable once-in-a-lifetime event. The guest list of nearly 300 included a cross section of hot rod and auto racing history. The names read like a Hall of Fame roster. McEwen, Prudhomme, McCulloch, Beadle, Brizio(s), Ivo, Leong, collectors Tom Malloy and Bruce Meyer, sports car greats Jim Busby and John Morton, and on and on. The occasion was the celebration of Ed Pink’s 80th birthday. The setting was the Galpin Ford Autosports showroom in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. This Taj Mahal of car dealerships houses the specialty arm of the largest volume Ford dealer in the country, plus their own car collection including a huge selection of Roth vehicles. 

Just inside the entry was the centerpiece for the evening. On the sparkling black granite floor was an equally sparkling front engine dragster. “The Old Master” recently restored by Pete Eastwood and debuted at the California Hot Rod Reunion just a few weeks before, shone like a diamond on black velvet. 

Lettered discretely on the cowl of the pink painted beauty was “The Old Master.” The car that helped put Pink and its chassis builder Don Long on the drag racing map, was the perfect symbol for the occasion. Although he was now turning 80, Pink has been known as The Old Master for…

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Article #6: Ride ʼEm, Wreck ʼEm, and Never Check ʼEm by Thom Taylor | originally published & printed in TRJ #17

In June 1979, the deuce coupe that, according to Peter Eastwood, defined his early years was dismantled for the purpose of upgrading the chassis. Because this took place in the parking lot of Pete & Jake’s in Temple City, California—the hub of the San Gabriel Valley’s hot rod activity in the 1970s and ’80s—it became somewhat of an event. When noted artist Robert Williams heard about Eastwood’s upgrade idea, he offered to help with the dismantling and to buy the chassis for his own moribund roadster project. Once food and beverage were added to the festivities, the procession of locals who normally stopped in at Pete & Jake’s found it hard to leave, and the whole scene took on a party atmosphere. 

Why did it become such an event? According to “P-wood’s” longtime friend, Eric Vaughn, his reason for stopping by was to see the car that had been the source of so many memories one last time. He knew it would never be put together again. He was right: A year later, what was left of the three-window was traded and ultimately parted out. 

THOM Why did you disassemble a perfectly good ’32 three-window? 

PETE We were just doing a little destruction. It was…

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Article #7: Just a Memory… by Ken Gross | originally published & printed in TRJ #49

It’s an early fall evening, 53 years ago. I am standing on the sidewalk across from the City Hall in Lynn, Massachusetts. It’s about 8:30 pm, it’s dark, and I’m waiting for my Dad to pick me up from Junior Achievement. I am 15 years old; I can drive, but I don’t have a driver’s license yet. I do have a growing stack of hot rod magazines at home, and I’m already crazy about cars. While not exactly a hotbed of hot rodding, there are plenty of rods and customs north of Boston where I live, and you’re liable to see one when you least expect it.

There is a deep, steelpack-induced blaaaat from twin pipes, I look up, and an honest-to-God chopped ’39 Ford convertible coupe, in faded black primer, with a black canvas padded top, and no running boards, rumbles on by. There are no fender skirts; it’s sporting blackwall tires, and flipper bar caps in front, along with twin spotlights. I quickly take in all the details. The rear license plate is faintly illuminated under a clear Plexiglas cover that’s inset low on the rear deck, below the rumble seat opening. The teardrop taillights wink red in the darkness. Dual exhaust pipes, devoid of extensions, hang down and snarl with a deep, guttural rumble. 

I’ve never seen this car before. Chopped prewar Ford convertibles are rare in the east. I have an impulse to run headlong after it. Instead, I just stand there, mesmerized, until the mystery ’39 is almost out of sight. As its taillights disappear…

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Article #8: THE BERDOO ’32 by Pat Ganahl | originally published & printed in TRJ #52

One of these days I’ll tell you about the box. Bill Burke came into my office at Street Rodder Magazine sometime in late 1976 and plopped it on my desk saying, “Here, you have more interest in this stuff than I do.” It was about 1 ½ feet per side, open on top and, yes, it had purple paint spilled on it. Inside was a large scrapbook, sort of falling apart, with black pages with notes in black pencil dating back to the 1930s. Most of the small photos that had been in it were down in the bottom of the box. But there was a lot of other stuff in there, ranging from cover photos and negs from Throttle magazine, plaques and ribbons from the first SCTA Hot Rod show in 1948, and lots of other photos and negatives of all sizes. 

I had used some of these photos when I did a historical article on Bill in the July ’76 issue of SRM. He had become the Advertising Director of that magazine the month before, the first real full-time one it had. I have to admit I didn’t really know who Bill was, and what he had done until then. But we quickly became friends. He kept a pet tarantula in a fish tank in his office. And he could make the best blown-fuel Hemi sounds of anybody in the hallway. Wapaah! Wapaah! But, as I say, more of this another day. 

The one item from that box that pertains directly to this story— initiated it in fact—was…

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Article #9: The Men and Machines of Valley Custom—Part I by Spencer Murray | originally published & printed in TRJ #43

The two decades following World War II spawned a new type of automotive awareness. It was called customizing – not to be confused with the coach-building of bodies on luxury-car chassis for the rich and famous. Customizing implied visual changes to a plain-vanilla car to set it apart from the thousands of same-make look-alikes. It was (and still is) largely an ego thing; a method of self expression. Things were simpler in those immediate post-war years. New cars were at last available and used cars from the’ 30s and early ‘40s were plentiful and cheap. Returning GIs came home with spare bucks in their jeans and after the hellish war they weren’t ready to settle down to a job or begin a family. Since many had paused in Southern California going to and from the Pacific they had been exposed — if only subliminally — to the West Coast car scene and they took the phenomenon home. Roads not pot-holed by winter weather, year-round top-down motoring and dry lakes which invited full-bore racing, all combined to make the Los Angeles area an automotive “Hey, look at us!” 

 Customizing reaches back to the 1920s and even before. Any bodyman could weld up an unwanted hole but it wasn’t until…

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