The Rodder’s Journal #63 has been printed and is mailing to you shortly. The subscriber cover features Lee Pratt’s recently restored Watson-style ’55 Chevy Nomad, which was a show winner and magazine feature car when Lee first completed it in the late-’60s. On the newsstand cover is Bill Grant’s late-’50s/early-’60s-style full-fendered Deuce roadster, fresh from competing for the coveted AMBR award at the 2014 Grand National Roadster Show.
Also in this issue is the Pierson Brothers’ ’36 Ford in baremetal, a profile on renowned bodyman Chuck Porter featuring his restored F-1 shop truck and the Ruddy & Weinstein land speed racer, Gene Cromer’s recently restored “Moonlighter” ’41 Willys Gasser, new art from Steve Stanford, and much more.
Continuing our tradition of capturing new and old rod and custom icons in baremetal, Bill Ganahl paused his restoration of the Pierson Brothers’ famous chopped ’36 Ford three-window so that we could photograph it in our studio. The coupe was immortalized on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in 1948, and it further emphasized that sleek customs weren’t “all show and no go” when it turned 140mph on the dry lakes two years later. In the decades that followed, it bounced from owner to owner, ultimately being updated into a nicely appointed street rod. Then in 2010, it was purchased by New Jersey hot rodder Jim Bobowski who has commissioned its restoration it to its former glory. Pat Ganahl tells the story, and provides insight into the work that’s been completed by his son Bill at his South City Rod & Custom shop.
Bill Grant has been a hot rodder all his life. He cut his teeth on the streets and drag strips of Southern California in the ’50s, and remained an active hot rodder in the decades since. His latest project is a show rod-style ’32 Ford roadster built to compete for the 2014 AMBR. The Brookville-bodied, full-fendered Deuce combines all the classic elements of late-’50s/early-’60s street roadsters, with subtle paint, tons of chrome, a nice rake, and a fully detailed tri-power smallblock Chevy under the hood. Stoker’s Hot Rod Factory completed the car in just over 10 months, working on a budget and shooting for the stars. And while they didn’t take home the big trophy, they walked away with a handful of other awards–and the satisfaction of knowing that an old hot rodder with a pile of vintage equipment and new, traditional-style parts can be a contender for the AMBR.
The Orchid Anachronism
The ’60s marked a new era in custom cars. Dramatic restyling and extensive metalwork were relegated to the history books as mild customs with wildly intricate, colorful paint jobs pioneered by guys like Larry Watson and Dick Jackson took center stage. Lee Pratt was among those swept up in this new wave of customs, and he jumped right in with his paneled, ’Flaked, laced, fogged, and flamed ’55 Chevy Nomad. It earned him a feature in the November ’69 Rod & Custom, along with more than a few awards, and then it was gone. After Lee moved on to other projects, the Nomad was raced, wrecked, and left for dead. After building a string of beautiful mild customs and hot rod projects in the ensuing years, Lee decided to clone his first real show car. But before he could complete the clone, he tracked down the rusted hulk of the original and decided he had to restore it. The car has been the talk of the rod and custom world since it debuted at the 2014 GNRS, and we photographed it alongside the rolling hills and mid-century modern architecture of Austin, Texas.
In the world of custom metalwork, the late Chuck Porter is considered to be one of the most talented in the trade. His personality was larger than life, and vehicles like his ’49 Ford F-1 shop truck and the Ruddy & Weinstein ’27 Ford lakes roadster are legendary. The Porter’s Body Shop truck is one of the most radical pickups from the early custom era. It’s instantly identifiable by its bright yellow paint and radically chopped, sectioned, channeled, and stretched profile. The Ruddy & Weinstein roadster made its mark in land speed racing, turning over 210mph under Ardun power. Both have been meticulously restored by Jim Busby Racing for collector Richard Munz. Their history and that of the man behind them is told by Porter’s personal friend and TRJ Senior Contributor Greg Sharp.
We’ve long been fans of the imaginative, colorful hot rod and custom car illustrations of artist Steve Stanford. For our latest installment, we asked Steve for his take on the artwork of Fitz and Van, the team known for their advertising art of the ’50s and ’60s–and most notably Pontiac’s “Wide Track” campaign. Stanford’s first person account explains his connection to their work and that of the so-called “Mad Men” era of automotive advertising art. And the illustrations we showcase strike a similar chord, based on ’50s and ’60s models set among palm trees, lakes, and cruising hot spots like Harvey’s Broiler.
The Cromer Chronicles
The Gasser Wars were fought on drag strips in every corner of the United States throughout the ’60s. One of the major players on the southern front was Gene Cromer’s “Moonlighter” ’41 Willys Coupe, which ran under big block Ford power in and around his native Anderson, South Carolina. Among the throngs of racing fans who watched the Nassau Blue Willys smoke the tires and lift the wheels in those early days was Quain Stott, who went on to become a talented fabricator and Pro Mod champion. A chance meeting between the two led Quain to discover that Gene still had the old warhorse disassembled and tucked away in his garage. Over the next year, Quain carefully restored the Willys, incorporating (and concealing) the necessary equipment to make it race-ready on today’s nostalgia drag racing circuit. We explore the Moonlighter’s history through vintage photography of Gene, his family, and their days at the track, alongside photos of the restored Willys at Greer Dragstrip, its old stomping grounds in Greer, South Carolina.
Tom Prufer: Lone Wolf
The subtitle of our feature on hot rodder Tom Prufer says it all: “The Inimitable, Indefatigable, 100-Proof Hot Rodder.” Tom’s been involved with hot rodding and drag racing virtually his entire life. TRJ #63 features the first in a two-part story on his exploits, penned by his friend and hot rodding cohort, Pat Ganahl. Part one focuses on Prufer’s prolific rod building career, from his early coupes and roadsters to his well-known hot rods like the “Cop Shop Coupe” ’33 Ford three-window. His tales from the road are often hilarious and always interesting, and many of them are told first person by Tom himself. And they all provide context for his participation in the nostalgia drag racing scene, which we’ll delve into in part two.
Surf, Sand & Speed
The summer of 2013 saw hot rod beach racing on the shores of the United States and the United Kingdom. The inaugural Amateur Hot Rod Races on Pendine Sands stormed the beaches of South Wales where Sir Malcolm Campbell and others made land speed racing attempts back in the ’20s. The recent event saw timed trials of over 80 early-style hot rods on the sand, with some pushing past the 100mph-mark with their flathead-powered roadsters and coupes. Back in the United States, the Race of Gentlemen returned to the beaches of New Jersey for a weekend of 1/8th-mile heads-up drags. Vintage motorcycles, hot rods, and even a few customs raced along the surf in a picturesque display of hot rodding culture in action, shown in both black and white and color.