On the last weekend in September some of the finest hot rods, custom cars, and vintage racecars in the country gathered for The Rodder’s Journal Revival in Baltimore, Maryland. We took time Sunday afternoon to recognize a handful of builders and owners with custom-made Revival awards, and we wanted to give you a look at the recipients.
Many of you know Jon Wright for the flawless chrome plating done by his Grafton, Ohio-based company, Jon Wright CustomChrome Plating. Jon is a life-long hardcore hot rodder, so it was fitting that he chose Alex Finigan’s Deuce five-window to receive the Jon Wright CustomChrome Revival Award. Alex’s heavily chopped coupe has all the raw appeal of an old school hot rod, thanks in part to the early Chrysler Hemi lurking under the hood and the beefy Halibrand Champ quickchange hanging out back. But builder Ron Gagnon at New England Rod Shop also incorporated elements that put a subtle contemporary spin on this traditional rod, like the subdued Silver Gray and Antique Bronze powder coating on the mechanical components and the Indy-style wheels, or the FAST EFI conversion on the vintage Hilborn injection system.
Vintage Air proprietor Jack Chisenhall is another rodder known for building and driving some very fast, cool cars. Jack’s choice for the 2013 Vintage Air Revival Award was Lou Calasibetta’s ’57 GMC Suburban Town & Country pickup. The Town & Country was GMC’s version of the Chevy Cameo and with total production at less than 1000, it is indeed a rare piece. Known for his collection of custom Pontiacs, Lou liked the truck because it came from the factory with a Pontiac V8 (they were also available with a GM inline-six). Lou swapped in a ’70 Pontiac 350 and 700 R4 for long-distance cruising. The sleek lines of the fleetside body didn’t need much customizing. Only the center grille emblem was removed and the gas door filled before he coated it in Copper Orange Pearl with cream accents. The interior is covered in matching vinyl and equipped with Vintage Air heat and AC.
The Kontinentals have an appreciation for traditionally styled cars—especially those with history—so it was no surprise when the Kontinentals Club Pick went to Randy Bianchi Jr. and his ’29 Ford roadster. The full-fendered Model A was originally built in Northern California sometime in the mid- to late-’50s, and its got all the markings to prove it: copious chrome plating, salmon-colored paint, and a lowered and raked stance, thanks to a dropped axle and 15-inch chrome reverse wheels with beanie caps and whitewalls. Power comes from a ’41 Merc flathead with Edelbrock heads and a 2×2 Offenhauser intake, and is hooked to a ’36 Ford three-speed with Lincoln-Zephyr gears.
Dan Webb, his family, and their company Webb Automotive Art, need no introduction. Their numerous hot rods and historic re-creations have been on hand for both Revivals, and this year they also created the Revival Craftsman Award. The handmade miniature English wheel trophy was awarded to John Gunsaulis for his ’28 Ford roadster pickup, the “Woodward Roadster.” The largely handmade, painstakingly detailed roadster was constructed around a host of traditional hot rod components like a ’36 Ford flathead, a ’39 toploader, and a Columbia two-speed rearend. The Modified-style body features a unique front end comprised of a ’38 Ford grille with pieces from ’36 and ’38 Ford hood tops. And that’s just the beginning of a long list of equally creative, hand-fabricated components that earned John the well-deserved recognition of the Revival Craftsman Award.
We chose Dave Gray’s ’32 Ford five-window for the 2013 Revival Hot Rod Award because it embodies what The Revival is about: well-built hot rods that are designed to be driven. It’s hard to beat the menacing profile of Dave’s heavily chopped and louvered “Chemical City Coupe.” And with a dual-quad Buick nailhead under the hood and a five-speed hooked to a quickchange rear, it’s got the muscle to back it up. Brownsburg, Indiana’s JoKerr Fabrication built the coupe for the long haul, and Dave didn’t hesitate to jump in the bomber-style seats and drive the coupe a couple thousand miles to Goodguys Speedway Nationals in Indy and then on to the Revival in Baltimore.
The Revival Custom Award was presented to Ron House by veteran customizers Richard Glymph and Lee Pratt. The award-winning mild custom ’50 Merc convertible is a real beauty. Longtime custom car aficionado Ron House, first customized his Merc in the late-’70s. He drove it to the first Merc-Deuce Reunion back in 1979 and has put enough miles on it since then to warrant a makeover in 2011 at the hands of Anthony Bordonaro in Long Island, New York. It’s got all the hallmarks of a tastefully done custom: nosed, decked, lowered, and shaved, with a beautiful coat of British Racing Green. The period touches continue under the hood with a 294-inch flathead equipped with a full-race Isky cam, Edelbrock heads, and three Stromberg 97s. The bows of the top have been chopped to improve the profile, and Ron pilots his custom from behind a ’49 Merc dash and banjo steering wheel.
Randy and Yvonne Davis took home the Revival Competition Car Award for their ’39 Studebaker Gasser, “The Boss.” Originally campaigned by noted engine builder Charlie Garrett in the mid-’60s, the Studebaker was both nicely detailed and very competitive, running in the 11s at nearly 120 mph in B/Gas. The Davis’ worked closely with Charlie and Jon Little Fabrication in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, to accurately restore The Boss to its former glory. The fiberglass front end, aluminum floors and firewall, and hundreds of lightening holes drilled in the heavy Studebaker body show just how far racers went to keep up with the ever-changing face of the Gas classes in the ’60s. Under the hood is a 327 Chevy with Hilborn injection, a Vertex magneto, and era-correct Packard plug wires. Right down to the gold leaf lettering on the car’s flanks, Jon Little and the Davis’ captured every last detail perfectly.
For the second year in a row, well-known customizer Gary Minor has driven vintage iron across the country from his home in San Leandro, California, to Maryland for the Revival. Last year Gary made the trek in his mild custom ’58 Impala. This year he and his wife, Mary, drove the first leg of their tour in a ’62 Pontiac wagon, then picked up his ’49 Ford convertible in Ohio for the rest of the trip. Once the show wrapped, they drove the shoebox 3,000 miles back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Gary has probably put more miles on old cars than any of us, and we greatly appreciate his support of the Revival, and of the hot rodding and customizing hobby in general.
At last year’s Rodder’s Journal Revival, we established the Mid-Atlantic Hot Rod and Custom Heritage Award to acknowledge those who have devoted considerable time, effort, and resources to preserving the region’s rich history in our sport. Last year’s recipient was Maryland rodder Frank Morawski, who has been active in the scene for decades, restoring, showing, and driving historic cars locally and throughout the country. This year’s Heritage Award recognized Charlie Gauthier for his restoration and stewardship of the Bob Bernardon’s ’39 Chevy Gasser, the “Jolly Dolly.”
Bob was well known throughout the Mid-Atlantic, putting many competitors on the trailer with his great looking and fiercely competitive Gasser. He raced it from the late-’50s until 1972, then sold it to his good friend Charlie Gauthier in 1994. Since then Charlie has meticulously restored the Jolly Dolly to its early Hilborn-injected smallblock Chevy version. It’s an important piece of Mid-Atlantic racing history, as evidenced by the number of old racers at the Revival who stopped to check out the old Chevy they lined up against so many years ago. The Heritage Award is well deserved for Charlie’s efforts to keep this drag racing icon in the hot rodding public’s eye.
What we love about the Revival is the relaxed atmosphere of the show, where every car is accessible and everyone is there to enjoy the weekend with like-minded hot rodders. These awards were created with that spirit in mind. Be sure to tune in to our next newsletter (or sign up for it at www.roddersjournal.com if this email was forwarded to you). We were honored to have Rod & Custom magazine editor Rob Fortier attend this year’s Revival, and we’ll be announcing the five winners of the R&C Fab Five Award in our next email.