TRJ #81

Now that we’re all set up in our new East Coast office, we’re excited to introduce TRJ #81. This issue marks the start of our 25th anniversary celebration, and it’s loaded with rod and custom features from coast to coast and around the globe. On the newsstand cover, we showcase Bob Gratton’s chopped, blown-Olds-powered Deuce five-window at sunset in Florida. For the subscribers, we have a dynamic studio shot of Detroit designer Larry Erickson’s Model A roadster in baremetal.

Inside, you’ll find a carefully curated mix of the best traditional cars and their fascinating backstories. From a Matranga-style ’40 Buick custom and a ’34 Chevy Gasser to the life and times of Australian artist Jimmy B., this issue covers every end of the spectrum. It spans more than 160 pages and is printed with pride in the U.S.A.

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A Look Inside

Big Time | By Curt Iseli

Veteran drag racer Bobby Hilton is no stranger to early Ford hot rods, and the Deuce five-window he built for Bob Gratton of Homosassa, Florida pushes the envelope like never before. Once an outdated street rod, Bobby and the Hilton Hotrods team rebuilt the coupe from the ground up. With its heavily chopped top, magnesium Halibrands and rowdy S.Co.T.-blown Olds between the rails, it’s unapologetically tough. The best part? It gets driven. Bobby and the coupe made the long haul to the Lonestar Round Up in Texas and the new Congregation show in North Carolina.

Blast from the Past | By Joey Ukrop

Australian artist Jimmy Barter has been on our radar for quite some time now, but we are excited to finally be able to tell his story in the new issue. In “Blast from the Past,” we explore his dry lakes-inspired artwork as well as his expansive vintage photo collection that he has amassed throughout his adult life. As an added bonus, we also share the tale of his recently completed ’25 Chevy that he built in the style of the record-setting Spurgin-Giovanine roadster.

Bonneville Bound | By Curt Iseli

From Billy Gibbons’ “CadZZilla” and Boyd Coddington’s “Aluma Coupe” to new Ford Mustangs, Detroit-based designer Larry Erickson has had his hand in a diverse range of automotive projects throughout his career. For his latest endeavor, he’s putting together a Model A highboy to race at Bonneville. Although it’s traditional on the outside, the roadster is state-of-the-art underneath with a 515-horsepower Buick Stage II V6 and Funny Car-style cage. In “Bonneville Bound,” we include concept sketches, build shots and baremetal studio photography by Ken Stidwill.

A Living Legacy | By Joey Ukrop 

More than half a century ago, Sonny Willett bought a stock ’34 Chevrolet Master and transformed it into a show-winning hot rod. With its nose-up stance and a 2×4-fed 394 Oldsmobile, the black-lacquered sedan was a familiar sight on the streets of Hyattsville, Maryland, as well as at Ram Rods’ D.C. Armory shows. Sonny passed away in 2015, but his neighbor Pat Flaherty has helped preserve the car and bring it back to its ’60s glory.

A Little Off the Top | By Curt Iseli

Pre-war Buicks may be rare, but that didn’t stop Napa, California’s Steve Pierce from turning his ’40 coupe into a tasteful early custom. Inspired by a Janne Kutja illustration from TRJ #45, Steve chopped, shaved and further customized the car in his home garage with the help of friends and family. We photographed the Washington Blue Buick in the heart of Wine Country.

Time Honored Tradition | By Joey Ukrop

As a part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we take a look back at Lon Kenoyer’s 1948 Ford. Originally shot by Steve Coonan at Churchill Downs in 1989, the Missouri-based Business Coupe shows that well-built hot rods never go out of style. In “Time Honored Tradition,” we catch up with Lon and get the full story on the flathead-powered Ford.

Le Specialiste Ford | By Stephan Szantai

In “Le Specialist Ford,” automotive journalist Stephan Szantai shares the saga of a very special 1932 Ford that he imported from France. Dubbed the “Euro Deuce,” the Tudor was manufactured near Paris, used and abused during WWII and hot rodded in the early 2000s. Each and every piece of this original-paint survivor has a story to tell, and Stephan leaves no stone unturned.

Hot Rod Empire | By Matt Stone

It’s hard to overemphasize the impact Robert E. Petersen had on the hot rod and custom car world—and now his story is in print for the first time in the book Hot Rod Empire. Written by Matt Stone and Gigi Carleton, the 208-page hardcover chronicles his rise from a young Army Air Corps photographer to publishing mogul. In this excerpt, we share some of our favorite passages and images from the book, which is available in our TRJ Library here.

Mighty Mallory Returns | By Curt Iseli

In the latest installment of “Parts is Parts,” we get the inside scoop on Mallory Ignitions. Mallory components were used on the Ford assembly line from 1932 until ’48, and they found their way into the winner’s circle everywhere from Pike’s Peak to the Indy 500 numerous times throughout the 20th century. Now owned by Holley, the Mallory brand is returning to its roots with vintage-style distributors, coils and more.