It has been said that the best ideas are those that stand the test of time. Ford Motor Company is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2003 and it's safe to say that Henry Ford's idea was, and still is, one of the best. But, that's the big picture, what about the small picture?
For starters, what are some of your best Ford street rod stories? I will share two of my favorite street rod stories but I would really enjoy it if you would e-mail me your best Ford story. In turn, I will select some and share them with the entire STREET RODDER readership in months to come in our Rodder's Mail column.
One of my stories goes something like this...It was 1980 and the NSRA Southern Nationals were held in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The late-Jim Ewing of Super Bell Axle Company and I thought it was time for another road trip. Our intent was to garner the Long Distance Driving Award, which we did. (Editor's note: Jim and I drove across country together in one, or with both of our street rods, no less than six times. These trips provided me some of my life's best memories as well as reminded me of why street rods are so much fun.)
For the most part, the drive was without incident. It was my turn to drive and at about 3:00 p.m. two of the driver side motor mount bolts sheared and allowed the engine to "settle;" not fall out, but just drop. We were 90 miles outside of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, on the interstate when all of a sudden I could hear the fan hitting the shroud. Being the shrewd mechanically minded rodding editor that I am I knew something was wrong. I pulled the '34 Ford coupe to the side of the road. (Turns out there's some water nearby and today a nuclear powerplant is located just a few miles from where we broke down.)
It was only a matter of minutes before we zeroed in on the problem but with the same lightening quickness we knew there was nothing we could do about it in the proverbial middle of nowhere. Jim hitchhiked into a small town while I stayed with the coupe.
Several hours had passed by when a local farmer with Jim came driving up, you guessed it, in a Ford flatbed truck to give the coupe a tow into town. Town was nothing more than a gas station and grocery store combination. However, we lucked out and the two good ol' boys who ran the establishment jumped right in and drilled out the sheared bolts, tapped the holes, and provided new hardware. (To this day those bolts are still holding that mount in place.)
While these fellows were working on the coupe Jim and I pretty much ate our way up one aisle and down the other. In what seemed like no time we were back on the road. Jim and I, along with the coupe, made it to Ft. Smith just as darkness fell. We considered ourselves pretty lucky that day to have found such good and helpful people that far from home.
Later that summer we drove through the same town to say "hi" as we were on the road again. This time we were on our way to the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Memphis, Tennessee--the last time the Nats were held there.
Probably my all-time greatest Ford street rod story occurred with Jim "Jake" Jacobs and Pete Chapouris, both of Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts fame, and my driving partner Jim Ewing. We wanted to drive to the second St. Paul Nats. Fellow rodder and builder Pete Eastwood (aka P-wood) hitched a ride with Pete Chapouris in his black and flamed '34 Ford coupe (The California Kid) while Jake drove solo in his '34 Ford fenderless coupe. Ewing and I dropped our backsides into the chopped and channeled coupe once more and joined them. It's important for the sake of this story to understand just what a wickedly chopped and channeled hot rod this '34 Ford fenderless coupe was, and still is!
We were driving on the interstate somewhere outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, and before our evening's stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Remember, it was the late-'70s, there wasn't any traffic, and the roads were two lanes in either direction with very wide grassy mediums and shoulders. You get the picture...tall mountains, picturesque scenery, and ideal driving conditions on a near perfect road.
It was after lunch and we were motoring along at a brisk pace with Jake leading the way, followed by Pete and P-wood, and then by Jim and I. Apparently, the only thing keeping this from being a perfect afternoon for Pete was a nap. To help him out, P-wood jumped behind the wheel so that Pete could settle in for some shut-eye. The plan worked well until P-wood himself began to nod off. Mind you, Pete was sound asleep and unaware of P-wood's pending condition.
While all of this was going on we lost sight of Jake, which was a normal occurrence. Ewing and I were following Pete and P-wood and noticed that the Ford coupe was wandering back and forth across both lanes. It wasn't doing it much at first but it started doing it more and more. It was apparent to us that while Pete was taking his nap, P-wood was beginning to take one also. This was a time before cell phones and none of us had CBs. What to do?
Jim's plan was to drive his Ford coupe alongside Pete's coupe and that the two of us would yell as loud as possible in an attempt to wake one of them. As P-wood began to take a wider and wider path it was becoming painfully obvious that the humor of the moment was about to be lost and an impending tragedy was imminent.
For those of you who weren't fortunate enough to know Jim Ewing, let me give you a bit of insight--he wasn't above taking a risk. To him it was a matter of knowing one's limitations while possessing the nerve and confidence to go for it. Jim was the epitome of today's Nike commercial, only decades ahead of his time--Just do it!
Jim's idea was to drive on the center grassy medium while alongside Pete's coupe. In the meantime, I would stick my head out the window--remember the car is radically chopped--and yell, scream, or do whatever to get P-wood's attention. Mind you, we were running 70-plus miles per hour on a very bumpy grass and dirt medium while I was attempting to stick my head out a chopped coupe and to yell at the two of them to wake up.
It was about then that P-wood was beginning to drift onto the grassy medium himself and we shortly found ourselves at a point of diminishing return. As luck would have it Pete awoke and in the panic of the moment and, startled by what was going on, his reflexes caused him to swing his arm and hit P-wood in the chest. He hit P-wood so hard that while it awoke him it damn near broke his ribs. The upside of this was that it caused P-wood to jerk hard on the steering wheel, bringing the coupe back onto the highway much to our delight.
Mind you, while all of this was going on not a single car was on our stretch of road. Oh for the days of traffic-free highways. After the obligatory changing of shorts the four of us had a bit of a laugh and then proceeded to track Jake down. We knew this would be one story that would give him a good chuckle.
Well, we made it the rest of the way to St. Paul without incidents but what about you? If you have a great Ford street rod story, e-mail it to me.