One's backside gets really sore about four hours into riding around cuttin' a combination
I recently spent some time with Tex Smith, who had received a random phone call from a hot rodder passing through Idaho while we were sittin' down enjoying a Wilcoxson fudge bar (trust me-it isn't considered extreme to drive 200 miles roundtrip to the western entrance of Yellowstone to fill a pair of 48-quart ice chests with these sinfully delicious ice cream bars). He told both of us how Tex's magazine articles got him through high school-not necessarily with good grades, but just how they got him through school, and how the XR-6 was his all-time favorite hot rod.
For starters, it's been a long time since I'd reflected about bein' a youngin' and how I endured my school days and the subsequent passage into the automotive magazine trade. I thought about how I have spent the past 36 years trying to figure out rodders, hot rods, and magazines. Experience has taught me that about the time you think you know it, that's the time you don't!
I'm frequently learning from rodders who e-mail or call in, but when I go back and read Tex's articles from decades past, I realize I still have a lot to learn. He is a respected former staffer for Hot Rod and the contributors' list of magazines he supported is literally the index of automotive titles. He was also the catalyst that brought about many magazines, including STREET RODDER.
Then there are Tex's cars. Suffice it to say all of us are aware of one or more, with the front runner most likely the XR-6-the first of the purpose-/custom-built hot rods. It was an AMBR winner, cover car, and a stimulant for many a young rodder passing time until the school bell sounded.
Nowadays Tex enjoys rodding while propped up behind the wheel of one of his collection of vehicles he has spread around the world (literally!). You can find him driving my old Zipper Lakes Modified around the back roads of Australia, or his Australian '34 Ford roadster pickup around Hawaii, or his compilation highboy roadster (as I call it) in Idaho. But there remains one hot rod that he recently passed on to my care. He tells me if I spend more time on the seat, I will learn more about life, skin cream, and related ointments.
Let me describe my latest ride. It's most definitely a highboy roadster (as that's all I'll drive). It comes replete with bobbed rear fenders and has never seen a top in its life. It has the obligatory bigs 'n' littles wrapped around steelies with farm implement tires, which hide the early-style drum brakes. The traditional pedal operates the drums, but there are also pedals to operate steering brakes (although neither the steering nor the regular brakes work). If you want to stop, you drop the bucket-a bit arcane but effective.
It also features standard hot rod ergonomic fare such as a single metal seat (not unlike a bomber seat, only less comfortable!). It has a limited assortment of gauges, of which I have my doubts of their accuracy, and a top-loader transmission that would be home in any hot rod. Although I am not sure how many slots there are, I have figured out there is a compound low, which hurts your neck when taking off. There is Second, which works perfectly as First-and every other gear, since I have yet to shift beyond that. But there is a nifty spot all the way to the right while in Neutral that allows the Flathead to start.
It is a well-documented fact I have never been a fan of the Flathead-there is a reason why Ford dumped it. However, I am gaining a fondness for the way they look and sound in my advancing years. They are still anemic when it comes to performance, and I have heard all the stories so don't try and tell me that $20,000 for less than 300 horsepower is a good thing. I should point out that my Flathead is a four-banger and it sits between what appears to be a set of boxed 'rails.
Since we are on the subject of framerails, the chassis does have a straight-axle, old-timey drum brakes, a rearend that would make a nodular iron 9-inch blush, and a 22-tooth (bar) grille. And, the piece de resistance is the pseudo-looking Moon tank out front. Come on-this has all the trademarks of a true hot rod!
Of course, when you look for the marque you will not find the venerable Blue Oval, a duck, or some dog, but rather Massey Ferguson. When I find myself unable to get out on the road and drive my A/V8, I can always take the MF out for a spin. Now that I think about it, the MF more closely aligns itself with the way hot rods must have been back in the day. It may not cruise down the highway like my other highboy does, but it can go through five acres of ruts, burrows, and dirt clods like nothing else I have ever owned. Yep, Tex has bequeathed to me a Massey Ferguson farm tractor, circa '53, give or take a few years. It's loaded with real patina (no fauxtina here-this is the real stuff that comes only with years of abuse in a farmer's field). I guess my time has come to learn about tractors (for instance, I am not sure how or when to change the oil), and that's why I have local rodder and tractor expert Colin Radford's phone number-so, Colin, be on the alert since you will probably be seeing me sooner rather than later.