There are those in our hobby and other car stuff who we know because their persona is, well, large. They are well known because of the list of their accomplishments, they are well known because of the popularity of their efforts, and, lastly, they are well known because the magazines that cater to our hobby praises them (properly or not).
For starters, I have found more often than not it is the one behind the scenes who is quiet of voice but large in effort and magnanimous of deed who is the one who should be noticed. We all know these guys, some are members of car clubs, some choose not. The fact remains they are hot rodders who make our hobby better by their presence and when their presence is no longer felt then we are truly at a loss. One such hot rodder was Lee Titus.
It was decades ago and I was about to become a member of the L.A. Roadsters. It had been a goal of mine to not only have a highboy roadster (Model A of course!) but to belong to a club that to me was at the core of my chosen hobby; I read about them in magazines and had seen their cars and been to their events. I was fortunate to have the likes of Richard “Magoo” Megugorac guide me through the process that led to me becoming a member of the L.A. Roadsters back in the late ’70s, but there were others: Bob Barnes, Jack Stewart, and Neal East, who helped greatly; although truth be told it was Barnes and Stewart who led me astray (might say willingly) on more than one occasion. (I survived and that’s what counts, and therein is a story for another editorial!) There were many in the club who befriended the kid (as I was the youngest; those days have passed). The likes of current and former members, such as Lee Kasabian, Ron Nelson, Lanny Boeltl, Bill Stecker, Duane Kofoed, Larry Ready, Don Wilson, Dick Scritchfield, Gene Vredenberg, Roger Steiner, Jerry Cogswell, Ray Milazzo, Duane McKinney, Don Thomas, and there were others, truly taught me the ropes. It was an education in the art of becoming a hot rodder and I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.
But there is one who is conspicuous by the absence of his name and that is Lee Titus. Lee came into the club just before me and served on the club board during my tenure as secretary. He was always the quiet one but always put the club first and worked hard, even up until his death. He died of cancer just a month before this year’s 47th Annual L.A. Roadsters Show and Swap, aka the L.A. Roadster Exhibition and Swap Meet.
Often called Father’s Day Show and Swap Meet, it has become a staple in the hot rod hobby, drawing from rodders across the country. Rodders come by plane and by hot rod to be part of this show every year. I am very proud of my pewter mug collection that began in 1979 (1960 was the first pewter mug handed out) and with a few gaps that continues until this day. Lee was one of those behind-the-scenes hot rodders who befriended many a rodder and worked his butt off making sure the show was the best it could be.
Lee was a member since 1978 and his most current ride was his ’32 Ford roadster. (He also owned a ’33 Ford cabriolet, ’37 Cord phaeton, and a ’37 Beverly.) He held during his tenure the offices of president, secretary, treasurer, and show chairman. At the time of Lee’s death he was instrumental in coming up with new items (souvenirs) that could be sold at the show.
His efforts on behalf of the club and the show were visible but it was Lee as a club member who I will miss the most. In recent years, I would pull up to the gate and he would greet me and we would talk about the club, hot rods, and our friends.
It was back in the late ’70s when we were club members that he was a true friend. My roadster was broadsided (with me in it) by a woman eating a hamburger flying through an intersection; it could only happen to me in that fashion. He was one of the first club members to help. That incident pretty much took the juice out of my battery and I never made it back to the club after that. However, it was Lee who was always trying to cheer me up and prompting me to come back. He was a hot rodder’s hot rodder, and for that I am much richer today.
L.A. Roadsters Milestones During Lee’s Tenure
1985: show expands to two-day show
1995: total number of roadsters on display;
750 with 2,200 dash plaques
2000: roadster record of 800 roadsters on display
1977: club’s 20th anniversary
1987: club’s 30th anniversary
1997: club’s 40th anniversary
1998: first-year roadster (car) engraved on the mug
2007: club’s 50th anniversary
2009: 850 roadsters on display