Here's the highboy with one of the better-known Deuce's in the country-the Baskerville roa
It's always fun to get out and drive your hot rod, and when you can't, make sure you know someone who can. Road trips are an especially joyous occasion, and when it is to an event like the NSRA Street Rod Nats in Louisville, Kentucky, well, that's akin to traveling to the Promised Land (with proper apologies to Bonneville and the dry lakes).
My opportunity arose this past summer when I got a call from Steve Coonan of The Rodder's Journal and we began talking about his newly acquired Deuce highboy roadster. Conversations like this eventually lead to, "Well, how does it drive, where have you taken it, and what's next?" Steve answered, "Do you want to drive back to the Nats?" Two weeks before the Nats and I'm changing my plans, 'cause driving always beats flying. What better way to personally celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Deuce than from behind the wheel of a '32 highboy roadster on a road trip to the Nats?
All drives have one thing in common-getting comfortable behind the wheel. Steve Coonan enj
Steve's highboy was originally built by Roy Brizio Street Rods and was featured in the August 2000 issue of Street Rodder. As with any Brizio hot rod, you get in, turn the key, and drive. And such would be the case for our drive to "Loooville"-well, almost.
Plans called for Steve to drop down from the Bay Area to SoCal and pick me up at California Street Rods in Huntington Beach, where we could give the car a once-over. Chuck Lombardo Jr. was on hand to help with the standard checklist: adjust the carburetor, check the fluids, and, with wrench in hand, go about tightening all the visible nuts and bolts. Chuck Sr. eventually showed up, but was more cheerleader and less helper. (Sorry, Senior!) The only real problem was luggage space. Apparently Steve's idea of traveling light is different than mine.
Chuck Lombardo Jr. and Steve go over what might need checking before heading cross-country
Fortunately, Steve began his road tour preparations several weeks earlier at Brizio's shop by implementing a handful of modifications. The most worthwhile alteration was the moving of the gas tank out of the trunk and dropping it between the 'rails, as in stock form. Sid Chavers performed the initial stitchwork and was again called upon to make the current mods. He cut down the roadster seat so we sat "deeper," placing us below the top of the windshield. He also refit the trunk, giving us as much usable space as possible. Having made this drive (my 12th cross-country hot rod trip), I am well aware of trunk space issues and had already UPS'd my Nats clothing and gear. So, there I stood with camera, toothbrush, and a change of underwear in hand, ready for whatever the road would throw at us. Steve looked like he was prepping for an assault on Mt. Everest and would need a Sherpa. He'll learn and future drives will be much less stressful when it comes to packing.
Told you things were cramped. Hiding beneath is a nifty Sid Chavers interior.
I should mention that the most we paid for gas on the trip was $4 a gallon in Desert Center, California. Located on Interstate 10, it's 48 miles west of Blyth, California, a border town leading into Arizona and the turnoff that takes you to another popular site for Californians-Parker, Arizona, some 85 miles to the north. We were running low on gas, opted not to take our chances, and rummaged through our pockets for 20 bucks. (Desert Center is 68 miles east of Palm Springs, California, and is [has been] a last-chance gas-up site since 1921 when Stephen A. Ragsdale founded the town, which the family still owns to this day.)
We stopped by Hot Rods by Dean in Phoenix, Arizona, and spent some time with Dean Livermore. Given the lateness of the day, and Dean looking like he needed some sleep, we made it a short stop. We did check out the latest rides soon to be in the John Mumford stable of hot rods-a pair of '34s, one a five-window and the other a three-window.
"We lost our keys ... we can't close!" (a reference to the fact that the Cafe has been ope
The next day's drive was everything a drive should be-no mechanical woes, no traffic, good weather, and plenty of photo ops ... although we did manage to get a nice big rock chip in the windshield. Since it was on the driver side, I figured it was Steve's responsibility. He told me, "This is the kinda stuff that is covered by the Brizio warranty." Can't wait to hear what Roy has to say about that!
The best photo op of the day occurred some 40 miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was that time of day "shooters" refer to as the "sweet light," just after dusk and before dark. Unfortunately, the dirt road Steve wanted to be on meant crossing from pavement over a curb/driveway segment as yet to be finished. You guessed it; we high-centered the roadster, and we were able to get the car off the cement curb after assembling a makeshift set of ramps. There was no damage to the car, but some header paint was left behind. Again, Steve declared that "the loss of header paint would be covered by the Brizio warranty." At that point, I was becoming more and more fascinated by this Brizio warranty.
Dean Livermore of Hot Rods by Dean welcomed us to his shop, albeit late at night. By his l
We were trying to get as far as Amarillo, but realized the once-impending rain was no longer impending. After driving about 15 miles in zero visibility, we stopped for gas and a motorist heading in the opposite direction told us the rain was coming down harder farther up the road; we were still 50 miles to the next town. Steve mentioned that the Brizio warranty would cover the addition of a windshield wiper upon return to the Bay Area. Showing amazing restraint and a hint of intelligence, we doubled back the 15 miles and spent the night waiting out the storm.
The next day was your basic "cook ham and eggs on the hood" hot as we drove through Texas into Oklahoma. The upside was we did take the time to stop and have dinner with Gary Howard of Customs by Gary Howard out of Austin, Texas, and his band of hot rodders on their way home from the 27th annual KKOA Leadsled Spectacular in Salina, Kansas. (Watch out next month as eagle-eyed senior editor emeritus Jerry Weesner reports on the Leadsled get-together.) This was a memorable weekend for Gary, as he was inducted into the KKOA Hall of Fame and was present with five cars featuring his handiwork. There was Steve Wertheimer's '57 Caddy Coupe de Ville driven by Steve; Mike Young's custom '36 Ford three-window coupe driven by Reggie Hill; another Young car in the '60 Caddy Coupe de Ville driven by Norm Jones; yet another Young car was the '60 Chevy Impala-the event's Bradley Award winner-driven by Christian Moore; and of course the Jimmie Vaughn '54 Ford Victoria driven by Gary himself. (Editor's note: The Mike Young '60 Impala was built back in '95, and to this day is still considered as fine an example of custom work as there is. Kevin Anderson credits this very car for being the impetus for his John Kouw-built Goldtop Riviera.)
We did find the pair of John Mumford '34s, among other projects, in Dean's shop. One is Ar
It was a spectacular sight indeed to come upon these outstanding custom car examples on the interstate. All of the cars (including Steve's Deuce) parked side by side made for an impressive impromptu car show that evening at an Oklahoma City Cracker Barrel restaurant.
The next day was spent working our way toward St. Louis, Missouri, enjoying various degrees of Mother Nature's version of liquid sunshine. We did stop by Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts in Peculiar, Missouri, to visit longtime rodders and principals Jerry and Jason Slover. In the meantime, we were able to drip dry, get a meal, and enjoy a sneak peek at several new products to be introduced at the Nats. There was the P&J's new shock absorber (Aluma I shock), throttle pedal (Ghost, derived from an elite drum pedal originally manufactured by Ghost in the '40s and '50s), and a new standard drop, drilled, and filled beam axle.
Steve may be asleep, but we think he is zeroing in on another Rodder's Journal-style photo
When on-the-road good eats are a must, the Peculiar Drive-In (called PDI by the locals) features a beef tenderloin sandwich worthy of any hot rodder on a long drive. After we indulged ourselves, we went onward to St. Louis, Missouri.
Upon arriving in St. Louis, we stopped at the shop of Jack Stirnemann, who was in the midst of finishing the restoration of the originally owned and built Walker "Mo" Morrison dark maroon 1932 Ford highboy roadster for Pebble Beach. It was originally featured in the January 1952 issue of Hop Up, September 1954 issue of Rod & Custom (then combined with Hop Up), and, later, Best Hot Rods from Fawcett Publications. The car would finish second in the Deuce Finest Nine competition as part of the 75th anniversary of the 1932 Ford. (See next month's coverage of Pebble Beach by Ken Gross for the rest of the story.) If the name Stirnemann sounds familiar, go find the August 2007 issue of SRM and you'll see Jack's nephew Mark Stirnemann's '34 Ford five-window coupe.
While in Oklahoma City, we had the good fortune to have dinner with Gary Howard and his tr
The Deuce highboy roadster had been missing for 50 years until Jack unearthed it. It is powered by a 284ci Flathead with Evans heads, triple manifold, Vertex Magneto, and a Winfield Super 1A cam and Belond Tri-Y headers. It ran 134.50 mph on the lakes in its original form.
After visiting with Jack, it was on to the shop of another local hot rodder, George Lange, to look at some of his late-model hot rods. Afterward, we stopped at the home of Gary Kessler to take a look at his ongoing project-a Deuce highboy roadster. Granted, we have all seen our share of Deuce highboys, but Gary made a splash at the NSRA Nats in Memphis back in '71 with his yellow Deuce highboy roadster, and rodders still talk about that car to this day. While it may be true you can never go home, he is trying to make a close reproduction of the once-famous '32 highboy roadster. This car should be worth the wait.
The Mike Young '60 Chevy Impala, built by Gary Howard, won the Bradley Award at the Leadsl
I can say that the remainder of the drive was everything a roadster ride should be with sunny (and hot) weather, no mechanical woes, plenty of open road, and no traffic to deal with. We did make one last stop before arrival in Louisville to see Matt Held and Bill Tichenor of Holley. We did avail ourselves of the Holley staff expertise and they made one last fine-tune to the carb (you guessed it, a Holley) and then it was off to lunch. Well, what did you expect? After lunch, it was on to Louisville where the chores of cleaning the roadster began. I made myself scarce and told Steve I had another pressing engagement. (See "For Starters" for the rest of this tale.)
Soon after leaving the Nats, it was on to the westward journey to Bonne-ville with the first stop at the Spring-field, Ohio, store of Lobeck's V8 Shop to do some additional fine-tuning. We also paid a visit to Brookville Roadster while we were in Ohio, and another stopover included a visit with Dave Lane of FastLane in Iowa.
As for Bonneville, we will give you a glimpse, but all we can really say is wait until next month when the ol' veteran of the Salt, Frank Oddo, fills us in on this year's excitement. Watch the pages of The Rodder's Journal if you want more on the exploits of Steve and myself as we crisscrossed the country. Should you want to run with Steve and me next summer, let us know-there just might be a second running in the offering. In the meantime, peruse the following pages and you will see what all the excitement was about at the NSRA Nats and why it is always worth the drive.
Another Customs by Howard creation is the Mike Young custom '36 Ford three-window coupe.
Nancy Higgins was filming at the Leadsled Spectacular as well as on the drive with Gary Ho
It's wet, it's cold, and it's only going to get worse! Into every roadster a little rain m
A chance to be with long-time friends Jason Slover (left) and Jerry Slover (far right) of
While visiting Jack Stirnemann, we watched as the restoration of the Walker "Mo" Morrison
Gary Kessler showed us where he was on his latest Deuce roadster; this car will be reminis
Here's a photo you won't see in The Rodder's Journal, but be on the lookout for the result
We stopped by Holley in Bowling Green, KY, and had the pros look over the carburetion adju
The tech center at Holley always has plenty of interesting projects. A combination of ampl
First stop on the ride home was the Lobeck's V8 Shop in Springfield, OH, to make some adju
Any trip to P&J's wouldn't be complete if you didn't take the time to view Jim "Jake" Jaco
A special thanks goes to Bob Klessig from one of those cheese states for acting as ferry m
While at FastLane, Steve took the time to position his highboy among George Poteet's green
The Stirnemann restoration of the Walker "Mo" Morrison maroon Deuce is complete and ready
Every hot rod's badge of courage is the grille with mementos from the road in the form of
The Jimmie Vaughn '54 Ford Victoria is something recent from Customs by Howard.