Shooting a pair of '40s-inspired hot rods at an airport that's existed since the beginning of the last century is like a step back in time, to say the least. In fact, following Alex Idzardi's '36 Ford coupe and Kevan Sledge's Deuce roadster as they threaded their way through the historic parts of Riverside, California, I felt like I might have been on my way to the Pasadena Roadster Clubhouse back in the postwar days when hot rods filled the Southern California streets. When a modern day econobox zipped by with a muffler larger in diameter than its engine displaced, I was quickly shocked back into reality. But it's this blast to the past that has motivated guys like Alex and Kevan to not only build cars in a decidedly dated style, but to cater the rest of their lives to this retro lifestyle as well.
Fans of everything Americana of the '40s and '50s, it was Alex, Kevan, and their car club, The Shifters, who helped spearhead the traditional hot rod revival back in the '90s. They've put on a car show in conjunction with the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender that has grown from a meager handful of diehard enthusiasts to one of the largest underground car shows, with upwards of 1,000 cars and 20,000 spectators crowding the parking lot of the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino. The last few years has seen Alex and the club take the reigns of the Primer Palace portion of the Grand National Roadster Show, an area that has become more of a happening than a static car show, with vendors, live entertainment, and their own awards chosen by various car clubs around the country. And with the success of the Primer Palace at the GNRS, the promoters invited the crew to do the same at the Sacramento Autorama. Alex's skills as a show promoter will further be highlighted this year, organizing the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the '49 Mercury.
To say that the pair live, eat, sleep, and breathe hot rods and custom cars would be an understatement. Alex's garage in the historic district of Riverside has seen the likes of his brother Marky's infamous Purple People Eater drag car, a pair of Deuce coupes, a '40s-era Indian motorcycle, and the latest addition, a '36 three-window coupe which was found by a fellow Shifter at a yard sale in Whittier, California. The elderly fellow had a '36 Ford spare tire cover among the usual odds and ends, and when summoned mentioned that he had the rest of the car in the garage. A quick look between the boxes, blankets, and suitcases revealed it to be a three-window coupe and the man was willing to part with it as well for a surly price of $1,500. Needless to say, Alex swooped in on the deal and soon the coupe, for the first time since 1962, was moved from one garage to another, and so began the build that resulted in the suede blue coupe before you.
Kevan's roadster, on the other hand, wasn't quite so simple. About ten years ago, after owning half a dozen vintage cars, he'd decided that what he really wanted was a gennie Deuce roadster, and so the search began. The first item purchased was a Deuce chassis at the LA Roadster Show, and from there he located a body that was in a number of pieces from a buddy up North in Fresno, California. When Kevan started sorting out the pile of parts, however, he soon found out that the "body" actually consisted of a handful of panels, all from separate cars. But hard work and perseverance paid off, and Kevan got his Deuce together and on the road with the help of his fellow club members in time for the Pasadena Roadster Club Reliability Run under its own Flathead Cadillac power.
With the pair's latest hot rods complete, to say that they're already thinking of the next project is an understatement. Alex already has a '32 5-window coupe body with a 6-inch chop and a chassis that he plans to drop a blown Pontiac engine that was one of four in Mickey Thompson's Challenger 1 land speed car that went 406 mph at Bonneville. Ever the promoter, Alex plans on hitting the show circuit in his competition coupe once it's completed. Kevan also has a few projects up his sleeve, including a '40 Merc that should be finished in time for this year's Grand National Roadster Show, as well as wrapping up a few loose ends on his Deuce roadster and his Track T. In the meantime though, between barbecues and bench racing sessions, the pair, along with the rest of the Shifters clan, can be spotted in their latest hot rods tearing up the Southern California asphalt. So if you see a couple of hot rods coming up fast in your rearview, do the club a favor and move over to the right lane and let this blast from the past pass you by.
The '49 Ford Flatty received a 4 1/8-inch stroked Mercury crank and 3 5/16-inch pistons, g
Kevan's hot rod is also Flathead-powered, although not by the common Ford variety; his is