Some folks come into the hot rodding hobby late, finding out about old cars either through friends, family, or sometimes even by accident. Then there are those people where it is no accident. And it might actually be easier to talk about the time in their life when they weren't involved somehow in the hobby because that conversation wouldn't take any time at all.

But a great many people who own, build, or dream of owning or building a hot rod got that fever from their father. In Harold Schrader's case, he got it from his grandfathers (on both sides), his father, brothers, uncles, and cousins, all of whom were once or still are mechanics. Harold's love of things mechanical may have started with him rebuilding engines when he was 13, but it was honed by the time he started drag racing when he was 16.

But as it happens, life sometimes gets in the way of a really good hobby and, by his thirties, Harold had stepped away from cars to concentrate on making a living. But the flame was never completely extinguished and, luckily for him, it was again fanned when he met his soon-to-be wife, Rhea, in 1971. Now living in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, the pair not only found a collaborator in each other's life but with the hot rod hobby as well, as she also enjoys going to the drags, riding motorcycles, and working on the cars.

Another such collaboration arose when the couple was told by a friend who buys, restores, and sells antique cars about an estate sale where two '40 Ford trucks, one '40 Ford sedan, and one '35 Ford three-window would be going up for sale. Upon closer inspection, Harold found the '35 to be very solid with very little rust in the bottom of the doors, so he bought it. Now just its third owner, Harold sat on the car for a year before deciding it needed to get the hot rod treatment.

After seeing an article about car designers, the Schraders picked Jason Rushforth in Tacoma, Washington, to do some designs for them. The designs were varied, but Harold and Rhea eventually chose the more radical version and set their mind to building a high-end rod. Rushforth contacted Dave Tucci, of Tucci Hot Rods in Marcy, New York, to see if he'd be interested in talking with the Schraders about building their car, as Tucci had some experience with creating cars that were a little more extreme than your basic hot rod. That, coupled with the fact the shop wasn't too far from where the Schraders lived, got him the job.

Tucci's got the '35 from Harold, disassembled it, and found the only things they were going to reuse on the car were the body and the doors. But shortly after starting the project, Harold and Rhea attended the Detroit Autorama, and decided to compete for the Don Ridler Memorial Award with their coupe-a decision not to be taken lightly because the competition at that level (some say possibly the highest in the country for hot rods) would involve a whole new level of commitment of time and money.

Once the decision was made that the team was aiming at the Ridler, a whole new plan of attack had to be formulated. Cars that compete for the Ridler have to be innovative in order to have any chance at all, so every nut and bolt, every piece of suspension, and every piece of metal had to be looked at as if it would be the one part that would help win (or lose) the award.