Ronnie Kerr, from Brownsburg, Indiana, Jo's dad, picked him and his mom, Kama, up from the hospital and took them straight to the dragstrip. That was Jo Kerr's first day, and it's been cars and racing ever since. Kama and Ronnie were into cars and had a '27 Chrysler coupe before they ever had Jo. Ronnie was a drag racer and circle track racer while Jo was growing up. Jo was "doomed" and started racing when he was 8 in go-karts and eventually worked his way up to Sprint Cars. After a few years chauffeuring Sprint Cars, Jo decided that he would rather fabricate race cars and hot rods and moved to Indy to run a fabrication shop.
One of the really sweet old-school details is the reversed firewall. The extra clearance a
The spark that lit the desire for Jo to build a hot rod was finding his dad's '27 Chrysler coupe 31 years after his dad parked it in a barn. It was sitting in the same spot after all of those years and had never been touched. Overwhelmed by emotion seeing the car that he had heard about for his entire life, Jo tried to make the '27 his. Long story short, two weeks later that guy decided to build a new car from the body of the '27.
Not getting his dad's old '27 set Jo on a mission to build his own hot rod. He put the word out to his friends and got a good tip on a '30 Model A Ford coupe. It looked pretty good till Jo got the paint off. It had been hit in the rear and needed a lot of work.
Getting all the parts together to build a traditional rod can take a while. Two years went by while Jo and his wife, Connie, were tracking down everything they would need to complete their coupe. During that time, Ryan Schon, Jo's lifelong friend, fixed and fine-tuned all the sheetmetal. Schon always helped Jo during his racing career and did all the painting at Jo's custom bike shop. Schon did everything on the body except the 5-inch top chop, which was handled by the Cincy crew at BSM. Another of Jo's old friends and hot rod buddies, Josh Shaw, handled the graphics and kept Jo on the "right track" during the build.
The frontend features a Model A crossmember and spring, a 4-inch dropped I-beam axle, and
Jo picked up a set of American Stamping '32 Ford framerails and rear crossmember; he pinched and boxed the framerails and crossmembers. Jo really got lucky when it came to finding an engine to power his five-window coupe. His friend Mike Whitney had a Buick 401 Nailhead motor just like the one that Jo's parents had in their '27 Chrysler coupe. Nailhead's are one of the most sought-after traditional rod motors. These early overhead valve V-8s made lots of power for their size and weight. After setting the body down on the frame to mock up the engine mounts, he opted to reverse the firewall to gain as much engine set back as possible. Once they fabbed up the engine and trans mounts Jo gave the engine to his father and friend Scott Wibel for the rebuild.
The '61 Buick 401 Nailhead engine came from the factory with a forged steel crank and rods. Ronnie had Dan Kennedy from Milan, Indiana, bore the block 0.030 inch over, and do the rest of the engine's machine work. Ronnie used Jans 12:1 forged pistons with Hastings rings on the rebuild. The cam is an original hand-engraved custom spec Isky cam; it was ground to work with the 1.875-inch intake and 1.5-inch exhaust valves. The heads are stock with Isky valvesprings and stock rockers. The ports in the heads are small but with the right cam these engines produce huge amounts of torque at low rpm. The Offenhauser dual-quad manifold has a special adaptor that Jo made to mount the WCFB Carter marine, 435-cfm, four-barrel carbs. The carbs were a gift and came from a sunken houseboat. The carb hats and velocity stacks were made by Jo out of 6061-T6 aluminum and finished to look like a casting. The valve covers are stock stamped steel painted with the firing order on them. The Vertex mag on Jo's ride works well with Jo's pedal-to-the-metal driving style. Jo made the mount for the Powermaster PowerGen. The pipes are Speedway cone headers that Jo got at a swap meet and cut up to fit the engine. He welded Schoenfeld Shorty mufflers in the headers. The oil pan was enlarged to hold another quart and the water pump is a Buick heavy-duty A/C model.