Hammered and channeled by the Gas Axe Garage, the coupe was set on a modified A chassis wi
Decades have rolled on since the dawn of hot rodding with each one being greeted by a distinct and memorable styling change. Early it was the stripped-down coupes and roadsters that evolved into the post-war era’s hard-core engineering. Next was the classic lines updated to include chopped tops, channeled bodies, and slick sprayjobs. No matter what era sparked your magneto, there was always something out there to spin your crank or light up your tires.
Growing up as a teenager in the early ’60s, Dorr Johnson, of Caledonia, Michigan, remembered back to the modest days of hot rodding where, in his eyes, ’60s-era rods ruled the streets and the show circuit. Here was a kid who literally grew up on a used car lot (his dad owned one), having the chance to check out everything from fire-breathing big-inch Detroit street racers to a classic Stutz roadster since there was always a multitude of models on the lot. Coupled with his passion for early Fords, it didn’t take long before he pieced together a ’40 Ford Tudor with a laid-down stance and a stoke Flathead to cruise the circuit on Monroe Avenue in nearby Grand Rapids.
A ’51 Ford dash was chiseled to fit packed with ’53 Buick gauges while a one-off cast alum
The ’60s-era show rods were at their peak at venues like the Civic Center’s Grand Rapids Autorama, which laid the final groundwork consuming Dorr’s senses each time he attended the show. As the years passed there were other hopped-up Fords but they eventually gave way to a number of British sports cars, including a ’60 Austin Healey he heavily campaigned on the SCCA circuit as well as holding a class record in the ECTA.
After retiring, Dorr always felt something was missing from the shop. He never lost his passion for old Fords and began to focus once again on searching for some of Henry’s finest. After locating a ’36 five-window coupe, ’40 coupe, and an A/V-8 coupe, his collection started to ring true to his youth once again, but something was still missing. As a teen he neither had the funds nor time to build a proper ’60s-era show rod and now he had the chance to dial in the dream.
While searching for a shop to take on the build, he stopped by the Gas Axe Garage in Wyoming, Michigan, and met with shop owner Mike Boerema to discuss his ideas. Knowing that Mike was a diehard traditionalist, Dorr presented him with his concept for building a dramatic hot rod encompassing all the classic styling points and vibrancy associated with the era. Immediately the pair became fast friends and with their combined ideas, began to review options for the build. There just so happened to be a stalled ’30 Ford coupe project in the back of the shop that a prior owner needed to bail out of. A deal was made with Dorr taking the keys to the coupe.
Starting with a ’60 Corvette 283ci mill, the Gas Axe Garage tweaked it to 292 ci, thanks t
Without wasting any time, Mike got busy laying out the groundwork for the spine, beginning with a set of Henry’s original A framerails acting as a base. In order to achieve the desired wheelbase (and retain the stock firewall) the ’rails were first stretched 4 inches and then boxed for additional strength. Custom center crossmembers were then fabbed, accented by a striking 14-inch kick in back, adding a taste of evil to the mix. A ’48 Ford rearend packed with 3.78:1 cogs converted to open drive was suspended in place by a pair of modified split Ford ’bones, complemented by a ’40 Ford spring and a pair of NAPA tube shocks. For a period-perfect look, a Super Bell 4-inch dropped and drilled I-beam axle with early Ford spindles was suspended in place by split Ford wishbones combined with a stock A spring and NAPA tube shocks. To bring the beast to a halt when needed, a Tilton master pushes fluid through steel lines to corner-mounted ’40 Ford brakes, each capped with Buick finned aluminum drums. Adding plenty of ’60s-era dazzle to the equation, a set of ’40 Ford steelies were treated to Gold Candy Cosmichrome by Jason Essex at Essex Customz in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 16x4 front and 16x4.5 rear wheels were then capped with a set of big ’n’ little Coker/BFGoodrich bias-ply wide whites to seal the deal.
Dipped in a vat of PPG Vibrance Candy Gold with Pearl Gold by Heavy Metal Custom Paint, th
Wanting to give the car plenty in the go-fast department, Dorr came up with a ’60 Corvette 283ci bent-eight and had Mike work his special voodoo on it till it hit 292 ci. Filled with Sealed Power slugs complemented by a COMP Cams stick, it was topped with a pair of massaged heads. The small-block breathes deep through a classic Edelbrock intake topped with a Vintage Speed adapter crowned by a pair of Holley 94-series carbs. It sparks to life thanks to Mallory and dumps its spent gases through a pair of Rams Horn to custom 2-1/2-inch pipes. Linked to a Pontiac five-speed tranny massaged by Dave Olin at Weller Auto Parts, power gets transferred through a custom driveshaft by D&R Driveline of Jenison, Michigan.
Nothing says show rod like a tuck ’n’ roll white and black interior, especially one with o
In order to add plenty of sex appeal to the body, Mike nailed the look with a graduated chop of 5 inches front to 4-1/2 inches rear to give the coupe the right proportions. He followed with a killer 6-inch channel to firmly establish an in-the-weeds stance. When it came to getting the body razor sharp, Dorr rolled up his sleeves and didn’t stop till it was blocked to perfection. To give the car copious amounts of ’60s show car effervescence, countless color charts were studied till Dorr came up with a winner, thanks to PPG’s Vibrance collection. He had Joe Boerema, at Heavy Metal Custom Paint in Wyoming, Michigan, lay down a lustrous coating of Candy Gold and Gold Pearl vibe, bringing the car to life accented by the fine lines of Mike Contras. Complemented by neat bits, including vintage Guide headlights, ’61 Olds taillights, and an A grille, it’s easy to see that Dorr’s flashback was coming together perfectly.
With the car now in its rolling stage, it was time to focus on the interior. To infuse plenty of personality into the business office, Joe installed a heavily modified ’51 Ford dash filled with ’53 Buick dials linked to custom wiring by Gas Axe Garage. With true on-the-floor seating, thanks to the chop and channel, a pair of custom buckets upholstered in pleated white and black vinyl work perfectly to accent the matching door and kick panels as well as the headliner all by Rex Parson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, giving the car plenty of good looks. The final icing comes via a custom-cast ’40 Ford–style polished aluminum steering wheel linked to a custom aluminum column by Dorr and Kirk Brown of Crafty B of Caledonia, Michigan. Dorr credits all of his great friends and craftsmen for bringing the car to completion. The new coupe definitely pays homage to ’60s-era show rods and their classic use of style and color. Since the car’s debut, it has visited 18 states and continues to wow the crowds whenever it rolls into town, and to us that’s downright bitchin’!
A set of ’40 Ford steelies dipped in Gold Candy Cosmichrome by Jason Essex add plenty of p
Cool bits like a hard-core rake, ’61 Olds taillights, and striping by Mike Contras brings