The car that started a lifelong admiration of hot rods for Larry Terpstra is this one, cir
Though Street Rodder often hears from hot rodders who were influenced in their youth by something they heard or saw in a magazine or at a show, it’s very rare that the magazine runs across someone who has bothered to not only track down the person responsible for their obsession, but to also find that the influential rodder still owns the very same vehicle from 40 years past!
Such is the case for Larry Terpstra, a Midwest farm kid who witnessed some pretty cool cars racing down the farm roads around his home in Indiana back in the ’60s and ’70s. Now all grown up at the ripe old age of 52, Larry went back to some of his earliest memories to find the spark to light his current hot rodding fixation, and he expressed it in a letter to Street Rodder this way:
“My interest in cars began at the age of 10. It was 1968 and my sister was a carhop at Meyers Drive-In in Northwest Indiana’s Community of DeMotte. It was when our family went to get custard that I noticed all of the hot rods. The fastest car in town belonged to Ronnie Musch. It was a chopped-and-channeled yellow coupe with a small-block Chevy 365hp motor. That car was the coolest thing I had ever seen or heard in my life. It was years ahead of John Milner’s iconic ride in American Graffiti, but it was just as influential to me. The road to the local quarter-mile ran right past my house and when you heard open headers you knew what was coming. As a farm kid this was fun at its best. A few times we even talked our dad into going out to watch the fun. Those memories have been etched in my brain forever.
A ’53 Mercury motor was punched to 276 cubes by Everett Plata and fitted with an Isky Maxi
“After raising our family, my wife, Donna, made the mistake of telling me I needed a hobby. Well that was all it took for the search to begin. Most cars we saw just did not fit the bill, that was until a friend at my daughter’s softball game told me of a 1930 Ford Model A coupe he had seen but didn’t want to buy. The next day I drove to see the car and gave a deposit to hold it until I could pick it up. As I was shaking hands to seal the deal, another gentleman pulled up with the full amount of money. Lucky for me the seller was a man of his word and the car was mine.”
Larry drove the stock Model A the next summer, but the car wouldn’t last long in that condition. Recommended by the father of a fellow worker, Larry soon found Tim O’Connell of O’Connell Specialties. Based in Plainfield, Illinois, O’Connell burst on the scene in 2004 when his shop built the Detroit Autorama’s Don Ridler Memorial Award winner for Al Brockly (a bright red ’37 Willys coupe with a ’41 nose). Local folk had known about O’Connell’s talents before the rest of the country, and Larry waited for a slot in O’Connell’s shop to open up so work could begin.
Larry says he had the exact car in mind when he and Tim started on the project, and he credits Tim with keeping him focused on building a traditional-style hot rod that was both safe and a blast to drive. O’Connell, who opened his shop in 1999, has used Total Cost Involved chassis many times on other cars, and went with their Model A Stage III that included a stainless steel four-bar setup with coilovers on either end of a Ford 9-inch (3.70:1) while a Super Bell 5-inch dropped axle and hairpins went in up front. Steel 15-inch wheels (4.5 and 7 inch) are wrapped in wide white Firestone rubber (5.60 and 8.20) and topped with Spyder caps and trim rings (the rings are found on both the inside and outside of the rims). Brakes are drum in the rear and Wilwood disc up front, and stainless steel brake lines were used throughout.