The road to Bonneville is a well-worn path fueled by passion and desire. For over 60 years hot rodders have been making the trek to the Salt Flats not only to race, but to experience the ultimate drive to the Promised Land in their own hot rods. Depending where you start from, it’s a trip that’s not for the faint at heart, as it can be grueling in many respects for both drivers and machines.
Ken Schmidt and Keith Cornell of the Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop in Greenfield Center, New York, know firsthand what it takes to make the sojourn from New York to Bonneville and back on a yearly basis to race their own personal cars. Their road trips, which have become legendary, have attracted followers worldwide and even led independent filmmaker Brian Darwas to create a documentary about the experience. They ride hard doing 500-600 miles a day, while pushing speed limits and the durability of vintage parts through whatever elements they encounter. If something breaks, it gets fixed along the roadside, in parking lots of abandoned gas stations, or wherever need be.
Now imagine taking two freshly completed hot rods and embarking on an initial shakedown on one of these road trips right out of the gate. Dick DeLuna of Woodside, California, and Jorge Zaragoza of El Paso, Texas, recently did just that, but their epic journey actually started years ago on one of their visits to experience Garage Night, in the dead of winter, at the Rolling Bones shop. Walking through the doors where the Book of Gow comes to life, the pair immediately experienced everything their schoolteachers had warned them about regarding the evils of hot rodding. Laid out before them were both completed and in-the-works hot rods, each embodying a truly dramatic post-war style. After studying the cars and speaking with Ken and Keith at length, both Dick and Jorge made the decision to get started on two very unique builds; one from Henry’s original production line and the other from newly struck steel.
A drilled ’48 Ford axle with...
A drilled ’48 Ford axle with ’39 Ford spindles with drilled backing plates on the ’40 Ford brakes are all anchored in place by ’32 Ford split ’bones.
DeLuna’s ’34 Ford five-Window Highboy Coupe
For Dick, growing up in Salinas, California, it was easy to see a path unfolding when he started working and racing at the Salinas Dragstrip in the early ’50s. Subsequent years were dedicated to a tour in the military and the Peace Corps as well as starting a family and business. It wasn’t till the ’80s that his automotive calling came full circle when he began vintage racing at some of the world’s finest courses, including Tour Auto in France, Tour de Espana, and Goodwood. Add in competing regularly in the La Carrera Panamericana alongside great friend Dennis Varni in a ’55 Lincoln Capri and it’s easy to see his dedication to the hobby.
With the decision made to build a downright evil ’34 Ford five-window coupe, a search led Ken and Keith to a fully restored, yet unassembled, bone stocker residing in the basement of a home in nearby Lee Center, New York. The restoration, which had been in the works for 37 years, was about as pristine as you could imagine. Well, there’s nothing like the scent of a grinder and TIG welder to convert a vintage Ford to the dark side, so once a deal was made, the project was trailered back to the Bone’s shop to get sorted. To lay the groundwork for the coupe, a call was placed to American Stamping Corporation for a set of fresh ’34 Ford die-stamped steel framerails.
In back ’48 Ford truck 16x5...
In back ’48 Ford truck 16x5 steelies capped with a set of replacement DeLuxe caps are wrapped with 7.50x16 Coker Classics.
An aggressive stance is complemented...
An aggressive stance is complemented by a Rodsville quick-change rear, louvered roll pan, push bar, and ’39 Chevy taillights. The perfectly patina’d body was treated to fine lines by Larry Hook and just enough PPG Salinas Special Red.
Covered in salt, the Fleming-built...
Covered in salt, the Fleming-built 284ci Ford Flathead had plenty of go thanks to Scat crank and rods, Ross slugs, an Isky stick, and a Vertex mag. Navarro heads, an Offy two-pot, and twin 97s give it hustle.