Let’s start with the question most asked at this year’s Grand National Roadster Show about the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster recipient. “What’s with the No. 3?” We asked owner Bill Lindig of Houston the same question. “What’s with the No. 3?” The “Indy Speedster V-8” is a tribute to the great Indy roadsters of the past. Bill noted in his research that the No. 3 came up as the most frequent number on the winning cars. There you have it; one winning tradition begets another.

Hot rods take time—lots of time and this roadster was no different. My first “introduction” to the 2012 AMBR winner dates back almost 15 years when I first saw its highly developed makings at the 1998 Hot Rod and Performance Trade Show held in San Antonio (now in Indianapolis). It was resting within the Ford Racing and Performance booth under the watchful eye of Angelo Gimapatroni, then head of Ford Racing, who introduced us to Jackie Howerton, the owner/builder. The story on the Lindig roadster wouldn’t be complete without brief recollections on Howerton’s background—a hot rodders’ hot rodder, he conceptualized and brought to a “strong” representation the roadster you see.

We asked Howerton about his inspiration for the roadster. “My inspiration (since I had never built a hot rod) was to build a hot rod with a style from my background as a race car driver/fabricator. I wanted to be accepted into the hot rod world and hoped that building this car would do it. I wanted to make the transition from my racing life to my new hot rod life.”

Transition accomplished.

An abbreviated background on Howerton shows us that he’s truly a noteworthy race car driver/builder, having moved up to and competed in the USAC ranks in the early ’70s. Howerton won many races and was the Tulsa Speedway Champion, the Oklahoma City Speedway Champion, Muskogee Nationals Champion, and 5 State Champion during the 1970 season. He also won 60 feature events at Tulsa and Oklahoma City venues. He comes by his talents genetically; his dad, Angelo Howerton, was a driver in the modified and midget ranks and a midget champion during the ’50s.

Moving forward the “roller” found its way to Fred Fleet. Back in 2000 Bill saw the car in its reconstructive stage and knew if the opportunity arose he would “scoop” it up, which he did in 2008. (His decision took less time than it will take you to read this sentence!)

The sometimes prickly relationship then began between Bill and Pete Chapouris. Chapouris, the president of SO-CAL with his “eye” on how a hot rod should look, is never at a loss to express his opinion. (His track record would support his choices.) Bill a self-made and extremely successful businessman is also known for his definitive likes and dislikes. (There’s a great story of the Lindig/Chapouris partnership, which exists to this day, during the roadster build but we will save that for another time!) The strengths of these highly accomplished men (and hot rodders) are undoubtedly the keys behind the roadster’s truly successful outcome.

We asked Bill about his current plans for the roadster and he responded. “Following a few events in SoCal I intend to bring it to our country home in Kerrville, Texas, which is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Fire it up and drive, drive, drive; driving it on the curvy asphalt backroads. This race car–inspired hot rod with its torsion suspension is a fantastic driver. It puts your heart in your throat.”

We agree with Bill as our firsthand account will confirm.

A little over a year ago, before the car was “blown apart” for paint, I had the opportunity to experience what turned out to be a definitive ride. A “tipping point”—here was the makings of a roadster that was to compete for the highest stage honors, a beauty contest, but possessed a pedigree buried deep in the roots of a true performance legacy. With Chapouris at the controls we left the confines of the multibuilding SO-CAL digs. I was about to experience acceleration that would literally take the breath from my lungs. The acceleration of the 450hp Art Chrisman–built 353-inch aluminum small-block Ford fed by the triple play of Holley carbs, fed from the twin 5-gallon aluminum tanks, literally made it difficult to breathe, giving new meaning to “breathtaking acceleration.” In today’s mega-horsepower (dial in the amount you wish) era 450 isn’t the end-all but couple this with a 1,925-pound roadster supported by a weight distribution of 45 percent (front) to 55 percent (rear) spread over a 110-inch wheelbase, along with a low center of gravity, and you have the makings of a retina-detaching hot rod that’s both quick and fast. It handles like a race car and rides like a limo.

The exhaust note resonating from the Howerton-built and titanium ceramic-coated, by Kelli Inman, headers is a canon of sound, a repeating firing order of exhaust notes, that every hot rodder knows, understands, and thoroughly enjoys. It’s truly music to a hot rodder’s ears; listen to the V-8 accelerate through the gears; First leaping toward 40 mph then into Second passing 70 mph and into Third now the speed approaches triple digits and into Fourth and then Fifth. All the while the BorgWarner World Class five-speed never misses a launch through the B&M shifter in companion with the Center Force clutch package supported by an aluminum flywheel. All the while my ample backside was pressed deeper and deeper into the custom-made aluminum bucket seats covered in Ultraleather by Gabe Lopez of Gabe’s Street Rod Custom Interiors. The interior was purposefully stitched in a minimalist design to emulate the race cars of the ’50s and ’60s. A full set of Smith gauges resides within the custom insert that’s placed within the custom dash, again the classic example of less yielding more.

The fun really begins as you approach one of California’s “high-speed” off-ramps; down from Fifth into Fourth a jump in rpm followed by a full-body snap and then grab at your waist from the D&J Safety lapbelts and a quick visit into Third on your way into Second all the time straining against the lapbelt. Nothing short of a race car will allow you to experience the shear excitement of a blast up and down through the gears. With great acceleration comes great braking (it better!) and this hot rod stops on command through the use of a custom-made pedal assembly that operates the Wilwood 7/8-inch master cylinder modulated by the proportioning valve upstream from the Wilwood twin-piston calipers and 12-inch drilled and vented rotors.

Regardless of the direction this hot rod is pointed the quick-release equipped and hand-wrapped steering wheel by Carl Olson and Larry Amboy works to perfection. The unique wrapping was the brainchild of Chapouris as he remembered a ’20s Bentley race car while attending a Goodwood event years back. Having a great idea and implementing it are often two different scenarios but Chapouris enlisted his longtime friend (and neighbor!). Olson knew Amboy, a well-known fishing rig maker. In time Amboy was able to deliver the ideal complement to the interior with its unique and interesting presentation on a steering wheel wrap. The steering wheel rests on top of the custom column, which in turn (pun intended) directs the Halibrand 9:1 Sprint Car steering box yielding highly controlled turns. The roadster handles and rides comfortably thanks to the Howerton-fabricated parallel front torsion bar suspension based on a stainless steel axle, radius rods, tie rod, drag link, Sanders spindles, and the SO-CAL Speed Shop aluminum Speed Shocks. In back the basis for the crossbar rear suspension is a Halibrand quickie (utilizing a Watt’s linkage) running in street trim with 3.78 gears through an open differential, a pair of Strange Engineering 31-spline axles, and revisiting a pair of SO-CAL Speed Shocks, Wilwood twin-piston calipers and 12-inch drilled and vented rotors.

All of this highly proven and track-tested suspension is attached to a titanium ceramic-coated frame made from 1-3/4 x 0.120-inch 4130 chromoly tubing. It was Howerton’s intent to build a sprint car-like chassis with the necessary characteristics to be totally at home on the street. Again, the goal was achieved.

The greatest suspension and the best of intentions all go out the proverbial window if the wheel and tire package doesn’t answer the call to performance and address the desired aesthetics. The roadsters’ heritage is racing bred and to have anything less than original Indy circa-’50s Halibrand magnesium wheels with one-off bronze Rudge-style two blade knockoffs would be remiss. No “miss” here as original polished Halibrand mags are wrapped with Englebert tires, 5x16 fronts and 7x18 rears are spotted at the corners.

The chassis’ sublime shine comes through the ample use of nickel plating out of the tanks of Quaker City Plating, while the highly polished aluminum one-off valve covers and air cleaner arrived from the mill of Clay Cook of C. Cook Enterprises of Erlanger, Kentucky.

Earlier paint was mentioned and it should be noted the color is PPG Mercedes-Benz Iridium Silver sprayed on my Mick Jenkins of SO-CAL Speed Shop with the graphics patiently handled by Dennis Rickleffs; additional paint support came from Juan Carrillo and Paco Castell. The roadster’s skin is adorned via a combination of paint and highly polished aluminum, especially the Jerry Weeks hand-fabricated nose and Howerton grille. Weeks also masterfully applied the power hammer in shaping the bellypan and other sheetmetal. Additionally, master metal shaper Jimmy Kilroy broke out his English wheel and shaped much of the body. Look closely at the interior and you will gaze upon a combination of Weeks and Kilroy’s raw hammered aluminum allowing each of us to see the old-world craftsmanship represented in the metal shaping. The SO-CAL team along with the likes of Mike Curtis, Scott “Dirty” Howard, Monty “Moose” Hutchinson, Richie Norgueria, Ryan Reed, Eric Sandoval, Robin “Silky” Silk, and Eric Vaughn performed artesian levels of fabrication.

A number of handmade items are used in conjunction with hot rod ware ,such as the Dietz headlights on removable stands and custom taillights that convey a sense of ’39 Fords—the quintessential hot rod “teardrop”. Arguably one of America’s iconic hot rods is the Carroll Shelby Cobra, and the pair of external mirrors is genuine Cobra fare.

During the 11th hour the likes of Jon Ciauri, Jimmy “Shine”, Evin and Justin Veazie all from the halls of SO-CAL gathered up their talents and assembled this year’s AMBR winner. Anyone who has been involved in the final assembly of any hot rod knows the pressure is on—on time and no screw ups!

To achieve more sometimes you have to do less. The look is minimalistic but there are literally thousands of finely crafted individual components and it is this “more by less” appearance that gives this year’s AMBR winner a timeless appearance. Many years from now hot rodders will stand and stare as this hot rod that will look as good then as it does now.

I asked Howerton to sum up “his” hot rod’s journey, and this is what he said.

“SO-CAL did a beautiful job, and I’m so glad that Bill allowed the car to be finished first class. I’m really proud to be a part of the AMBR guys and be included in the SO-CAL legacy.”

Transition accomplished.

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