Remember when everyone was going crazy for lottery tickets a few months ago when the jackpot was over a half-billion dollars? People young and old were discussing what they’d buy with all that money, and hot rodders were no different. After all, they reasoned, a few million dollars could easily go a long way to finishing a couple of the cars stored under the tarp out in the back 40. And it’s an interesting question: What cars would be in your garage when you could conceivably buy any car you wanted?
It’s a question contemplated by Chris Andrews, of Fort Worth, Texas, as he is the curator to a private car collection that would rival any other in the country and contains some of the finest and some of the rarest automobiles in the world. And at 39 years old, Chris is not considered old when it comes to being a hot rod enthusiast, but he probably has his dad, Paul, to blame for that.
Austin Speed Shop created...
Austin Speed Shop created the instant-old interior for Chris’ coupe, using distressed leather and varnished tweed material (like found on vintage Fender guitar amplifiers). The Pierce Arrow gauge panel, which holds six Stewart-Warner gauges, utilizes a red tortoise shell–type panel, which is the same material Fender Musical Instruments uses for their guitar pick guards. Topped with a Juliano’s steering wheel, a Tri-C Engineering adjustable mount and steering column was color-matched to the car’s exterior.
When Paul was in high school he owned a ’56 Chevy coupe, and has always held a fondness for the car. He passed his passion for cars onto his son and, while Chris was still in high school, the pair started on the restoration of a ’56. Soon Chris would have his own car to build and work on: a ’32 Ford pickup. A few years back he started another roadster pickup and got as far as ordering a chassis from SO-CAL for it but, as fate would have it, he came across Bobby Walden at the Walden Speed Shop booth at the Grand National Roadster Show in 2009.
Walden had one of his modified ’32 three-windows on display and Chris was enamored with it. Walden’s coupes start life as unassembled Deuce three-windows from Brookville Roadsters, but as Walden’s assembles them they chop them 4 inches, lay the windshield posts back and, along with some other subtle tricks, effectively make them their own. Chris hit it off with Walden (they’re both from Texas) and he soon ordered a body from Walden’s and had it shipped to his home shop where the work would begin.
Chris had also made inquiries with Steve Moal about one of his ’32 T-Bar chassis—the one with torsion bar suspension, front and rear, though still retaining a traditional appearance with an I-beam axle and hairpins. The performance-minded Moal also included four-corner disc brakes and a Currie 9-inch rear with the base chassis, but Chris also ordered up a 525 steering box along with a triple hanging pedal design from Wilwood. With the basic parts coming together, the car then went to Austin Speed Shop where Bobby “Bleed” Merkt oversaw some of the initial fabrication and construction, which included some of the interior pieces.
But when you’re managing a collection, it means you’re working on several things at once, and Chris was also working with Chip Foose on a redo of a ’90s-era Eldo Rod, which the Andrews family now owns. While at Foose’s shop, Chris spotted a cast-aluminum Indy Speedster radiator (originally designed by Jackie Howerton) that was made by Be Cool and wanted it, too, for his new ride. Chris and Foose worked out a trade for the part, but Chris also wanted his help in reshaping the hood and grille area so it would show the radiator off in its best light, so Foose flew to Fort Worth to work on the car.
The Brookville Roadster’s body was shipped unassembled to Walden Speed Shop, who first chopped it before assembling it. Chris wanted to see Walden’s metalwork and welding seams, so the car was painted and then Foose went back to DA the weld areas to make it appear like it was a fresh chop on an old ’60s-era car.
Foose suggested Chris use Marcel’s Custom Metal to fabricate the aluminum hood and decklid skin, and Foose would add the louvers to both (with the hood louvers being done in a slightly fanned layout). While the car was back in SoCal getting that work done, Chris was gathering parts for the engine and working on a Nailhead engine for another vehicle. Chris told Chuck Vranas that he’d like a Cragar-type blower for the Nailhead, and Vranas mentioned it to Walden, who happened to be tooling up to remake Cragar 4:71 blower parts (including the snout, blower shaft, triple V-belt pulleys, rear cover plate, front triangle plate, and idler arm with tensioner). Walden told Chris he could scratch-build an intake manifold for the Cragar-to-Nailhead setup, and Chris liked the idea. He not only ordered all the blower parts for his Nailhead but, since he already had a Cragar blower intake for a 327, he ordered all the parts for one of those, too, to be used on this coupe project. Chris and John Standifer ended up building the motor, which uses a ’67 Corvette block as its base.
As the ’32 was coming together, Chris found a 1957 Fender guitar amplifier in an antique shop and liked the rough tweed material it was covered in and thought it would look good as part of an overall look he was leaning toward with the coupe. Chris confided to Foose he’d like the car to stay in its all-metal appearance, leaving Walden’s weld marks from the chop throughout, but both Foose and Walden told Chris he was going to hate it, with Walden adding “especially in Texas.” (Foose and Walden had worked together on a couple of projects years ago, starting with George Poteet’s “Snyper” back in 1997.)
In another nod to vintage...
In another nod to vintage musical gear, a Leedy & Ludwig bass drum pedal was fashioned to be the car’s gas pedal.
After the car was fairly complete and ready to be blown apart at Foose’s for final wiring and brake and fuel lines, Chris remained adamant about having no paint on the car. But Foose presented an idea: What if he had it painted in such a way as to make it look like it was a ’60s-era survivor pulled from a barn with the exposed weld marks being a visual reminder of a recent chop? Chris liked the idea and the final piece of the build puzzle was in place.
Foose had Ray Hill, a painter who is renowned for the fantastic distressed paintjobs he creates on 18-wheel semitrucks, fly to Southern California to work on this project. The finished product is so realistic painters who stopped by after the car was done were all asking, “How’d he do that?”. For the new Tremec five-speed trans, Foose first sprayed the case with solvent-based gold paint, added the faux paint cracks and distressed look, then added a goo that he’d made using waterborne paint, pouring it on, wiping it off, and, after reapplying the mess until it looked caked on, coated the trans with a satin clear.
A ’67 327 Corvette block is...
A ’67 327 Corvette block is topped with Dart aluminum heads and a Cragar 4:71 blower (with individual parts cast by Walden’s Speed Shop). The cast aluminum radiator is from Be Cool while the shroud was fabbed by Luc DiCiurcio at Austin Speed Shop. Austin’s Patrick Tilbury created the headers as well as the trick exhaust cutouts in the framerails. The potent V-8 is backed to a Tremec five-speed transmission.
After Foose masked off the welded areas of the body, the car was painted with BASF products, and Foose then went back and feathered in those areas with a DA sander to expose the welds. Another aging trick used by Chris on some of the aluminum pieces, including the hood and decklid, was where he sprayed Easy-Off oven cleaner on them and let it soak in. The result is the cleaner reacts with the aluminum to produce an instant vintage appearance, and the overall distressed look makes it seem like an old hot rodder had started the project decades ago, but never got around to finishing or repainting his ride.
The chrome firewall looks old, too, but that’s because after Greg Cox at Artistic Silver Plating got the nickel plating done, Foose instructed him to only flash chrome the finish, which made it look old and yellow because it was so thinly applied.
A distressed look was employed by Austin Speed Shop when creating the interior, as they used the same tweed material found on the old Fender amplifier. And as for the brand-new leather, the material used on the bench seat (which was built by Craig Willits) looks like it came off an old sofa and the wear marks were scuffed into the leather around the window cranks to make it look they have been there for years. The gauge cluster, wired up by Foose’s Pete Morell, uses a red tortoise shell–like material (made by Fender Musical Instruments for their guitar pick guards), and a vintage Leedy & Ludwig bass drum pedal that Chris had owned forever (and waiting to install in the “right” car), has been configured as the car’s gas pedal.
Bobby Walden, commenting that “it’s usually a disaster” when one car is built at several shops, was surprised how smooth everything went between the principals on the project (Foose, Walden, Moal, Austin Speed Shop) and how they worked together to produce such a stellar result. And for Chris Andrews, who is usually surrounded by vehicles found at the highest end of collectability, having a loud and obnoxious hot rod to tool around town in is sort of like having a group of your biker buddies roll up at a formal wedding—you don’t know what is going to happen, but it’s definitely going to be a night to remember!
Rare Electroline headlights...
Rare Electroline headlights showcase the extreme detail in the distressed painting done over the entire car by Ray Hill and Chip Foose. Wear marks, age cracks, and flattened sheen adds to the look.
Foose designed a set of 15x7...
Foose designed a set of 15x7 and 18x7 knock-off wheels after Andrews told him how much he liked the 18-inchers found on Mickey Thompson’s Challenger streamliner. Machined by Mike Curtis, the wheels were then shot peened and painted to look vintage. Coker rubber (ribbed up front and Indy-type Firestones out back) wraps the rims.
The trick mini air cleaners...
The trick mini air cleaners are one-offs made from billet by Foose, then hand-sanded and coated with Easy-Off oven cleaner to get an old cast aluminum appearance.
Found in an antique store,...
Found in an antique store, this Fender tweed guitar amplifier is reused as a battery box. The varnished tweed material used in the trunk and parts of the interior were stitched up at Austin Speed Shop.