You may have heard the old saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” All we can say is, that fella must have had an unhappy childhood. Most of the people we know reflect a more optimistic opposite variation of that saying, “Those who can remember the past are lucky to repeat it.” How else do you explain all the people who build and drive street rods? Obviously, for a lot of us, the past has some appeal.
Count Ron Keilwitz among those lucky ones. He remembers being interested in rods since he was about 14 years old, in the ’50s. Before he owned one of his own, he was helping the older kids on the block work on their cars. By the time he was 18, he had his own ride—a ’35 three-window coupe out of the junkyard with a transplanted Olds under the hood. That car eventually went away. Others followed, but Ron always remembered the Olds-powered coupe and, a few years ago, decided that he wanted to build another one.
The first thing he did was get the word out that he was looking for a ’35 or ’36. Before long, one turned up in Central California, about 250 miles from Ron’s home in Costa Mesa. The owner had purchased it from the original owner, but never drove it—never even registered it. He’d torn it apart and then stopped working on it. It stayed that way for more than 30 years. “When I first saw the car, all the fenders, the hood, and grille were stuffed inside the car,” Ron remembers. “I didn’t know it then, but it was the perfect car for my project.” It wasn’t until he had the body chemically stripped that Ron realized the unbelievably good condition of the body. Three decades in the barn had protected it well. In addition to the car itself, the owner was able to provide Ron with all the original paperwork from when the car was bought new.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do—leave the basic car stock and use an early Olds as the power, like I had done when I was young. I have a great friend in New Zealand, Mike Roberts, who shared my interest in the project. I talked him into coming over to give me a hand with the body. ”
Considering the vast expanses of sheetmetal on a ’36, and the fact that it would be wearing a dark, monochromatic paintjob, the bodywork had to be perfect. You can see for yourself the quality of Roberts’ work. The louvered top was Ron’s idea, and Roberts turned it into reality. “No water will not come into the car,” Ron explains, “since it’s a double-sided piece and completely sealed. Mighty crafty people those New Zealanders!”
The front bumpers are from a ’40 Ford; the rear bumpers are also ’40s but are truck bumpers. A ’40 Ford front guard was cut down and modified to create the bracket for the license plate. Ron removed the original taillights, replacing them with a pair of ’37 Chrysler taillights he found in a Denver junkyard 20 years ago. “I knew I’d find a place for them.”
When it was time for paint, the bare metal coupe went to Ed Duffy at Duffy’s Old Cars in Costa Mesa. In some light, the PPG finish looks black, but it’s not. ’’I couldn’t find a color I really liked, so I had it made to order,” Ron says. “I wanted a really dark blue, almost black. It is about 80 percent the darkest blue toner, 19 percent black, and a few drops of white.”
Contrasting maroon paint shows up on the 15-inch steel wheels. Covering the wheels are small center caps and some custom discs that Ron had specially made in New Zealand. They were designed after the style of Lyon wheel covers, popular back when Ron was driving his ’35. He chose Goodyear radial tires, 205/75R15s and 195/65R15s.