All of the drivetrain’s components were deburred before being either polished or painted, and hundreds of hours went into creating the stainless steel exhaust system, which included sanding and polishing the car’s Fenton headers (with internal ceramic coating). CAL also made all the fasteners on the car, and polished each of them in-house.

Someone once said that reshaping a ’40 Ford coupe was like breaking an egg and then putting all the pieces back together. It’s not an easy task to get right, but Leach figured it out with this one. Overall, the body was wedge-sectioned 1 inch up front and 0 inch in the rear. The angle produced by the wedge was carried over to the chop (about 3/8 below the A-post, 5/16 through the B-post, and none out back).

New doors were built from scratch, as were the driprails. All of the car’s glass was made to fit flush, too, and every gap tightened up. CAL also created a new grille out of 10-gauge steel plate, with each piece cut, sanded, and then welded in place. With the grille’s shape dialed in, then a new hood was built over a wooden buck that CAL made and new flush-fit headlight rings were machined by TJ Zessin.

Finishing up the body, new rocker panels were made to fill the gap between the running boards and the body, and flush-fit taillights incorporate the car’s checkered flag logo using a Bob Thrash design. The taillight housings are unique, too, in that they were made after the mounting area on the fender was first scanned in 3-D. Mark Bowler at Phantom Products then used the file to machine the housings for a perfect fit, then printed the lenses in a 3-D printer.

TJ Zessin’s fabrication skills were again tapped, this time to create the car’s side trim. There is a fair amount of chrome on the car, too, which was all handled by AIH Chrome in Debuque, Iowa.

The body and paintwork was done by Charley Hutton and his crew in Nampa, Idaho, who came up with the color after staring at a Christmas ornament (never bother a painter when he’s in a trance!). The eventual color mix, named Checkered Red, was sprayed by Hutton with PPG Envirobase waterborne materials. Once the color was down, Doug Batchelor came in and striped multiple areas on the car, which included the underside of the body.

The interior to the Checkered Past ’40 is perfect combination of old and new. Joel Mattix of Boss Interiors stitched and covered the panels CAL Automotive Creations had made using smooth saddle and pebbled brown leather in a two-tone design. CAL also made the dash (replicating the look of a ’40 dash) and filled the area in front of the TJ Zessin–milled steering wheel with a gauge cluster made at Classic Instruments. Behind the flip-down speaker grille is a Kenwood touch-screen head unit that not only controls the stereo, but the headlights, parking lights, and GPS navigation, too.

As anyone who has been through the Ridler award competition will tell you, the usual first response to how they feel about the experience is, “It is just an honor to be in the Great 8” (referring to the group of eight finalists for the Ridler). Some folks believe they’ll win the Ridler award when they enter their car in the show, but those folks rarely do actually win it. Nearly everyone is surprised when it really happens to them, and it’s become not only a symbol of a great achievement for the car owner but, for the builder, it means thousands of people now know what you’re capable of, and it could quite possibly change that builder’s life.

But in Ron Cizek’s wildest imagination, he did not ever think he would win the Don Ridler Memorial Award, let alone the Street Rod D’Elegance award (one of the top awards from the Goodguys Association) in Del Mar, California, a few months later.

In order to keep the car nice for a few more shows and to promote CAL Automotive Creations, the ’40 will only see road miles from the back of a trailer but, once that’s done, Ron says he’s going to drive the wheels off of it because it was built to drive, adding, “It will perform as well as a new Mercedes.”

And though he is working with Leach on a Bonneville salt car that should run in 2014, he also says, “The Ridler is off my bucket list for the next couple of years,” but adds “but maybe in 2017?” Leach and Ron are excited about what the future may hold for them and, since they’ve introduced themselves by breaking down the doors and busting into the room, we’ll just have to wait and see what the next car out of the CAL Automotive Creations will be.


Just the Facts

Year: 1940
Make: Ford
Model: Coupe
Owner: Ron Cizek
State: Nebraska