Imagine the adrenalin rush generated by the action on the main 'strip in Chula Vista, California, in 1960 as hop-ups hit the street on any given night. This easily influenced plenty of young men and women to get immersed in the fast-growing car culture, thanks to hot rods, customs, and drag racing. For a young Larry Holmes, it was like living a scene right out of the movie American Graffiti as he ran a hot lime green 1955 Chevy with a radical small-block mill on the street, cruising from drive-in to drive-in with his friends looking for possible race action.
Graduating from high school in 1961 he stayed involved in the scene, paying regular visits to the local dragstrips to hone his skills. At the age of 21 he moved to Huntsville, Alabama (later settling in Madison), to work in the rocket propellant industry while stepping up his involvement in drag racing. He got started by building a 1963 Ford Galaxie with a three-deuce topped, 406ci big-block linked to a four-speed, which he campaigned successfully for quite some time. Then the need for more speed called with an injected small-block, Chevy-powered 1948 Ford Anglia Gasser. The car proved extremely high-strung and like all Gassers, was a real handful on the 'strip.
For plenty of hard-core performance, a 1957 Chrysler 392ci Hemi massaged to 399 ci was pac
Larry was well known in his local area not only for his drag racing history, but also for his passion for hot rods, particularly 1932 Fords. His expansive home shop with a full machine shop was the place to be, as he and his friends laid out plans for their next cars to be built. Each friend brought unique skills to the table, allowing them to complete each build in-house. Having already completed a pair of Deuces, like any hot rodder Larry was always on the lookout for his next project. Good friend Donald Conn had acquired a weathered Deuce sedan during a business deal decades ago and it was in storage at his personal shop. Being such close friends, when Larry talked with him about buying it, Don knew Larry would have great plans for it so he gave it to him.
Larry knew that if he was going to put any hardedge horsepower into the mix, the car's spine had better be rock solid. Starting with a set of Deuce 'rails from ASC, they were stretched 3 inches up front, fully boxed, and tied together with custom crossmembers. To plant the power out back a Ford 9-inch rear filled with 3.50:1 gears was suspended in place by a custom triangulated four-link deftly matched to QA1 coilovers. To give the car a nose-in-the-dirt stance, a 4-inch dropped Lucky 7 axle with 1948 Ford spindles mated to Lucky 7 hairpins, transverse leaf spring, QA1 shocks, and antiroll bar get the job done. For plenty of stopping power, fluid pushes through a dual master and steel lines to Wilwood discs and calipers anchored at each corner. Adding just enough drag style to the mix, a pair of 15-inch E-T Gasser wheels up front wearing BFGoodrich Advantage T/As and 16-inch E-T Fueler wheels out back shod with Hoosier skins seal the deal.
The business office is an amazing combination of bomber-style seats and distressed leather
For wicked power a 1957 Chrysler 392ci Hemi was selected. Once torn down it was brought to Dennis Mitchell Racing Engines of Huntsville, Alabama, where they massaged it to 399 ci, gave the heads new life, and ordered all the internal components. Larry then assembled the engine, filling it with a stock crank and rods linked to Keith Black pistons while an Isky cam sets the beat. The knockout punch comes from a Hilborn EFI stack injection that adds both performance and attitude. Sparked to life by MSD it dumps its spent gases through custom owner-fabbed headers. Power moves through a 700-R4 trans by Smith Transmission of Decatur, Alabama, linked to the elephant by an adapter from Hot Heads and driveshaft by Inland Empire Driveline.
To bring the Deuce back to life Larry had to replace the lower 4 inches of the body all the way around to rid it of rust and past abuse. He followed with a classic wedge-chop of 3-1/2 inches up front, tapering to 2-1/2 inches out back. A custom roof insert was then fabbed by Larry and Kerry Pinkerton of Harvest, Alabama. After completing the bodywork and blocking it to perfection, it was handed over to Todd Blicharz who filled his spray gun and laid down a decadent vibe of PPG Nutmeg metallic bringing everything to life.
It was right around this time when Larry suddenly died and Lee Cato (Larry's biological son) took the reigns of the project to see it to completion. Robert Garrison of Madison, Alabama, laid out the interior, covering it in subtle distressed tan leather while also creating the unique wood headliner, and inserts for the bomber-style seats by the Handmade Seat Company. Vitals are monitored through a reworked 1950 Pontiac gauge cluster with steering through a Billet Specialties wheel, shifts by Lokar, and cool breezes through a Vintage Air unit. Wiring by Phil Bailey makes it all work perfectly. Thanks to the collective efforts of many friends, including Bob Smith, Ron Jones, Jerry Johns, Todd Ellen, and Mike Robinson, Larry's Deuce is finally shakin' it on the streets. We think he'd be proud.