While it may be difficult to believe today, at one time the raw materials for building a rod were not the least bit difficult to find. Immediately before and after WWII, '30s and '40s cars were plentiful, but they were viewed as little more than cheap transportation by most. Consequently, it wasn't unusual for the back row of most car lots to have a number of likely candidates for those looking for raw rodding material. Who knows how many premium examples were found in the back row of the local Chevy dealer's OK Used Cars lot. Unfortunately, those days are long gone.

Another more contemporary method of finding a car to build is by word of mouth. It seems like there's always a fellow enthusiast who knows the whereabouts of every primo piece with rodding potential within a 1,000-mile radius of their garage. These guys are to hot rodding as willow branches are to well drillers: if what you're after is around, they'll find it. You just have to ask the right questions of the right people. Then of course there's the way we found this year's Road Tour car--mostly dumb luck with faint overtones of the first two methods described.

During a casual conversation with southern rod builder supreme, Bobby Alloway, SRM's editor Brian Brennan mentioned we were searching for a nice original car to turn into the Road Tour 2001 rod. Alloway's response was the sound of dual glasspacks to our ears. He knew the whereabouts of just what we were after. Alloway advised that Jerry Brown Chevrolet in Buford, Georgia, had an extremely nice '36 Chevrolet sedan and it was for sale. Granted this low-mile gem wasn't on the back row of the used car lot like in the good ol' days--it had been on display in the showroom for many years. When Gary Brown, owner of the dealership and son of its founder, commissioned Alloway to build a street rod, a $7,500 price tag was hung on the Chevy, no warranty expressed or implied.

The '36 was just as it had been described: a solid original car that was complete. All it needed was updated running gear and refined cosmetics to be transformed into a street rod. And the best part is, this car could be duplicated by just about anyone on a reasonable budget. With nothing trick or high-dollar, the real beauty of building a street rod on such a nice original is that not everything has to be done at once. Unfortunately, that particular scenario was out of the question for us. As this car is going to be driven to all the NSRA events this summer and ultimately given away, the car had to be completed in short order. But for those not working against deadlines, the running gear could be changed; then with the car safe, reliable, and on the road, the other improvements could be made as time and money allowed.

Once the deal was closed and the Chevy was ours, it was loaded on a truck and delivered to Charlotte, North Carolina, home of Brent Vandervort and Fatman Fabrications. Brent's crew removed the original engine, transmission, rearend, and suspension from both ends. Exactly 108 1/2 hours of labor later, the Road Tour Chevy was equipped with an independent front suspension including tubular control arms, new rack-and-pinion steering, and a tilt steering column. A new radiator was in place along with engine and transmission mounts to accept a small-block Chevy V-8 and 700-R4. In the rear Fatman supplied a Granada eight-inch rearend that was attached to new parallel leaves. All proven products that are simple, affordable, and most importantly, work extremely well.

Speaking of products working well, one of the best ways to make sure that happens is to plan ahead. As the professionals at Fatman's tell their customers, planning is the key to success, and the most efficient way to build a car is to have all the components on hand. As Vandervort says, "Changing one component will start a chain reaction of related changes," and that's exactly what happened to us. The only glitch in building this car was of our own doing. The original plan called for a small-block Chevy with a Turbo 350, large cap HEI, block hugger headers, and a mechanical fan. The engine mounts were positioned appropriately for those components. However, what we ended up using was a small-block with a 700-R4, a small cap ignition, a different brand of header, and an electric fan/shroud combo. Now all the parts, what we planned and what we used, are all excellent, but are not necessarily interchangeable. The end result was the last minute changes we made required 10 hours of labor to move the motor/transmission mounts to accommodate them. The moral to the story is. . .plan ahead.

When discussing the construction of street rods, one of the subjects that always comes up is the cost, so here's the bottom line on our Road Tour Chevy. At retail prices the total parts bill to transform the chassis from stock to rod would have come to roughly $3,400. At a shop rate of $40 an hour, labor would have been $4,340. However, Brent points out for a homebuilder the labor involved also equates to ten 10-hour Saturdays. That means with the original price of the car plus the chassis parts, the investment to this point would be $10,900. Not bad for what we'll have. And keep in mind, the Road Tour 2001 Chevy could be yours. That would really make it an OK used car.