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Classic Cars and Street Rods- Articles from The Union

Here you will find articles drawn from nine years I have been writing for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, about local cars.  At times, the names have been changed to a single initial to protect the innocent.  And the guilty.  These articles might be changed periodically so that you won’t be bored.  Unless you don’t like cars, but that condition can be treated by a generous dosage of quality car shows and the purchase of a hot rod or classic car.  Buy two and call me in the morning.  In the mean time, check out www.roaminangels.com for more info on the club.

Running The Great Race in a ‘36 Packard Coupe

'36 Packard 120B Copue Race Car

’36 Packard 120B Coupe Race Car

To some people, “The Great Race” brings to mind the 1965 rather slapstick movie starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood about a race from New York to Paris in the early 1900’s. Others might think of the 1908 New York to Paris Race that the movie was very loosely based upon, including the movie’s winning Leslie Special resembling the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the real race. But to people like Bill and Carolyn Coker, it means the annual race that might go across the U.S., or into Canada or down to Mexico. (more)

Fun, Fun, Fun

Cruising around in a classic car with a classic outfit is the ultimate in “retro.”

Cruising around in a classic car with a classic outfit is the ultimate in “retro.”

Car songs of the 50’s and 60’s often hit a chord in the hearts of certain Roamin Angels.  For some, it’s “Hey, Little Cobra.”  Others like “Little GTO.”  Vette owners love “Shut Down.”  For N, it’s “Fun, Fun, Fun,” a song about a girl with her daddy’s T-Bird.  (more)

 

 

1957 Ford introduced a lower, longer, wider look, with jet-inspired subtle fender fins and large, round taillights.

Flight Line Fairlane

When Roamin Angel L found his ‘57 Ford Fairlane 500 in a field near the airport in 1988, it was not exactly ready to fly down the highway.  In fact, it didn’t even have an engine or trans.  The body was in rough condition and the interior was shot.  L says it was “destined for the junk yard.”  (more)

 

Bird of Paradise

The 1956 T-Bird had similar styling to the 1955, but side vents, wind wings and a continental kit.

It would make a great story to say that K flew over to Hawaii and bought the car of his dreams.  As the old saying goes, close, but no cigar.  After selling his ‘55 T-Bird when he went into the Air Force, K regretted it.  About six years ago, he began to search for a small Bird, mainly on the Internet.  He found one in Kona, Hawaii, the big island. (more)

Bidding on a Buick

This ‘37 Buick, with the highly-desirable sidemounts, proves that looks are deceiving. The chrome wire wheels with radial tires are the only obvious giveaway that it is a “resto-rod.”

It starts when you first raise your hand.  The auctioneer catches your bid and you are committed.  Then someone tops your bid.  Suddenly someone appears at your side, encouraging you to up your bid.  You raise it.  You experience the thrill of competition, even an bit of an adrenalin rush.  Unlike eBay, this is live and intense, even personal if you see your opposition.  For car afficionados, the ultimate experiences, the apex of auto auctions, are run by Barrett-Jackson. (more)

Wax On, Wax Off

A 9″ Ford rear end drives the 17″ Mickey Thompson rear wheels. In front are motorcycle wheels. The color is Sunset Pearl. It is not, S insists, Caltrans Orange.

 

Many of the Roamin Angels are “gearheads,” i.e., the type of guys who can rebuild an engine better than new and enjoy doing it, but not all are.  Some are what S terms “wax on, wax off” people, those whose automotive talents are basically limited to keeping their car shined.  And he calls himself one of those guys.  (More)

 

Dirt Track Speedster

The number “70″ was assigned to the Speedster at its first race and T kept it. The monocle windshield is absolutely worthless, but looks great. T describes driving it as like an early motorcycle: windy, no seat belts, rough riding and a handful to control.

Back in the early days of auto racing, Model T Speedsters were popular in racing.  In thosedays of dirt race tracks, often at fairgrounds, the Model T offered an inexpensive way to get into the sport.  However, Henry Ford never manufactured that body style.  Racers would modify Model T’s by chopping off parts of the body and souping up the engine. (More)

 

 

 

He Could Have a V-8

Although the body was essentially the same from 1965 to 1969, the introduction of the beefier Saginaw trans is what made possible converting to the V-8 that is nestled inside this Corvair. The radiator and shrouding now takes up much of the front trunk.

While some people might be satisfied with the stock flat six engine in their Corvair, John Pritchard was not. He wanted a V-8. Now he’s well on the way to seeing his desire fulfilled. It all started a couple of years ago when he heard of a ‘65 Corvair for sale that included an unused Crown V-8 conversion kit from the ‘60’s. John knew that it wouldn’t work in any Corvair older than 1966, but was willing to buy the car and use it for parts in order to get the ultra-rare kit. (More)

 

Killer Corvair

Don’t let the “110 HP” emblem on the back deck and its quiet, smooth idle fool you. This is a Corvair that earns respect wherever it goes on it’s 15″ Camaro wheels.

About a year ago, John’s ‘66 Corvair was featured in this column as a “work in progress.” Now it is featured as a work completed. And a lot happened in that year. John had already installed a 300 HP 5.3 liter mill from an ‘04 Chevy pickup, using a now-unavailable kit designed to convert the pancake-six rear-engined Corvair into a mid-engine fire-breathing V-8. (More)

 

 

Here Comes Santa Claus, in a ‘51 Ford Woodie!

While Santa may call it red, this Woodie is actually Mexicali Maroon Metallic. It is the first Country Squire and the last actual wood Woodie. Faux panels in plastic or metal came after that.

When Norm and I met with Santa at IHOP on Friday after the Roamin Angels’ breakfast gathering, he was a right jolly old elf.
“Okay, Santa, why are you grinning like the Cheshire cat?” I asked.
He blew on his mug of hot cocoa as the steam encircled his head like a wreath, then gave me a wink.  “Because N just let me take a spin in his ‘51 Ford Country Squire Woodie.  I haven’t driven one of those for over sixty years.  More

 

In His Merry Oldsmobile

Ransom E. Olds started manufacturing cars in 1897, making it the oldest marque in America and one of the three oldest in the world when GM closed the plant down in 2004.

To say that Roamin Angel J’s 1914 Oldsmobile Model 54 seven-passenger touring car is “rare” is like saying the 2011 Corvette ZR-1 is “peppy”: a gross understatement.  As far as he knows, it is the only one left in existence. (more)

 

 

 

Building a ‘33 Ford Coupe Hot Rod

Although Ford’s Model B was made from 1932 to 1934, the ‘33 Ford had a longer wheelbase and dramatic changes to the hood line, with an artistic “shovel” grill. This coupe is a highboy, which means the body sits on top of the frame rather than being “channeled” to drop around the frame.

Why does a guy build a street rod that he knows he can never sell for a real profit?  For Roamin Angel B, it’s the enjoyment of the process itself of building the car.  Plus, he says, “I love just seeing if I can do it (build a rod).”  He’s built twelve street rods since 1972, always selling the one to finance his next one.(more)

 

 

 

Hot Rodding a ‘57 Ford Ranch Wagon- Part One

When working space is tight, it is very important that everything is kept orderly and clean. That’s how T runs his garage. Ford’s two-door Ranch Wagon predated and antedated Chevy’s Nomad, being built from 1952 until 1961.

When working space is tight, it is very important that everything is kept orderly and clean. That’s how T runs his garage. Ford’s two-door Ranch Wagon predated and antedated Chevy’s Nomad, being built from 1952 until 1961.

 

In the early days of hot rodding, guys would build their cars from parts donated by several other cars or fashioned from scratch.  The work was often done in cramped garages with not much room to work and no fancy equipment.  T started out that way and is still following that tradition. (more)

 

 

Hot Rodding a ‘57 Ford Ranch Wagon- Part Deux

One cool Ranch Wagon

One cool Ranch Wagon

One fun part about writing this column is seeing a work-in-progress become a restored classic or street rod.  Since the process can take years, there might be a bit of a wait.  T’s ‘57 Ford Ranch Wagon was featured as a work-in-progress back in December of 2011.  Now it’s here again.  The first time, the photo was of a car that had no front clip, the engine without fenders or grill around it.  The hood was sitting on top of the car.  Such niceties as doors, windshield, wiring, hoses and a radiator had not been installed.  There was still a lot of progress to be made before it cruised down the highway.  (more)

A Model A’s Story

1928 was the first year for the Model A. After the waning of the Model T’s success, Henry Ford produced a car with more a conventional drive train and body styles. Sales skyrocketed, with a million sold by February 1929.

1928 was the first year for the Model A. After the waning of the Model T’s success, Henry Ford produced a car with more a conventional drive train and body styles. Sales skyrocketed, with a million sold by February 1929.

Writing about a car whose owner has no real history with that car can be a challenge.  If that person just went out and bought it, never doing any work on it or even having any work done on it can make a boring story.  But that is just what this story is about.  To make matters worse, I am that owner.  But I have one advantage: the previous owner of my “new” Model A has a great story with the car.  (more)

 

Better-Than-New ‘41 Merc Woodie

1941 was the first year the Mercury built woodies, and only 2,143 of them. With a period-correct Columbia Overdrive, this classic keeps up very well on the highways.

1941 was the first year the Mercury built woodies, and only 2,143 of them. With a period-correct Columbia Overdrive, this classic keeps up very well on the highways.

It’s hard to find fault with W’s ‘41 Mercury woodie.  After all, the paint, wood, interior, engine, etc. are immaculate.  It looks perfect.  However getting the Merc to such a condition was long, hard and costly.
It all started four years ago when W and S were at a show in SoCal with his 40′ Merc convertible and a friend told him about a Merc woodie not too far away he should check out.  So W did just that and liked what he saw.  Although it had been sitting in a barn for thirty years, it had possibilities. The most difficult and expensive part to restore on a woodie is the woodwork.  If the wood is completely rotted away, making a pattern for the pieces is well nigh impossible.  But only two pieces actually needed replacing.  The metal body was rough, but it is much easier to repair or replace those parts than the wood.  It still had the stock flathead V-8 and was basically a complete car, if not exactly in show condition.  So W made the deal and the work began. (more)

Inherited Hupp

This 180 inch long roadster is impressive, with its two-tone paint and white-wall tires. At $795, it was a quite a bargain in 1932, but the Depression had killed car sales. Hupmobile closed in 1940.

This 180 inch long roadster is impressive, with its two-tone paint and white-wall tires. At $795, it was a quite a bargain in 1932, but the Depression had killed car sales. Hupmobile closed in 1940.

When J inherited his ‘32 Hupmobile Model B roadster, he inherited much more than just a car.  W, his father, had loved cars and had a small collection of some very rare ones.  The ‘32 Hupmobile (often just called a Hupp, after the man who founded the company in 1909)  is one of six known roadsters of that year still in existence, (more)

 

T-Bone, the “Bad to the Bone” Model T

Ever hear the song “Bad to the Bone?” That’s T-Bone. Its ‘25 Buick headlights cast a big shadow.

Ever hear the song “Bad to the Bone?” That’s T-Bone. Its ‘25 Buick headlights cast a big shadow.

When you talk to L about the ‘27 Model T two-door sedan hot rod he just finished, he often mentions “designed and built by owner.”  And for good reason.  T-Bone (the name L gave his Model T hot rod) was conceived of and almost entirely built by L himself.  He is a dedicated hot rodder.   Since he retired, L has spent five hours or more almost every day working on whatever has been his current hot rod project.  He says, “Sometimes I want to come in (the shop) after dinner and work until midnight.  And when  L (his wife) is gone, I get to do what I want.”  For the last four years, it has been working on T-Bone. (more)

Driving Miss Sophie

Miss Sophie with her ‘72 Ford Bronco rock-crawler, a classic case of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Miss Sophie with her ‘72 Ford Bronco rock-crawler, a classic case of “Beauty and the Beast.”

As a father-son project, in August of 2005, John Link and son Dustin decided to “build a rig,” a rock-crawler. Dustin chose an early Ford Bronco, no doubt influenced by stories of the one his father had once owned years before. John says he had “no idea what had happened to the value” and was shocked at how expensive they had become. So they settled on a ‘72 Ford Bronco that John said was a “complete rust bucket.” But it was in the right price range and ran well enough to drive on and off the car trailer. Within an hour and a half, John and Dustin had it “stripped down to the frame” and “from that point on, it became a vision.” (more)

Timeless ‘56 Chrysler 300B

1956 was the second year for the 300 series Chrysler, with the first one named the C-300 because of its 300 HP engine and not to be confused with the 1957 Chrysler 300C. This color is Raven Black, with Regimental Red and Cloud White the only other colors offered in 1956, with interiors only in tan leather. Only 1,102 were sold.

1956 was the second year for the 300 series Chrysler, with the first one named the C-300 because of its 300 HP engine and not to be confused with the 1957 Chrysler 300C. This color is Raven Black, with Regimental Red and Cloud White the only other colors offered in 1956, with interiors only in tan leather. Only 1,102 were sold.

For a car to be timeless, it must have a special quality that makes so. It may be its historicity, its body lines, its drive train, the way it feels to drive it or some combination of the four. For Bob Sauder, it’s all of the above for his ‘56 Chrysler 300B. The Chrysler 300-series cars are legends of the mid-Fifties to early-Sixties. Combining luxury and awesome performance, they had the best of both worlds and far outshone their Cadillac and Lincoln competition in the performance end. The 300’s dominated NASCAR in their first years of production, 1955 and 1956. The body of the ‘56 Chrysler had clean lines without the tall tail fins and huge grills that came out the next year and marked American iron in the late Fifties. It has a simple elegance. The drive train is notable in itself. Chrysler’s Hemi engine is the stuff dreams are made of. Automotive dreams, that is. The flow-through hemispherical combustion gave more efficiency to the burn and, therefore, more power. The 1956 dual-carbureted version of the 354 CID engine put out 355 HP, the first production American car to top one horsepower per cubic inch, and a Hemi-equipped Chrysler was officially clocked at 139.40 MPH that year. And the ride and comfort with that speed? “It’s like sitting on your couch,” said Bob. (more)

Second-Time-Around Love Affair with a Swinger

For a Muscle car, performance was premier, but looks mattered. With Hemi Orange paint, Rallye wheels, a flat-black hood and a bumblebee stripe, this Swinger really swings.

For a Muscle car, performance was premier, but looks mattered. With Hemi Orange paint, Rallye wheels, a flat-black hood and a bumblebee stripe, this Swinger really swings.

Back in November of 1968, Jim Marchio had his first love affair with a Swinger. It was a ‘69 Dodge Dart Swinger that he ordered from the factory. “Most of what I wanted was in the Swinger package,” he reminisced. “The only thing I added was a 3.90:1 Sure Grip rearend.” The Dart was the smallest and lightest Dodge. The Swinger 340 package included a 340 CID engine with a 4-speed hooked to a Hurst shifter, heavy-duty suspension and a limited-slip differential. It also had those all-important performance hood and bumblebee stripes around the tail for that cool look. The ads promised “6,000 RPM for under three grand.” It was minimalistic Muscle. (more)

Project Pontiac

The list of who helped on Project Pontiac is far too long to name here, but go to Diane’s website on her car. It could be titled, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

The list of who helped on Project Pontiac is far too long to name here, but go to Diane’s website on her car. It could be titled, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

For lovers of hot rods and collectible cars, every car has a story. Such is the case for 20-year Roamin Angel newsletter editor Diane B’s ‘57 four-door hardtop Pontiac Star Chief. You can see the car up front and personal in the Artisan Faire building at the car show on September 10th and 11th at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. For a detailed description of the restoration, go to http://1957pontiacstarchief.com/pontiac-project-progress/ For the back story, keep reading. (more)

Alexander Rossi and the Roamin Angels

Alexander Rossi stands by his car during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Alexander Rossi stands by his car during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Back in 2008, Roamin Angels scholarship chairman Ron Nevis had a feeling that Alexander would go far in the racing sport. Because of Ron, Alexander received a scholarship for a year to help with his education. Although Alexander received a regular diploma from high school, he was often away and needed extra funding for course work. He attended a Roamin Angel breakfast, describing what it was like to be in racing. With great poise and presence, he gave a short talk and answered questions. Everyone was impressed, but probably no one expected him to be the youngest winner of an Indy 500. Well, except Ron Nevis, who knew a winner when he saw one. (more)

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