Posts Tagged ‘Rat Rod’

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence please, the ’36 Special has left the building.    The car is now, hopefully, at its new home in Alabama, and we have an empty bay in the garage. 

We met the transporter in Richland last Saturday morning, on our way to Nat’s North, and the Fordillac, seen here being driven by the ONLY other person besides myself ever to get behind the wheel, disappeared into the upper deck of the hauler.   Once the deal was done, I only drove the car twice.  Here, and once to the Gilmore Museum, where I photographed it in front of the new Model A museum. 

Enjoy a few pictures of those two last drives as the car fades into memory.  





























So, that’s it.  I feel strangely liberated seeing it gone.  Some things I’ve wanted to have happen with the rest of the collection can finally get done, and that feels good. 

It was a GREAT ride.

Here at Cool McCool’s Garage, our panel of automotive styling experts and Hot Rod Historians sometimes don’t always agree on what’s “Hot”, and what’s “Not”.  This year, our executive committee traveled over 10 miles to attend the NSRA “Nats North”, right here in sunny Kalamazoo, MI.  We didn’t all agree on the cars, but we did agree it was a great weekend, that we got to hang out with some great friends, and that we managed to not spend all our project money on, well, another project.  (Thanks John Hall for letting the CEO off the hook on the Riv’s when the CFO put the brakes on the Riviera project).  Anyway, without further ado, our panel of experts now present, in maybe no particular order, what’s “Hot”, and what’s “Not” in Hot Rodding, 2012…

Hot, hot, hot.  Pagan Gold ’40 Ford Coupe.  And, yes, it’s got a Hemi in it.  From the white firewall, white walls, and just enough “bling” to be period correct, but still a “real” car, this was a standout.

Remember the ’80’s?  Of course you do, how could you forget when you’re reminded of it every time you look at your ’40 Ford Coupe and realize you now can’t afford to paint over that God-awful pastel pink paint job you thought was so cool?  Even if you still sort of liked the grey tweed interior, you know it’ll cost 20 large to undo what you did back then.  Of course, those Jordasche jeans don’t look any  better on you now either… 

There were, of course, even worse examples of this sad, but popular trend, but, this particular car represented the best, and the worst, of hot rodding.  Like a “Project Runway” winner, and loser, all in one.

Smok’n hot.  Traditional, tasteful mild customs, these happen to both be Fords, but they could have as easily been GM or Chrysler examples, we just didn’t see any of them in the hotel parking lot.  The fact that the shoebox belongs to drag legend Dick Lahay makes the one on the right even better.

Elvis and Jerry Lee were right.  Cadillacs are IT.  These two represent two completely different custom themes, but both got our blood boiling.  Although we have to say to the owner of the stunning red ‘vert,  “Close the bloody hood.”  It’s impossible to get the full impact of the car with the hood up.  Of course, we did get to see it with the hood down at the awards ceremony, where it, very deservedly, got a pro’s pick.   They’re both HOT.

Embarrassingly “Not Hot.”  Three old fat guys in lawn chairs could be the new NSRA logo.  WAKE UP!

A Cord 810 Cabriolet and a Packard “Speedster”.  Tell me, at what other show, anywhere, will you see two cars like this parked beside chopped up old Fords?  This is HOT, and it speaks to the creative genius, and diverse interest of car guys, and Hot Rodders, in general.  Steaming, scorching hot, and classy too. 

This is the exact opposite of either of the above photos.  From the sublime to the cheesiest of the cheesy.  This is great example of taking the easy way out, at the last possible second.  The car is actually OK, if you discount the (miles) of wavy, delaminating, stick on wheel lip molding plastered all over the car.  Really?  You couldn’t lay the stuff on straighter than that?  Seriously, didn’t the builder know you can get polished stainless quarter round trim right inside the exhibitors building?  Somebody needs to tell the owner of this (otherwise pretty cool) boat-tail ’36 to stay out of the accessory isle at AutoZone.   Dreadful, and even less hot than frozen dog turds in the back yard in Feb.

How do you like your trucks?  Traditional, of Bobber style?  These two demonstrate that whatever your taste, an eye for style and craftsmanship make either style a lasting statement.  Hot.

We’re not saying 4 door sedans aren’t “Hot”.  What we’re saying is that if you have no taste, and either not enough money to build a nice car, or too much money to throw at a car, the results can be equally, staggeringly awful.  Where to begin?  Square headlights in round fenders, or a chop that leaves the center of the top lower than either end.  20″ wheels and a paint job that says “If a little is good, too much is not enough.”  Not hot.  Either one may have been built as a joke, but we didn’t get it.

At least the “Street Beast” Vicky didn’t have fake bullet holes.  Although we’ve seen plenty that do.  Actually, even though it’s not “hot”, we have to give the builder of the (ahem) ’34 kudos for actually being able to put one of these things together.    The Boyds wheels look strangely “right” on it too.  In a really wrong kind of way…

Yeah, one’s a VW, and the other is a late ’70’s wagon.  These both show that NSRA is “Hot”, and that the leadership of the group has the stones to include stuff that will hopefully keep the organization going.  Of course, both of these cars are probably owned by guys with equally smok’n hot ’32 Highboys home in the garage, but they sure look good!

Flames.  Some hot, and some, not.  Which is which?  You decide.  We won’t tell you, but two of them will still look good in 20 years, and one will leave people scratching their heads wondering why those colors were chosen. 

So, there you have it.  One fabulous weekend of rods, customs, total messes and some mind-blowing success’.  Was it fun?  You bet!  Did we eat fair food and get heartburn from the Italian sausage sandwich?  You bet?  Will we do it again?  You bet, and we’ll complain, and compliment in equal parts, knowing that our car(s) will be examined in exactly the same way. 

Please remember that the opinions expressed on this blog DO NOT neccesarily represent the opinions of the management of Cool McCool’s Garage, particularly if your car was singled out for ridicule.  Also, remember that we here have made some dreadful mistakes of our own, and have, from time to time, committed sins against style on hapless old cars in an attempt to emulate popular, but misguided, trends just becaue we could. 

More news and illustration of questionable taste and judgement will follow in our next episode,  where we’ll show you where the money from the ’36 Special is going.

Stay tuned!

This week on the HAMB (Hokey Assed Message Board), a debate raged on for almost 10 pages about the latest issue, specifically, the cover shot of a Rat Rod Model “A” sedan, and a new Lambo, the subjects of a “comparison” article within.  The overwhelming response to the article, which almost NONE of the participants of the debate had bothered to read, was that HOT ROD magazine is not relevant to the current Hot Rod scene (more specifically, the “Traditional” Hot Rod genre, and that, even at about $.60 per issue, HOT ROD is a waste of money.

I disagree.

The first, and most obvious (to me anyway) reason is that if one hasn’t read “HOT ROD” (or probably read ANY magazine) for years, how can one form an opinion on that, and whether it is relevant?  To say, “I know ‘Hot ROD’ sucks.  I don’t read it but I know it doesn’t have anything to do with what I like or do”, seems  like the ultimate oxymoron.  If any of the responders had read the story in the current September issue, they’d have known the comparison was not between the cars themselves, but the experience of driving, and being seen in, these wildly diverse, over-the-top “Look at ME!” ends of the automotive spectrum. 

It’s not about the cars themselves, nor comparing their perfomance or driving characteristics,  but the individual experience of driving, and of being seen in both of them.  The experience was pretty summed by Frieburger;  “In the end, the hot rod simply reaches more people, and as one onlooker quipped, “You can by the Lambo.  You have to build the hot rod”. 

How true.  My own experience mirrors this exactly, although I’ve never owned a Lamborghini.  I HAVE owned several Corvettes, and the fun of dreaming about having one, tracking one down and buying it, far outstripped the “fun” of driving one.  People generally think you’re a prick or a poser when you’re driving one, and the only people who wave and give thumbs up are other pricks (don’t get offended if you have a ‘Vette, I instantly turn into a prick when I get in one) driving Corvettes.  They’re great cars, especially now, for the money, but they’re not very friendly cars.

To quote Frieburger again, “…I don’t like the way I feel driving it.” 

 Exactly.  That sums up my feeling about cars, and my own ’36 ‘Special” roadster.  It’s a little more refined visually, and a lot less “Rat-Rod” than the Model A sedan in the article, but it still gives you that “…worked over after a night in the county lock-up” feeling after a long drive.  It’s braking is dismal, the steering is heavy and slow, it’s brutishly over-powered and yet not particularly fast, has very limited suspension travel, and gets abysmal fuel economy.  Frankly, it’s an absolutely AWFUL car, as cars go.  It’s rolling road hazard.

That said, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels.  People love it who don’t care anything about cars.  They want to know what it is, how fast it goes, did I build it myself,  they like the colors, the upholstery (or lack of it), and marvel that it can actually be driven.  In fact the only negative comment I’ve ever had on it was from a self-proclaimed “expert” who assured me that, seeing the car parked in rather tall grass, that it couldn’t be possibly be driven, or be NSRA “legal” because of the scrub line.  Never mind that I told him I had indeed had a flat on the left front, and the grill shell, the frame, and most alarmingly (to him) the pitman arm did NOT drag on the highway and cause my demise.  He was undaunted, as these guys usually are, by facts, and was still loudly pointing out the perceived faults of the car as we walked away.

That’s precisely the kind of guy who contributed to over 8 pages and several hundred posts on the HAMB, on how badly “HOT ROD” sucks.  The kind of guy who gets ALL of his information from a free internet source because it’s easy and validates his own myopic viewpoint.  Never mind listening to the guy who built it, never mind actually reading a publication before you form and opinion, it sucks because I say it sucks, and that’s it. 

So, I’ll keep reading “HOT ROD”, not just because they had the class and good taste to feature my own car, but because every month I learn something.  I get see features that inspire me to do better, to move upwards and create something that might even be comfortable and fun to drive like the AMBR “Indy Speedster V8” roadster.   To read thoughtful, insightful articles on the likes of Carroll Shelby, and to learn that EJ Potter, “The Michigan Madman” has passed on. 

I’ll also continue to be a fan of sites like the HAMB, where, after I sift through the chaff about early 50’s 4-doors painted with Rust-O-Leum flat black and a brush, I also learn something everyday, see inspirational cars, and read about interesting and influential hot rodders.  Life, I think, is better painted from a broad palette, not just one color or one flavor, by sampling a variety of viewpoints and opinions, not just one.  Doesn’t make me a better person, but a better informed and more interesting one.

Now, back to the garage to finish the Diamond T before I start accumulating parts to build my version of that stunning Indy Speedster V8…

…the mice work all day in the garage without guilt (not that I usually feel guilty about that!)  While Kim is off camping without me, I spent today working on the Diamond T for the first time in almost 8 months!

I drove the ’36 into Auto-Zone and picked  a pair of tie-rod ends, shocks, and a steering idler.  It’s getting hard to remember what the various components came from, I’m going to have to make up a little owners manual.  The counter-girl was a little confused when we kept jumping from a ’93 G20 Chevy van to a C2500 pickup to get the pieces, but I remembered correctly and everything was correct. 

For those of you keeping track, the front crossmember and control arms are ’93 G20 3/4 ton van, the ball joints, spindles and brakes are from the same vintage 3/4 ton Chevy pickup.  You’d think that they’d share the same parts, but NOOOO.  The van has 5 lug rotors (which look the same as 1/2 ton pickup and full-size car), smaller ball joints, but much heavier tie rod ends.  Out back, the rear is a Dana 70, probably from a mid 70’s Dodge, it’s narrower than a standard dually rear, so perhaps it’s a commercial chassis unit, who knows.  I’ll have to find out when I rebuild the brakes I suppose.

Anyway, the new parts went on without a hitch.  I put the flex hoses on the front, and spent a little time noodling out how to plumb the lower radiator hose, which has to take a rather convoluted route from the right side outlet, out the fender liner, down and behind the center-link and then to the left side lower outlet on the radiator.  It’d be nice to find a pre-formed hose with the proper 90 degree bends at both ends, so I’ll have to spend a little time in the auto-parts store looking at some. 

Next up, brake lines, measure up for the driveshaft, and get that pesky lower hose for the radiator.  I have the mid-ships driveshaft I took out of the GMC when I shortened it, and if I’m lucky, it’ll be a donor for the yokes, and if I’m REALLY lucky, it might even fit, or be able to be shortened to fit.  We’ll see.  I have the glass all cut, but need to order the windshield rubber and paint the inner frames before they go in.  Once all those little tasks are completed, I can drive it in to Muffler-Man for some pipes, and we’ll be ready to roll.  That is, after the paint is cut and buffed out, the interior completed and carpeted, and some other loose ends wrapped up.  I’m publicly stating right here I will not start another project untill this is done, so I have witness’!   

Here are a few pictures of todays garage scene, notice the thick layer of dirt from setting since last summer after it was painted, which makes me feel kind of bad.  I shouldn’t feel too bad, because in that time, I built the GMC dually, and the Tini-Home.   

Stay tuned to “Cool McCool’s Garage” for more progress, and to make sure I don’t forget I said I wouldn’t start anything else until this is done.  Keep a brother honest!




The hood isn’t on yet, nor the floor installed in back of the seat, but the new radiators are in, the system is filled, burped, and topped off.  Idling in the shop, it now runs cool enough that the fans will cycle on, then shut off.  Lets hope this bodes well driving it in the heat, as we’re headed for Indy and the Goodguys show there in a couple of weeks. 

The core is thicker than the original Mustang radiator, but the water pump pulley still clears the front fan.  By about 3/8’s  of an inch.  I had to trim the shrouds on the new rear fans a little to tuck them under the lip of the brace under the floor, but they clear fine now. 

The new position of the rear radiator will keep it out of harms way, and the rear axle upper control arms, the cause of the demise of the orignal one.  Actually, I’m sort of glad it happened when and where it did.  Could have been REAL inconvenient.

So,  our son Craig will be home tonight from Las Vegas, and we’ll put the hood on tomorrow so we can go for a little cruise.   I’m excited to have the car back together so he and I can go for a ride while he’s here, it’ll be fun. 

Now, the hard part is cleaning up the shop of spilled coolant.  Hopefully some of the Red Squirrels which have moved into the attic will lap the spill…

Untill next time,


This past couple of weeks, I’ve been sort of “under the weather”, and haven’t worked on the truck, or any of the other projects I need to get finished.  It’s no fun to be ill, and I feel badly about not getting anything done (particularly about the “Millusion”, a totalled Mercury Milan I bought and fixed for a daily driver, as it’s insured, I’m making payments from my Hot Rod fund on, and not doing me any good), but I have had time to collect my thoughts a little, the weather’s getting better, and I’ll get more done when I feel better, so it’s all OK.

One thing I did do was find, on ebay, some absolutely beautiful stainless steel door garnish moldings, purchased as a “buy it now” from a guy in Oregon.  In the course of corresponding with him about the sale, he told me he had some other Diamond T pieces, including a pair of very rare stainless steel windshield frames.  Most of these trucks, and all of the post 1940’s had plain black rubber around the glass which served as the frame and seal for the crank out windshields.   He sold them to me, complete, for a very reasonable price, and I got them a couple of days ago.   As I understand, only the ’38 and ’39’s had these available, in the “Deluxe” trim, had these trim pieces, so they are very, very scarce.   These pieces, combined with the rather elegant stainless steel gauge panel I made,  effectively change the cab into a “Deluxe” version, which is what I want. Since it’s not a faithful “restoration”, it doesn’t matter, I want it pretty and to fit the image in my head of how it should look.

During the course of our exchange of emails about these pieces, the seller told me he’d just sold his ’38 Diamond T 201 pickup truck at the Barrett/Jackson auction out west.  I asked him if he minded telling me what he got for it.   He didn’t mind at all, and told me it sold for $95,000 plus a 10 percent buyers premium, a grand total of (gasp!) $105,000.  He followed that up with the statement, “I wouldn’t have paid that much for one.”, which sort of explains why to sell it, I guess. 

Excited, I told Kim about this, I suppose to not only justify or rationalize (to her and to me) spending what argueably could be money put towards my (rapidly approaching) old age, but excited that one of these old trucks could be worth that much money. 
“Wow,”, she said, “…maybe you should have left it stock.”

I hate to admit it, but that thought had occurred to me as well.  I’ve sold, cheaply, the (siezed) original engine and transmission to a guy in Missouri, and the axles, wheels and tires to a guy in California, who hasn’t come to get them yet.  So, the pieces needed to return the truck to it’s original mechanical condition are no longer here.

The plan from the outset was of course to build it as a trailer puller, something more suited to dragging the Spartan around than our old Pontiacs.  I knew these were pretty rare, and very unusual, but I had no idea that one could be worth that much, and honestly, the thought of it being worth as much as our house never entered into my mind.

I did, when I first got it here, think of leaving it mechanically stock, just get it running and putz around here with it as a sort of novelty.  It had a kind of attractive “patina”, and would have been an interesting, if impractical, conversation piece. When the engine turned out to be siezed into immobility, that thought evaporated, and the plan to build it as an original appearing, but modernized, truck to pull the trailer became the guide.  Besides, my “real” pickup, a 2000 Silverado, has over 120K miles on it, is getting rusty, and doesn’t look right ahead of the trailer, so I’d need a truck sooner or later anyway.  I thought that having this unusual truck to drive in the summer would make more sense than buying an new one, having it depreciate, be more fun, and would be worth more when we want to part with it, than a 10 year old “new” truck.

So, the question that’s been rattling around in my mind now is, does it make more sense to hot rod a vehicle that, restored,  might be worth as much as my house?  Is this project akin to hot rodding, say, a Duesenburg or a Cord?  I could have kept it “original”, sold it, bought something else, either another older truck to build, or even a new one, had money left over to invest for retirement or rainy day.  This of course is assuming that I’m capable of building a a car (or truck in this case) to that level, which I think I can do, and that the economy won’t deteriorate any further.  It’s a pretty tough market right now for collector cars, 100K for an old Diamond T pickup is serious money.

On the other hand, the value of this project, from the beginning, was to build something that fits our lifestyle, that we can use and enjoy.  I won’t have as much invested, by a long way, as if I’d gone out and purchased a new 1/2 ton pickup, and it’ll certainly be more fun to drive.  Part of me, the aging hippy part, says that if I persue a goal strictly for money or profit, that I’m “selling out”, or being greedy.  Bumping around in an underpowered, rough riding, hard steering, slow stopping old truck with no heater or airconditioning doesn’t sound like much fun, but I guess that getting 100K at the end of the ride might take some of the edge off the impracticality of it all.

Of course, it’s all a moot point now, since it’s firmly headed down the Street Rod path.  It’ll look, to a casual observer, like an original old truck.  The box is different than the original would have had, it’s got the wrong grill, windshield frames, and the drivetrain is modern, but it’s still going to have an antiquey look and feel.  It’ll look great towing the Spartan, it’ll be (reasonably) comfortable, and should ride and drive pretty much like a new truck.

 The value of something, I feel, comes from how much enjoyment we get from a thing, not how much it’s “worth”.   I’ve never bought a car as an investment, but more for what I could see in it as as a hot rod or custom.  I don’t know if I can honestly call them art, but the artistic and creative side of building one is the fun part for me.  I guess art is what I say it is, so maybe they ARE large, rolling sculptures, they certainly seem to the medium that has chosen me.   I know that individualizing a car limits its appeal as a commodity, but we’ve always been able to sell one when we are ready, so it hasn’t been an issue.

Also, one could argue that the truck is going to live another life, certainly better than slowly sinking into the Southern California desert soil like it’d been doing for the past 30 or 40 years before I got it.  Certainly saving it in any form gives it more value than rotting away to the point of no return, doesn’t it?  I think so.

So, another one bites the dust.   I read many years ago in an ad in “Cars and Parts” for some old Ford, “…saved from Hot Rod butchery.”  The seller obviously had a low opinion of Hot Rodders and the quality of workmanship of some does leave a lot to be desired, but I don’t think I’ve “butchered” a car beyond being saved.  If at some point in the future, I decide to cash this one in, I think it’ll still have wide appeal, if not as a dust catcher in a collectors warehouse, but as a reliable old friend, something you can put your dog in beside you,  maybe an old motorcycle in the back, an old trailer hooked up behind, and head out down a dusty road for a good time. 

That’s what we’re going to do with it, how much is that worth?