I grew up around anything mechanical…being a broke-ass farm kid we worked on everything ourselves, but we had tools, so it was natural for me to tear stuff apart and try to figure out how it worked…from a little grommet I spent my little allowance of 50-cents on Hot Wheels, not Matchbox, Hot Wheels…they were cooler.
As a real little guy my Dad worked on custom Harley’s, so I was around that, loading up and going to bike shows in the Econoline van. Dad was into bikes in a big way, till he kinda got a bad back from riding rigid’s too many years…
and the family was growing so we needing something easier to all go….that’s when the car transition came in.
He got a rusted out 57 hardtop that he fixed up, in the awesome 70′s way, straight axle, Cragar SS wheels, tilt front end, chain steering wheel, four buckets with diamond tuck, shag carpet on dash, fender well headers, tunnel ram, the whole deal…
…had that for a few years, then he traded it for a 69 Vette convert. I learned to drive (kinda) a four speed in that car.
He then went on the build a little more modern 55 Chev hardtop, tilt front end, wicked motor, tunnel ram, and some cool stuff like hand built and chromed radiator support and Nomad rear fender lips.
He even let me spray the firewall bright yellow…and he even left the big run I put in it…. With this car we attended our first big car show out of town, even stayed in a hotel for the first time….even my Dad. This was ’81 we all loaded up Moms 78 Dodge Magnum as a tow vehicle with about all the tools we owned and the trailer and the 55 in tow…I think we drove about 45 all the way to Dearborn Michigan…
…note to self, Dodge Magnums, not good tow vehicles… We got there and WOW, was this an eye opener for me….around 1,000 cars all Tri Fives…all the “cool” guys from the tri-five world that I had read and memorized about in the Classic Chevy magazine each month…I even got to meet Roger Gustin and my tri five drag race hero, Bob Dahl:
…this was when it really hit me…man, I want to do this for ever. Dads 55 even got a few pics in some event coverage in the magazines…wow was that cool!..I was ten….and have hooked hard ever since.
Through the years Dad had a ton of different tri fives. I bought my first car…a ’55 series 150 from my great, great grandpa for $100 from selling my 4-H pigs!
We drove it around the farm and had fun, but realized when I got a little older, that it was a little too rusty for me to fix up for my first car. I sold it…and later a local guy fixed it up and it ended up in Super Chevy. Around this time me and my Dad started painting local farmers trucks for money, and good father son time, I was learning how to sand, and fix more things. I then bought a ’64 LeMans, tinkered with that some, then sold it by 14 and bought a nice ’64 Chevelle SS. I seen it for sale an the way to the drag races in Cordova. Around this time my uncle started taking me to some big shows close, like Street Machine nats when it was in St. Louis, and a few KKOA custom shows, I loved the big motors at the Street Machine shows, but the customs with all the mods and chopped tops really got me excited. I fixed up the Chevelle at home with Dad and buddies, painted it myself, got it done a little after my 16 birthday. At this time I also started after school at the local body shop doing sanding and paint prep, the owner was also big into custom ‘Vettes, so we worked on a ton of them. I worked there learning a ton of skill from the boss and Dave that worked there. I then went to a local trade college for body, welding and frame work and still worked at the body shop. I got in good with the teachers and stayed late a bunch and they taught me extra stuff, like how to use all the HVAC metal working tools, and taught me how to lead and do stuff not in the normal school class, I guess I am lucky to have good teachers, that cared and could see I was eager to learn.
My class project was to redo the body and floors in my Dads new project a ’56 sedan pro-streeter. At home I was also re-doing my ’64 Chevelle again after learning better things to do. At 19 I took the Chevelle to the Street Machine Nats where it got runner up best GM, at a time where most all the winners were tubbed, also got at Super Chevy a runner up best modified Chevelle.
After getting that done, I was always working on old cars and hot rod stuff on the side…knowing someday I wanted to work on hot rods full time. I worked at a couple Chevy dealerships, made good money to help finance my next project, but hated the boring crap boxes I worked on. I got the next one for myself done and started hitting some big shows. The ’54 Chevy was doing decent at shows and starting to hit some magazines….I also was dating Carrie and she helped me do the interior in the ’54. The phone started ringing more as the ’54 got more press and awards, I left the dealership and started my own shop, for a few years working out of my Dads machine shed, doing everything in one little room. Then me and Dad built a small pole barn and finished it off by my house, and I have been working in there ever since.
As you can see…I am not some Johnny come lately in the hot rod world…I grew up around it…
It’s in the blood.