Yeah, so we’re pretty much making this up as we go. That might sound a wee bit unprofessional, but we say that so that people won’t be up in arms with how we ranked these cars from first to last. Much of our ranking was purely subjective, rating the cars by an arbitrary set of rules that are, for the most part, based upon taste and execution of theme.
It’s not exactly fair to rank such an eclectic group of machines when each car represents its own category. We couldn’t rightly poise a completely theme-based driftwood ’51 Ford Woodie work of art up against a completely unique and meticulously-fabricated one-of-none ’32 Lincoln Zephyr roadster? We’ve got rat rods, completely unique non-factory creations and rolling art work that hardly sees the light of day here. Like we said, how do you rate one against the other.
While points went to those finer pieces for paint quality, execution of design and theme, and the overall cleanliness of complete package, we couldn’t leave out general style and just plain fun of the build. So, whether you agree with Editor Kevin Shaw and Associate Editor Sean Haggai – who were walking the grounds of the first-ever Goodguys Fall Del Mar Nationals – or not, these guys came up with was a pretty cool list of the Top Ten wildest street machines and sweet customs. Enjoy!
Michael Tarquinio’s ’32 Lincoln Zephyr Roadster “Second Wind”
If you’ve never heard of a ’32 Lincoln Zephyr, you’re not the only one. That’s because there isn’t such a thing. Rather, this ragtop deuce started life as an original Henry steel ’32 Ford, that was swapped for a sedan body back in the 1970s. Thirty-six years later, the body was dropped on a set of rails and became the new pet project of GIS Automotive in Pittsburgh, PA, who with PPG custom mixed a variant of Ford’s Washington Blue.
A vintage Tropic-Aire heater, a dealer-installed option back in 1936, fit under the dash, while ’36 Zephyr fog lamps, hand-crafted ’36 tail lamps, rumble seat handle (from a ’39 Zephyr) and one-off artillery wheels comprise much of the ’32′s look.
An Oldsmobile 32 V8 was outfitted with one-off, hand-formed ’55 Lincoln V8 valve covers sits beneath a revised bonnet with leather straps and ornate spring clips. In fact, it’s the details, rather the over abundance of details that makes this ’32 Lincoln our outright favorite. Even the one-off stainless grille which pulls its design from a Pines Winter Front grille adds to the roadster’s appeal.
Second Wind has taken home the Outstanding Rod at the ’11 Detroit Autorama, the Goodguys ’11 Hot Rod of The Year and the ’11 ISCA Street Roadster Class Champion…meaning this beauty is actually driven!
Steve And Kathy Vasa ’38 Chevrolet Gasser
We love this, not because it’s the cleanest or the most period-correct gasser we’ve ever seen, but because of one single thing: a small sign sitting on the driver’s seat proclaiming, “Do not bitch about my car’s paint, scratches or other blemishes. I drive my car and enjoy it for what it is. And I don’t care if you like it.”
Sitting high on a truck straight axle with repacked leaf springs up front and shortened shackles out back, the white and orange-flamed ’38 sedan touts a rowdy 327 small block Chevy backed with a rock-solid TH400 automatic. The mouse motor is capped with medium riser dual quad intake with matching Holley double pumpers. A brass-capped three-row radiator resides up front pumping life-giving coolant through the plant.
The ’38 rolls on a set of throwback Cragar S/STs. A member of the NSRA, the street rod-meets-gasser is no stranger to the track and has plenty of fun boiling the rubber off the big street slicks jutting out in back.
Todd and Cheryl Williams’ ’30 Ford Model A Pickup
Just because it’s a cool collaboration of a variety of parts, including a ’57 Cadillac 345 small block topped with a pair of tall polished dual stacks, a 5-speed Tremec manual gearbox or a ton of other features does not qualify it for “rat status.” Nope, this is a ‘rod, a good ol’ fashioned street rod.
Starting with an original ’30 Ford 5-window pickup body which had chipped 6-inches from its roof and channeled 4-inches to fit over a completely custom frame (pieced together from a ’35 Ford 4-door sedan front and rear), it was painted in ’49 Cadillac Kingswood Gray PPG Deltron paint. The trunk too was shortened 6-inches and lined with beautifully crafted and stained wood slats.
Beneath the bed is a Winters quick change rear while it spins a quartet of steelies with ’48 Ford caps and ’46 beauty rings, wrapped in Firestone rubber. Inside is a ’48 Ford dash with a ’46 steering wheel and all M&M Hot Rod Interiors’ custom stitchwork using ’59 Cadillac fabric. A perfect blend of Ford and Cadillac? Yeah, we’d have to say so.
Mel Spitzer’s ’50 Ford Woody Street Rod
This woody is much more than what you’re seeing here. Featured in the Goodguys’ enclosed hall showcasing a wide swathe of different woody wagons, this two-door, back halved, street rod carries a secret beneath its hood, a supercharged ’04 SVT 4.6 mod motor. The quad-cammed FoMoCo plant has little trouble tearing up the big meats residing out back, wrapped around a set of matching Weld Drag Stars.
The ’50 Ford isn’t all about the performance, either. Slight cues reveal that this custom is much more unique that it gives off. The headlight brows have been Frenched and smoothed, recessing the headlamps back into the fenders.
The woodwork is meticulous, with richly stained oak and cherry, as the body is equally subtle in a deep black cherry purple. The original grille and bumper are polished to a perfect shine, as you’d expect.
What struck us most about this woody, besides the cool cream-colored interior with custom dash and center console, is its stance. It looks mean while not being in-your-face, and the subtle touches make this wood-paneled ride a true stand-out.
Dan Gilbank’s ’49 Hudson Brougham
Now this is what we’re talking about. We stopped dead in our tracks when we stumbled across Dan’s ’49 Brougham two-door. In flat primer gray and sporting a pair of giant polished stainless tarantulas in its custom fabricated spiderweb grille, we knew we found something special.
This completely hand-built Hudson is all sorts of deceiving, particularly as it is a nitrous-fed bruiser spitting out 513 horsepower out of a 350ci small block Chevy backed with a freeway-friendly 700R4 overdrive slushbox. All of this spins a 9-inch Ford rear.
Dan fabbed up his own custom headers that run out under the body with electric cutouts. The lake pipes are impressive and end in flame throwers. Wait, what? Yeah, you read that right.
Beneath the Hudson skin – which has been chopped 4- and 6-inches all the way around – is a Fatman Mustang II sub-frame with power disc brakes, and a four-corner AirRide 4-link suspension. Inside the cabin, besides some Mexican blanket-upholstered seats, are power actuated doors, trunk and windows along with seat heaters.
Diego Dent’s ’66 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
We see more Cadillacs at car shows now more than ever before. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been paying close enough attention. Maybe because people are starting to work on them more and more. Whatever the reason may be, we’re liking what we’re seeing. This PPG Champagne Gold and Pearl ’66 Coupe DeVille is a prime example as to why we’re loving the new Cadillac surge.
Growing up, we used to hear our dad talk about the finer things in life being “like a Cadillac.” Growing up through the early 1980s, we just didn’t get the comparison, especially with the current FWD Caddys on the road.
Yet, when we look back and their heydays – like this ’66 – it all comes into focus. Equipped with a bagged AirRide system, this Coupe touts a warmed-over 350 SBC backed with a TH400 gear box.
While many might look at this Caddy and think not much of it, it’s the sheer execution of the resto-modification that makes it shine. Inside, the fine touches continue, as every inch of this Coupe DeVille has been either restored, refurbished or amazingly retained. The while walls wrapped around the multispoke rims, the pencil wheel and chrome-wherever-chrome-can-fit decor makes this Caddy a real Cadillac.
Tom Flesia’s ’40 GMC Pickup
Consider the thought that this wicked rod likely started life as a farm truck, or a delivery truck, or a moving truck. Now look at it. If you’re not a believer in second chances, then here’s all the proof you’ll ever need.
While the pictures might not do it justice, there’s quite a bit of exquisite paint detail going on here. The grille isn’t chrome. It’s all airbrushed. The orange stripe running the shoulder line? Yeah, that’s a highly detailed gold leaf and orange composite.
The rest of this workhorse-turned-show pony is smooth…and we mean smooooth. The black and green paint scheme was applied by No Coast Paint while the black and brown leather interior was stitched together by Gabe.
Inside, the GMC enjoys some rather modern creature comforts like Vintage Air, power steering and brakes, as well as a CD/FM/AM sound system mounted on a custom center console.
Beneath the clam shell bonnet is a stroked 383 small block Chevy backed by an equally popular TH350. The combo puts out a stout 428-horsepower as it breathes through a trio of deuce carburetors with an electric choke. Hey man, who says you can’t have the best of modern technology with old school flavor? The ’40 rolls on offset-orange steelies and dog dish caps and beauty rings.
Michael Schuster’s ’70 Pontiac GTO “The Judge” Wagon
OK, we know, this is way more of a muscle car than a hot rod and doesn’t have much of a place on a “Top Ten” list for Rod Authority. But we love “one-of-none” cars, so we don’t care whether it “belongs” or not.
We’ve seen all sorts of custom creations of “if only the factory built this,” but we’ve never seen one so easy or simply executed. Built from a LeMans wagon, all Michael had to do was swap out the nose, hood and wheels and tires…and voila!
Beneath that Ram Air hood is a true-to-its-word 455ci Big Chief stump puller backed by a TH400 automatic. Of course, since this was originally a family truckster, it came with a factory 3-speed automatic on the column, which was left alone and merely hooked up to the mightier slushbox.
The 455 is running a set of long-tube headers, so it’s not a concours resto-modification, but it’s close enough to make us smile.
The GTO-ification wasn’t complete until Michael added the “honeycomb” GTO wheels and topped off the build with the appropriate “The Judge” decals on the quarters, tailgate and even the shoulder stripes adorning the wheel flares. Oh yeah, and there’s a cool touch too, the right Judge decklid wing added to the roof. C’mon, now that’s cool.
Jim and Marsha Hawes’ ’61 AMC Rambler American “Nashcar”
It was hard for us not to give the Hawes’ Rambler American our top pick solely on the grounds of “superb execution of a completely unique theme,” but the title just wouldn’t fit on a placard, so we had to give them runners-up. No, just kidding. We didn’t give out any plaques. But if we had, you know that this Rambler would get one. Of all of our Top Ten, this AMC definitely had the most power and could certainly put it to the ground.
Loaded to the gills with a 454ci big block Chevrolet (yeah, that was a tight fit), a 6-speed manual TKO-600 from a wadded up Dodge Viper and a Speedway Engineering “Super Max” quick change rear, this gnarly coupe really has it where it counts.
Keeping this rocket ship from flying off the surface of the earth is a full set of Wilwood brakes stopping some serious rolling stock all riding on an all-metal joint with coil over adjustable shock-sprung suspension. Oh yeah, and the chassis is a Speedway Motors oval track frame (with front steer). This wicked little machine has an all-tin interior with racing seats and a certified NASCAR cage.
Gary Young’s ’51 Ford Country Squire Surf Wagon “Driftwood”
We love, love, love this ’51 Woody. We can’t really decide whether this two-door wagon is an original survivor of simply 60 years of salt air and hard – but fun – living, or if this is the most expertly-executed thematic build we have ever seen in our lives. Either way, we can’t help but gush over the itty-bitty details that abound on this Country Squire.
Coating nearly every inch of this ’51 Ford is a collection of 50 years-worth of surf and Southern California-specific decals, ranging from local surf shops like Kanvas by Katin, Harbor Surfboards or Toes on The Nose to So Cal schools. This wagon is a rolling timeline of the Southern California surf culture, replete with a pair of balsa wood boards strapped to the roof rack.
Inside is equally as adorned, with a sun-bleached hula girl mounted to the dashboard, a mass of plastic leis dangling from the rearview mirror or sandy beach towels hog ringed to the bench seats as impromptu replacement upholstery.
This ride is all about telling a story without words, and we love the tale is tells. The bits and pieces that were once brilliantly chrome are pitted and oxidized. The wood that was once richly stained is rotted and weathered. But this car’s soul is stronger than the ferocity of age, and that is why its our absolute favorite.