It’s said that Einstein’s definition of insanity was repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. We’ve been attending car shows for decades and have seen some seriously amazing machines in our day, so when it comes to whittling down all of the gorgeous machines we spotted at this year’s Goodguys Del Mar Nationals, we again are left scratching our heads as to what, among so many beauties, could be considered “the best.”
Since we’re not trained or really all that concerned with boiling all of the entries down to the same specific qualities and ranking them one-through-ten, we’ve gathered up a loosely-tethered list of cars and trucks that stood out of the crowd for only a few core characteristics, mainly originality, execution, uniqueness, and cleanliness. While tossing in a rat rod or two might upset the “cleanliness” category, there’s no arguing their uniqueness.
So again, here’s another showcase of some seriously fun cars. Even if any of these aren’t your particular style, we’re certain that if you’re truly a car guy at heart, you’ll be able to appreciate what we’ve found here as much as we did.
Jerry Kilgore’s ’32 Ford Roadster
Like the perfect canvas for the budding hot rodder, the ’32 roadster has been interpreted and reinterpreted over and again, in a myriad of different ways.
When we spotted Jerry’s black-and-red roofless ‘rod, we were immediately fooled by his faux Oldsmobile Rocket valve covers, concealing that his deuce touted yet another small block Chevy.
Nonetheless, the classic look of his Dearborn body slathered in inky black paint with faint red pinstripping made us fall in love with the oh-so-common vintage hot rod. Inside of his Ford is all retro vinyl with a custom Autosound sound system, which surprises us that he can hear anything over the rap of his mighty mouse motor’s capped lakester-style headers breathing through its triple singles.
Rolling on red smoothies and wrapped in white-walled BFGs, the 9-inch Ford rear has no problem hazing those back rubbers.
Pete Smith’s ’37 Dodge Rat Rod Pickup “El Diablo”
As is with so many rats, the devil is most definitely in the details, and this pickup is rife with them. The execution of this particular Dodge is something to be behold in person, as our pictures this gray, overcast Saturday.
Titled “El Diablo,” this patina’ed pickup is certainly devilish with its belly-dragging body powered by a BDS-blown small block 350 Chevy motor and backed by a TH400 automatic and backed with with a rock solid and air bagged 12-bolt rear.
The rear suspension touts some surprisingly high-tech geometry, unusual for such a rough-around-the-edges ride. Hand-built headers run into lake pipes while the body rides on a custom square-tubing chassis and white wall-wrapped American Torque Thrusts.
Other touches, like the floor pan made of license plates, the bomber seats or the race car touches like Auto Meter instrumentation including a monster tach with a shift light remind us that this rat definitely is only “ratty” on the outside and can seriously put down a hurting on the car lined up next to them at the light. Entered in the Home Built Hot Rod category, Pete’s Dodge is definitely an impressive machine.
John Robertson’s Gurney-Westlake-Powered ’32 Roadster
John’s ’32, though is quite the opposite of the previous deuce we featured above as it is, from what we can tell, as much as a hot-to-trot racer as the previous ’32 was a throwback to a more classic, mild time. This machine is insanely overpowered and wickedly appointed inside.
Theme seems to be key when it comes to building a hot rod that stands out in the way of uniqueness and execution. Beneath its smooth hood is a Gurney-Westlake built race-spec 425ci small block Ford (finally, a Ford in a Ford!) erupting with nearly 450 horsepower.
You can tell this ‘rod has been put through the paces, as its once-polished headers have discolored blue, evidencing it’s being revved to high heaven once and again.
Inside the cabin is supple leather and vinyl interior on all sides, including the leather-wrapped shifter boot. A billet wheel is wrapped in woodgrain and the gauges are subdued but functional, reading off the mighty motor’s vitals.
Ryan Reed’s ’37 Ford Deluxe
There’s a trend with kids these days called “Hellaflush.” It’s all about fitting the largest possible rim and lowest possible profile tire within the diameter of a wheel lip.
It’s not about functionality, it’s about look and style, and in our opinion yet another “tuner”-based fleeting trend.
We bring that up because of the incrementally tight wheel clearances on Ryan’s ’37 Ford. Ryan – of Reeds Ride Designs – managed to cram in as much meat as humanly possible while not risking the meticulously-restored body lines.
Riding low and on some street rod appropriate five-spokes, this olive drab five-window coupe is excellently executed. The interior is stately but subtle. The paint and body are flawless, but undertoned.
Here, “clean” is an understatement.
Powered by yet another 350 “mouse motor,” this ’37 is backed by a smooth-shifting 4-speed. We couldn’t cram our head underneath far enough to check out the undercarriage, but we’re certain its as spotless as the rest of this coupe.
Sam Hunt’s ’48 Ford Super Deluxe Woody
Fine, you caught us. We love woody wagons. We can’t help ourselves; we keep including them because they’re vanishing. No matter how many fiberglass bodied ’33 Fords or re-manufactured Tri-Fives come out, nobody is cranking out replacement Woodies and it’s a damned shame if you ask us. The art and craftsmanship of the Woody is a lost art and we’re sad to watch it slowly die out.
The floral pattern seat covers, the old school picnic gear in the back, the balsa wood long boards tethered to the roof rack, the array of old and new surf and drag strip decals in the windows and so many other details made this surf wagon a winner in our book.
More of a showpiece than a daily cruiser, we were wowed with how authentic, yet immaculately maintained this Ford was. We truly poured over every inch of this small block, multi-carb’ed-powered family truckster and enjoyed everything we found.
Tony Martinez’s ’50 Chevrolet Coupe
The chrome is more polished than the best billet. The body is smoother than anything we’ve seen come out of Boyd Coddington’s shop. The interior is spotless, not a stitch out of alignment. Frankly, if this is what you call a rat, then we’re a rat rod-only magazine.
While we might fixate on all the finer details of the true rat rods or the thematically-centered builds, we’re more in love with the overall cleanliness of Tony’s ’50 Chevy than anything else.
The so-low slung body hangs heavy over the white walled red steelies spinning smooth poverty caps. The trim and subtle red highlights completely offset the semi-gloss hue.
The one thing we’re enjoying is watching hot rodders gravitate away from the usual ’51 Mercs, Tri-Fives or Fairlanes, and choosing to build ’54 Oldsmobiles, Edsels (more on that later) or other oddballs that are due their turn in the spotlight.
For Tony’s ’50 coupe, he’s shown that just because it ain’t got fins or wings doesn’t mean it can’t soar.
Bud & Marylin Wolfe’s ’60 Edsel Roadster
For a car hailed as the “bane of Ford,” we can’t seem to find anything wrong with the Wolfe’s wickedly custom drop top Edsel. Of course, FoMoCo never built this car quite like how you see it now.
Manufactured as a two-door “post,” the Edsel you see before you has undergone one heck of a remodel, featuring over 20 significant modifications that single it out from its more sedate production line siblings.
The results of countless hours of labor by car builder Mike Walter of Rainer Rod & Custom, this Edsel touts a mean Super Cobra Jet 429 and is backed by a C6 automatic and spins a 9-inch rear out back.With modern discs at all four corners, this big sled coasts on AirRide suspension in comfort and looks good doing so thanks to its polished Billet Specialties “Imperials” wrapped in Goodyear Eagles.
The custom interior is surprisingly not all that custom when you realize it was lifted from a ’64 Thunderbird and recovered to match its uniquely blended two tone “Pistachio” green DuPont paint scheme.
Mike Austin’s ’66 Dodge 200 Power Wagon
Back before the Italians spun Ram off of Dodge as its own brand; back before Dodge and Chevrolet added extra “0’s” to their truck classes to sound bigger than Ford’s F-150; there was the Dodge 200 Power Wagon.
The “200” classified it as the heavier duty class four-door rig, with tougher-than-nails suspension and running gear, while the Power Wagon designation ramped up the Ram’s toughness all the way around.
The Power Wagon option basically converted a civilian pickup truck into a industrial-grade utility rig – something on par with what would be ordered for the Forest Service or other public works fleet vehicles.
A large electric winch was mated to an extended front bumper, multi-packed leaf springs were mounted at all four corners with big 11-inch drum brakes. While Power Wagons’ interiors were intentionally Spartan, a swiveling roof-mounted spotlight was available as well.
Mike’s ’66 200 was a labor of love, taking years to complete. Recognizing the uniqueness of this rig, Mike sought to restore it as best as he could, although opting to run larger and prettier polished rims and knobby All-Terrains and a stout reworked LA-block 318.
While many might query the presence of a small block in a truck of this magnitude, the Power Wagons weren’t build for drag racing, but low-end grunt and utility, and the mighty little motor fared surprisingly well. That’s probably why modern Power Wagons only come with the 5.7L HEMI standard today.
Ed Trudersheim’s ’67 GMC Pickup
We promise, this is the last pickup truck on our list, as we’re sure some of our more snobbish hot rodding readers are pissed at seeing so many cars that aren’t 60 years old or more (just kidding, guys!). We had to include Ed’s GMC (which stands for Georgia Milk Cow, presumably), because of the sheer cleanliness of his late model engine swap. It honestly looks like the ’07 4.8L Vortech came with this car brand new.
Yet, it didn’t. Rather, this pale yellow standard cab came with a straight six with a 3-speed automatic. With only 68,000 miles on the clock, Ed picked it up from the second owner and promptly started the restoration.
Repaint of the original factory color and a spot-on restoration of the interior, including full sound deadening insulation, insured a quiet, comfortable ride, but the six-banger lacked the oomph Ed craved.
A ’07 Gen III Vortech replaced the old mill while a 460LE automatic overdrive trans replaced the 3-speed. The factory 10-bolt go rebuilt and a set of American Racing Torque Thrusts wrapped in BFGs made the truck look great, especially after dropping it a couple of inches.
Monsen Rabiee’s LS9-Powered ’59 Chevrolet Impala
Seriously, this thing is insane. Like, there was NEVER not a crowd around this black-and-gold Impala. Built by Timeless Customs, there is no square inch of this Chevy that hasn’t been massaged, reshaped or customized.
All the chrome is gloss black or painted to match the body color gold. The engine compartment is cleaner than a surgery center’s operating room, and the interior has more supple leather than a veal farm.
Of course, what truly makes this Impala unique is its employment of the single most potent Chevrolet powerplant ever offered, the supercharged 6.2-liter LS9. Backed by a 6-speed Tremec manual, we suspect that the entirety of this Chevy’s drivetrain was lifted from a ZR1 Corvette – which makes us wonder what on earth happened to the ‘Vette in order to eviscerate it for a custom Impala.
Riding on an Art Morrison chassis and rolling on Boze Alloys wrapped in Nitto rubber, this bagged bad ass rests low on its haunches until its time to get up and go which it can do with little effort at all. There’s some serious money in this machine, so unless you own oceanfront property in Malibu, don’t stress if your project car ain’t as nice as this crazy creation.