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Thread: What Planted The Seed For You?
          
   
   

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  1. #1
    rspears's Avatar
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    What Planted The Seed For You?

     



    I was email chatting with Jim Robinson today and he shared the link to his history of the SBC engine in hot rods, posted in another thread, and mentioned “living it” back in the mid to late 50’s. I responded that I’d been around too, but lived in the sticks of extreme SW Missouri, spitting distance from both Oklahoma and Arkansas, so not much “hot rodding” that I remembered. But I did remember what really got me interested! So the question: Can you point to one thing from your youth that triggered your interest in hot rods, customs, hot cars and speed in general? I’m thinking that there may be some pretty good stories from some of you guys, if you think back a ways. Since I’ve posed the question I’ll start.

    I grew up in really small towns of SW Missouri so I’d not seen much in the way of hot rods. It was fall of ‘60, I was almost 13 and we’d moved to town that summer. All the boys were interested in the new cars coming out and the dealerships made a big deal of keeping things hidden. There was a guy back from the Army who had a ‘57 BelAire with a continental kit and the rear lowered, and a ‘56 Chevy with the front bumper pulled, but not much else that wasn’t stock. I’d listen to WLS in Chicago with their Saturday ads, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday at the beautiful US30 dragstrip” and dream. One Sunday after church we went home for lunch, and I was told we were going for a drive. Now I’m an 8th grader, which is an “interesting” age anyway, and of course I was bored. We’re in Joplin, 50 miles from home and Dad asks, "What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?" I remembered hearing on the radio the night before that there was a car show happening in Joplin at their municipal auditorium, and to my surprise they drove over, stopped at the curb, handed me a dollar and said "Come back when you've seen what you want to see!"

    The show was put on by the Cam Twisters Car Club, probably had 100 or 150 cars of different types plus their club dragster! The seed was planted, and even in the sticks of SW Missouri the seed took root and grew!

    Who’s next?
    Roger
    Enjoy the little things in life, and you may look back one day and realize that they were really the BIG things.

  2. #2
    cffisher's Avatar
    cffisher is offline CHR Member Visit my Photo Gallery
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    I was 15 1959 and friends had cars. One was Jim, I still see him and others I knew back then. Jim was 16 and he had a 50 Olds bubble coupe I helped him wrench on it a lot. I don't remember what engine it had but it ran good. It had a LaSalle 3 speed trans which I worked on changing bearings. Lots of crazy times in that car. We were out in it one time when it started raining. It wipers but no motor to run them. I got on the floor a reached under the dash and worked them. We would go to US 30 dragstrip on Sundays and Oswego now and then. You can't hang around a track and not get hooked. I got my license at 16 I can not tell you how many times I blew the trans up in my dads 60 Rambler wagon. Then later that year I got my first car a 57 DeSoto 4 dr. Green Hemi Not long after I got it I put on 2 4s Yes I got into a lot of trouble with it but it was fun. I like thinking back at when I was 16 lots went on back then. OH this all happened on the far south side of Chicago. Mostly in Mount Green Wood. Lots of cars & trucks have gone through my hands since then. I would not trade any of it for anything. I'm now 75 have 22 grand kids I hope to get them started two already are. And the beat goes on.
    Thanks Roger for making me bringing back some fun times
    Charlie
    Lovin' what I do and doing what I love
    Some guys can fix broken NO ONE can fix STUPID
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  3. #3
    johnboy is offline CHR Member Visit my Photo Gallery
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    In my young days we lived in Lower Hutt, a city just across the harbour from the capital, Wellington.
    Next-door-but-one from us lived the O'Learys, a family with eight kids, Bernard was the youngest, about my age, and we used to get around together.
    His older brother Terry was in to cars, and was always tinkering with old V8s.
    He had a mate who used to come visit often, and help Terry with his cars. This bloke used to turn up in the most amazing pieces of machinery I had ever seen. And we kids would hang around asking questions and 'helping'.
    (We were most probably just a damned nuisance!)
    And this mate's name was Graham Berry.
    Of Berry and Chung.

    I was hooked.

    And that would be better than sixty years ago.
    Last edited by johnboy; 06-30-2020 at 02:25 PM.
    johnboy
    Mountain man.
    Some mistakes are too much fun to be made only once.

    '47 Ford sedan. 350 -- 350, Jaguar irs + ifs.
    '49 Morris Minor. Datsun 1500cc, 5sp manual, Marina front axle, Nissan rear axle.
    '51 Ford school bus. Chev 400 ci Vortec 5 sp manual + Gearvendors 2sp, 2000 Chev lwb dually chassis and axles.
    '64 A.C. Cobra replica. Ford 429, C6 auto, Torana ifs, Jaguar irs.

  4. #4
    shine's Avatar
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    my pop was a car guy. he always had some kind of cool old car. 49 olds v8 when i was in 1st grade pretty much did it. started building model cars and just kept going .

  5. #5
    rspears's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnboy View Post
    And this mate's name was Graham Berry.
    Of Berry and Chung.
    And Berry & Chung meant something in NZ - B/C EQUIPMENT Maybe like a Vic Edelbrock or Barney Navarro?

    Cool story, jb!
    Last edited by rspears; 06-30-2020 at 11:13 AM.
    johnboy likes this.
    Roger
    Enjoy the little things in life, and you may look back one day and realize that they were really the BIG things.

  6. #6
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    Growing up I was too poor to get a nice car. I was always mechanically inclined, and curious. Buy it cheap, make it better and sell it cheap pretty much explains my spare time hobby for most of my life. I've fairly lost the bug though. I've developed an appreciation for the simplicity and reliability of stock design. More powerful is still cool, but low maintenance is better.
    Mike P, NTFDAY, johnboy and 3 others like this.
    .
    Education is expensive. Keep that in mind, and you'll never be terribly upset when a project goes awry.
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  7. #7
    Dave Severson is offline CHR Member/Contributor Visit my Photo Gallery
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    I got started in Kart racing at age 9, just a natural progression from there!
    Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, Live for Today!
    Carroll Shelby

    Learning must be difficult for those who already know it all!!!!

  8. #8
    Mike P's Avatar
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    Good memories. Basically for me there was really no one big thing it was more a gradual exposure the whole time I was growing up.

    I was born in 52. I had a couple of uncles who were car guys. When they came to visit it was always neat to see what they brought down......and usually get a short ride in it. Dad was more into stock cars and we'd usually hit the local fairgrounds dirt track a couple of times during the summer. I started into model cars around 1960......remember one of the first ones I built was one of Garlets Swamp Rats.

    I lived in NW Illinois and like you Roger WLS was the station of choice. I’d devour anything automotive I could lay my hands on…..the Jr High I went to had a subscription to Hot Rod Magazine that I would occasionally get my hands on. There were only 3 TV stations we could get so pickins were pretty slim there but I do remember watching Howard Cosell’s Wide World of Sports anytime they had any racing on ……especially drag racing.


    By the time I started working at the local Chrysler Plymouth Dealer in 1968 I was in heaven.......Road Runners, GTxs Barracudas and State Cop cars were just another day at work (OK there were a lot of 318 grocery getters too ) Yeah I still get nostalgic for the 68-71 era.


    .
    I've NEVER seen a car come from the factory that couldn't be improved.....

  9. #9
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    I love these threads as it allows us to relive some great memories and learn about our fellow hot rodders. Like Dave, I raced go karts at a young age. Started with a Bug Kart with a 3 ½ HP Briggs & Stratton and ended up with an Azusa Kart with twin Mac 101’s. That cart would really fly.

    The car end of things started early as well because my father and my Uncle Ed both worked on the family cars and I was always close at hand to fetch coffee and tools. My first hands on rebuild was a 312 Ford with mushroom solid lifters that was in a chopped up ’49 Ford dune buggy that had wide rims and balloon tires. It was really dangerous but I certainly didn’t realize such. It did have seat belts so I would have been in the seat if it had ever rolled – assuring sudden death.

    First SBC was when I was 15 and a friend’s brother pulled a 283 out of a ’57 Nomad to replace it with a 327. He told us we could have it and my friend and I promptly set about tearing it down to the last nut and bolt. He soon lost interest and the pile of parts was transported to my garage. Even then, I remember liking clean so we used gallons on naphtha and a drill driven wire wheels to make that block shine. My father was ever-so-patient and helped a lot, loading the block and heads into the trunk of his car and taking it to the machine shop where we had everything done right – bored .030 over, crank turned .010 and valve job with knurled guides and new seals. I saved a long time to have enough money to buy a rebuild kit from a company called JC Whitney. Unbeknownst to me, dad bought me a ring compressor and a three stone cylinder hone (both of which I have to this day) and when that box of parts came I couldn’t sleep until I had inventoried each piece at least five times. We honed the block using a Black & Decker ½ inch drill motor (also still in use) and scrubbed that block with hot water and Palmolive dish detergent. We blew it dry and painted the inside with Glyptal (yep – same stuff. My dad used it in the Navy and found it to be an effective coating) and the outside Chevy orange. While waiting for the parts to come, dad and I had build an engine stand from square tubing and the insides of an old boat trailer winch so we could position the engine with the removable crank. Ever so slowly, I assembled with dad’s ever vigilent eye and gentle correction.

    It took a while for me to locate a car – a ’51 Chevy that a neighbor sold me for $100. It had a blown 216 six and a three speed on the tree. I took the hood off and the front end sheet metal as well as the radiator and dad made a cardboard template of what was required for motor mounts. He had a machine shop fab them (as well as a new transmission cross mount) and after thoroughly cleaning the engine bay and painting black with Rust-Olium (from a can with a brush) we put the engine and transmission together (with a new clutch and pressure plate) and believe it or not, it slid in and the mounts lined up perfectly. I’m pretty sure I remember the sound of the bolts sliding through the mounting holes on the frame – it was a really cool experience. I again saved and sent off to JC Whitney for a “…complete dual exhaust system…” for the Chevy. It took forever to arrive as it came truck freight in a wooden crate. While waiting, we converted the 6 volt car to a 12 volt car.
    The exhaust hooked up, hoses, belts checked – radiator topped off and I turned the starter over of the first time. Boom, boom, sputter and as my dad slightly moved the distributor, the 283 (now a 288) came to life. Next lesson was setting valves (with the engine running – very, very, messy) and then she was ready to go. I was smitten and would have slept in that car every night if my folks had let me. Interestingly enough, I don’t really remember what happened to the ol’ gal – sold it to a friend I’m sure but I do remember the smells and I’m pretty sure my dad cried when it fired up – not because he was a wuss, rather he experienced a new joy through his son. Powerful lesson – one that I’ve had the privilege of sharing more than once with my three girls and my son.

    I’m still smitten – waiting for my ’63 Nova to come home from the painter today. I’m as excited as I was more than fifty years ago when I fired up my first rebuild. There’s been scores of small block Chevy’s come through my garage (along with a few Fords and a Mopar or two and lots of go-carts and dirt bikes) but I still get excited on that first crank and hearing the fire and the rumble of the exhaust. I may just get buried in coveralls.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on. I’m pretty sure there’s some 10W-40 in my blood..

    Regards All,
    Glenn
    "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty." John Basil Barnhil

  10. #10
    johnboy is offline CHR Member Visit my Photo Gallery
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    Quote Originally Posted by rspears View Post
    And Berry & Chung meant something in NZ - B/C EQUIPMENT Maybe like a Vic Edelbrock or Barney Navarro?

    Cool story, jb!
    You got it in one Roger.
    Berry and Chung is World Famous in NZ.

    Our Cobra is a Berry and Chung kitset, build #64, so it's a fairly early one. I would say that virtually every Cobra replica in NZ would be B & C.
    There are four that I know of in our immediate area.
    And most probably more under construction tucked away in sheds.
    Last edited by johnboy; 06-30-2020 at 02:51 PM.
    NTFDAY, TOW'D and 36 sedan like this.
    johnboy
    Mountain man.
    Some mistakes are too much fun to be made only once.

    '47 Ford sedan. 350 -- 350, Jaguar irs + ifs.
    '49 Morris Minor. Datsun 1500cc, 5sp manual, Marina front axle, Nissan rear axle.
    '51 Ford school bus. Chev 400 ci Vortec 5 sp manual + Gearvendors 2sp, 2000 Chev lwb dually chassis and axles.
    '64 A.C. Cobra replica. Ford 429, C6 auto, Torana ifs, Jaguar irs.

  11. #11
    J. Robinson's Avatar
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    Roger mentioned (above) a discussion we had about where we got started and my comment that I was there in the early days of hot rodding. Here is what I told him:

    "My "indoctrination" started very early. My parents were racing fans and they started taking me to motorcycle, sprint car, midget, and stock car races almost as soon as I was out of diapers. The earliest ones I can remember were when I was about 4 years old. So that started my interest in cars and racing. I also had 3 older sisters. If you were from central Indiana you would undoubtedly be familiar with the Ennis brothers. Ron and Don Ennis were identical twins who were certified car nuts and early hot rodders. To this day they are considered the "rodfathers" of the area (Ron died of colon cancer about 3 years ago. Don is 82 and still cranking out hotrods). My oldest sister went to school with them (they graduated in 1956) and I saw their cars many times when I was a little kid - that started my infatuation with hot rods, loud cars with no fenders. My other two sisters' boyfriends discovered my interest in cars and they would frequently give me their hot rod and custom car magazines (probably so I would get lost and they could play kissy-face). I would gaze at those magazines for hours, memorizing the details and dreaming of the day when I could have a car of my own to customize. My youngest sister (5 years older than me) was engaged to a guy who had a flathead powered '32 five-window that ran E/Gas and I got to go to the drags with them a few times (1959 -'60). Ron Ennis finally took me for a ride in his roadster when I was about 12 and that hooked me forever. So, when I say I was there it's true. I wasn't building cars yet (that started in 1968), but I read everything car related I could get my hands on and I had some personal experience with the Ennis brothers, my sister's fiance, and, by their acquaintance, some of their rodding friends. I would just quietly listen and absorb their comments and stories."

    I drove my first race in a go-kart in 1961 (age 13) and started building my first hot rod in 1968 (age 20). I built and raced my first stock car in 1969 (age 21). Since then I have raced go-karts, built and raced stock cars, drag raced, and raced in Electrathon. I have also built 28 or 29 hot rod/street rod chassis since that one in 1968. I have no intention of quitting building or racing as long as the Heavenly Father allows me to keep my mental and physical abilities.
    Mike P, NTFDAY, TOW'D and 6 others like this.
    Jim

    Racing! - Because football, basketball, baseball, and golf require only ONE BALL!

  12. #12
    Dave Severson is offline CHR Member/Contributor Visit my Photo Gallery
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    The kart stuff was so much fun! My first was a Fox Flex with a 90 Mac, the last was a Margay lay down with twin Comet B Bombs! Funny how this thread came up, I recently ran across a guy who has a Margay frame and (as he says it) about 3 1/2 Mac 101's that he would sell or trade. Yeah, I'm old but I do have to make the 300 mile trek to look it over sometime this summer!
    glennsexton, rspears and 36 sedan like this.
    Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, Live for Today!
    Carroll Shelby

    Learning must be difficult for those who already know it all!!!!

  13. #13
    J. Robinson's Avatar
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    Go for it Dave. I've been browsing karts on my local Facebook Marketplace and Craig's List. At 72 I'm looking at doing it again! Back in '95-'96 my son and I raced karts; now I'm looking at doing it with my grandson. Hey, us old guys can still have fun can't we?

    I've never officially retired from racing. I was asked once when I would do that; I said I'll retire when my age equals my number - 94.
    Jim

    Racing! - Because football, basketball, baseball, and golf require only ONE BALL!

  14. #14
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    When I was about 7, my grandfather built dirt track cars for a local junkyard. He didn't drive, just did the wrenching and fabrication. I grew up playing in these cars (and wandering around the junkyard) and watching him build Chevy engines for them. He had a run-in stand that he built from some front frame clip from the junkyard and I remember how loud the open pipes were when he fired one up.

    He always had a collection of parts catalogs and some magazines stuffed into a bin by his recliner. I poured over those not really knowing what I was looking at, but fascinated none the least. I remember Honest Charley's when they were a real speed shop.

    I wanted him to build me a race car, but he refused with no expalnation and laid down the law to my mom and dad that I was never to be allowed to race. I never understood that then, but now know that it was because of all the deathes and injuries that he had seen at the track. Of course, this "forbidden hot rodding fruit" called out to me and still does. In his defense, he did get me a go-kart that I drove on a make shift dirt track in the back yard until I wore the engine slap out. I taught myself how to drift that thing around that short oval. It was a blast!

    They moved on to short asphalt tracks as there were several within reasonable driving distance from northern Louisiana. This went on for several years before they quit, but my grandfather did a lot more than that. He never had a lot of money and tended to buy cars with really good bodies, but needed engine work. He was partial to GM stuff, since he was a factory trained Cadillac mechanic at his day job. There was always some kind of car or truck in his shop. He did mechanic work on the side, too.

    Seems to me I remember a Chevy pickup he bought that needed an engine. He had a good Oldsmobile (might have been a Caddy) that had a rotten body, so he did the "hot rodder" thing and dropped the car engine into the truck. He drove that one for several years.

    My dad had a big influence on me, too. He grew up in West Virginia and did all of his own service work. He was a welder, too. He and I redid a Jeep truck to hunt in. Built that one from several different Jeeps.

    The biggest lesson I learned from these two men was not to be afraid to try something, even if you fail. Just learn from the failure and keep going. The only shame in failing is giving up. They're both gone now and not a day goes by that I don't miss them.

    My love of pre-'49 street rods comes from magazines and TV. There were no street rods in my area at all, but I thought they were the neatest things and vowed to own one someday. One of my high school buddies was into British sports cars and I got to drive his brother's Austin Healey 3000 when I was about 15 or 16. That also left a strong impression on me.

    And there was a steady stream of models that I put together. Probably dozens over the years before I moved on to full size cars.
    Last edited by Hotrod46; 07-01-2020 at 06:27 AM.
    Mike

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  15. #15
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    Terrific stories and with similar themes in a broad sense. Mine could be similar as well, though I can't go to Roger's specific question as I too didn't have a singular influencer for hot rod love. Mine is more a "car culture" thing.

    I've wondered, on occasion, how different my life might have been had I never left the Podunk little town I was born in smack in the middle of Kansas farm country (about 600 pop. at the time). Instead I was exposed, over time, to a wide range of environs and cultural inputs. My first awareness of automobile fascination was after we'd moved to Chicago. Way more opportunities to see and learn about diverse examples. I can remember being attracted to a Kaiser Darrin in a parking lot, though I had no idea what it was other than just neat (and different) looking. I can remember a trip to a huge Ford dealer (Jim Moran) on a family car buying excursion. I wanted in a big way for the ol' man to buy that '57 Country Squire with all the fake wood siding because it looked so neat to my eye. He was too stodgy for that (so I didn't inherit my tastes there). The junk yard a mile or so from our house held great appeal, though the guys running it had no time for some kid being in the way.

    Then good fortune struck in '59 when we moved to sunny, Southern California as I was approaching my teenage years. For all that, in my opinion, So. Cal has turned itself into a cesspool now, in the early '60s there couldn't have been a better place for a young, aspiring car nut to be. And to see hot rods used as daily drivers (though not real common, but more so than most other places) was clearly an influence. A few years later, when I was working in a grocery store, there was a fellow named Bo Jones who lived just down the block. He built two cars under a tree in his yard, an orange track style T roadster as his daily, and a complimentary T sedan, same orange, same Chevy II drive train, for his wife to drive daily. Helping her out with her load of groceries was always a treat. There were other rods that folks likely saw in the magazines of the day that were within a 20ish mile radius, and they were somewhat common sights.

    My first purchase was a '51 Merc tudor. While it's now a custom car icon, then, it was just an 11 year old used car that was affordable for a high school kid working at a grocery store for minimum wage. But it was mine, a ticket to freedom of movement, and a way to express some automotive art form. Since then a couple hundred cars have come and gone. The first ones were really crude as befitted an inexperienced kid. Fortunately over the years knowledge and skills grew and expressions of artform realized. So, while there was no singular event that launched that "ship", there was a several decades long progression of a most enjoyable "hobby".
    Your Uncle Bob, Senior Geezer Curmudgeon

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    Luck occurs when preparation and opportunity converge.

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