Outside the show area there was a tremendous swap meet filling the unimaginably vast parking area. The swap meet offered everything you could want for the hot rodder, including a good many hot rods for sale.
The LA Roadster meet was the “Hershey” of hot rodding.
I just kept turning up one row and down another. So many terrific hot rods, customs, dry lakes,
drag cars and just plain clever street rides.
One of the gentlemen I met at that first roadster show weekend was Don Montgomery who had taken the time to document and put to print several volumes covering the history of the
American hot rod. What a fantastic resource! I bought a copy of each of his books, which really gave me a jump start on the history of hot rodding.
My ads were bringing some good hot rods out of the woodwork, and I was meeting some really terrific people that had stayed involved with hot rodding since the forties and fifties.
We returned to Hershey the following year with four genuine hot rods. Not all were steeped in history, but all of them were “traditional” late forties, fifties hot rods.
Even contemporary build hot rods were fine as long as they were truly built properly, right down to fasteners that didn’t have SAE or metric markings all across their heads.
And at that Hershey meet, I was pretty much able to confirm what I’d felt was truly an emerging market for these hot rods.
European car enthusiasts, vintage racers, the “upper class” of the car hobby seemed to be coming out of the closet!
Most true car guys, upon sighting a proper hot rod, will always smile, maybe with a memory, a tug that might say: “Geez, that son of a gun looks like it’ll get on down the road. . .”
All four hot rods were quickly sold at Hershey. And, I worked harder and dug deeper for more good examples.
And then . . .
“I’VE SEEN THOSE LOUVERS . . .”
Late one Sunday evening in the fall, my telephone rang. It was nearly nine PM, and I almost let it go to message, but I picked it up.
The guy at the other end was barely audible and talked like he had something clandestine to disclose. Nearly whispering, he said:
“I saw your ad in Hemmings. I think I have a hot rod you’ll want.”
Nothing further was forthcoming.
“Can you give me a few details?” I asked.
He went on to tell me in a hushed voice that it was a ’32 Ford roadster. It was built a long time ago by a “guy” who was known as “Racer” or somethin’ like that, he said.
He thought the car had run at Bonneville. Then his details became even murkier.
But he said, the car was in a storage lockup in Las Vegas Nevada and at one time it had been stolen, and recovered missing most of its interior. The further along he went the less appealing it all became.
“Can you send me some shots of the car?” I said halfheartedly. I collected his name and phone number.
Weeks went by and in spite of all the negative aspects of the initial phone call I couldn’t get the “Racer” and Bonneville part of the conversation out of my head.
I called the guy back and asked him about the photos.
He snapped back that he’d get to it, and shut me off pretty quickly.
Maybe I should forget about “Racer” and move on, I thought . . .
Several weeks later on a Monday morning, an envelope arrived from a Robert Stamper in Las Vegas, Nevada showing a down at the heels ’32 Ford full fendered hot rod. The top was chopped, the nose was dropped, the front tires were ribbed and there was a “Road Runner” club plaque on the back of the car.
But the thing that caught my eye was the three piece hood. It had a very distinctive louver pattern. I’d seen those louvers somewhere. Had to have been in one of the Montgomery books, which at that point I’d pored time and again. I grabbed two of the volumes and flipped one open.
It didn’t take long. There was that damn louvered hood staring back at me from El Mirage, and there it was again on another page. And again, on another page.
But at this point we are just lifting the edge of Pandora’s Box and that’s a whole new story for us down the road in Chapter 32!!