It’s not Santa. It’s not a joke. But there is a trick. It’s HO scale. That’s 1/64th–the size of your Hot Wheels. And this thing even runs!
First off, I want to say a big thank you to my continually growing number of readers out there, and all the great–sometimes amazing–things you send me through Gmail, whether it’s comments, stories, or photos–old or new. I could do a separate column just on all this good stuff, but I have a hard enough time keeping up with this one. But thank you. I see it. I read it. And I appreciate it. But here’s one I just had to share. I think you’ll agree. And I’ll let reader Mike Drake tell most of it in his own words. Then I’ll add something extra.
When I was a kid, too young to drive, I used to ride around my neighborhood [in San Leandro, CA] on my bike, “hunting” for cool cars. Tony Martinez, a member of the Bay Area Roadsters, lived there and had a cool little roadster that had the first Corvette independent rearend. Also nearby was Dennis DeBenedictis and his sweet 23 T. It was always parked in his driveway, first with white reversed wheels in back, then 5-spokes and Tommy the Greek striping. Then I saw it at the Oakland Roadster Show. But one car from the neighborhood really got my attention. It was orange just like Dennis’ T, and the reason I chose orange for my little coupe build.
About two miles from our house was a Texaco station on the corner of Lewelling Blvd. and Washington Ave. There was a guy there, I didn’t know if he owned the place or just worked there. But he had this orange ’32 sedan. I’m betting you’ve already guessed what it was. I found out later his name was Phil Kendrick. Yes that sedan. I was obsessed with that car–the chopped top, the stance, and OH the orange! I watched it go from a nice hot rod to an Oakland Show winner. Thus my obsession with orange hot rods
As for H.O. slot cars: There’s this “community” of builders/racers making complete cars, parts, tracks, and so on. I got involved a couple years ago. It’s a cottage industry making molds off Hot Wheels cars and casting resin bodies. Some are small businesses, others do it at home. I have found tires, wheels, chassis, and other parts. I found one guy casting a resin body from the Vern Luce coupe Hot Wheel, with sides bulged out to fit the H.O. chassis. I purchased a few and my imagination took off. First I started a blown version that I called my Tesla Killer.
It has the ’34 chopped 3-window body, and a JAG DR1 chassis from JAG Hobbies. The 5-spokes came from a guy in Germany who makes various wheels. For the big-n-littles there’s a bunch of different guys making silicone tires in any size you can imagine.
The grille, hairpin radius rods, quickchange, 4-spoke sprint car steering wheel, and other interior pieces came from other Hot Wheels which I modified to fit. The people inside are highly modified H.O. figures. The headlights are by Tyco.
Injectors available were not realistic enough. So by searching the internet I found “ferrules” used in the electronics industry. I found just the size I needed. The only trouble was I had to buy a pack of 100, but that was only about $10. Then I found a slightly larger size for the tailpipes under the Q.C.
For the ’50 Pontiac taillights–had to have those!–I used shortened ferrule belled tips, then cut down large chrome pinheads to fit inside and painted them Tamiya clear red. When the light hits them right, they almost glow.
Mike says the last thing he’ll add is a “THX 134” license plate that someone is making for him by a photo process. He also admits that this one is built for the shelf, not track time. We don’t blame him. I’d say the whole thing is a glowing little jewel.
Now for the “something extra.” Whether or not you’re familiar with the orange Phil Kendrick ’32 sedan, it’s always worth a good look. And it just so happens I have a complete file of color photos of it in my musty archives. So here’s a good look, when it was obviously in Oakland Show-winning form:
I have to admit those bobbed and louvered rear fenders have always been my favorite part of this car. But so is the bright orange paint, the Tommy the Greek white pinstriping supplemented with black (especially around the windows), and of course all the chrome (you know me…chrome is my favorite hot rod color). These photos were taken when the car was featured in Hot Rod in April ’67. It states that the big trophy was for winning Grand Sweepstakes at the ’67 San Mateo Auto Show. Unfortunately I never saw it in this wonderful orange/black/chrome guise, and didn’t even know it once looked like this. I first saw it at the Oakland Roadster show in ’74 or ’75 when it was painted a pale pearl yellow and had a large, dark purple, intricate pinstriped “blob” painted on the back, with the name “Super Prune.” All I’ll say is it wasn’t an improvement. The times they were a-changin’. I’m also not sure who owned it by then, but I do know that when Anna and I visited Jeff Beck in England in 1976 to photograph his version of the Graffiti Coupe for Street Rodder (Nov. ’76), the Prune was parked next to it in his carriage house. Or maybe that was a little later.
If you want more details, see my first Lost Hot Rods book, pp 106-107. Suffice it to say here that Jeff kept it long enough to realize that the damp British climate was not compatible with a fully chromed undercarriage, and sold it to the DeMarco brothers of SoCal in the mid-’80s, who swapped the chrome stuff for a 350/350/9-inch/4-bar setup and drove it on the street until it got the rear bashed in. They repaired that and showed the car in bare metal when it was displayed as one of the 75 Most Significant 1932 Ford Hot Rods, feted by the Ford Motor Co. at the 2007 GNRS. Since then Joey DeMarco has been very slowly “restoring” the car. Not exactly, but at least it’s orange again and has the quickchange back in. But lots still left to do.
Meantime, and purely coincidentally, just a couple days ago Jeff Beck emailed me a few photos of his latest garage project. Yep, it’s a perfectly chopped ’32 Tudor in bright orange with black outlines around the windows and white pinstriping. It doesn’t have fenders yet, but he says he already has a flat, chromed firewall, and it will be finished to externally replicate the Kendrick sedan. The major difference is that this one is built on a somewhat chromed, but fully independent Kugel chassis intended for some regular driving in the Kent countryside. Plus, he now has a new, significantly larger, and water-tight “carriage house” to keep his growing collection of hot rods–including that yellow Graffiti coupe–clean and rust-free.
That’s the latest from here. More hot rod news when it happens…or maybe just good old stories. See you soon.