Can you believe that I’ve done 81 of these things so far? It’s hard for me to believe. But one of the first was a single photo featuring a custom from Japan, so I titled it “Onesie.” Today, I’ve got two completely different topics. Well, I guess they’re similar in that they’re both follow-ups. But I’m calling it “Twofer” because you get two columns for the price of one–which of course, as always, is free. (By the way, if you’ve missed some, or just want to reread any, they’re all still on the Pat Ganahl’s Rod and Custom website.)
Topic 1: The California Kid Merc
Well, I did it again. It wasn’t more than a few minutes after my last column went up that two of my kid brothers, George and Chris–who are both much more computer literate and experienced than I–emailed to tell me that I was on Pluto and that this Badlands/CA Kid/Paul Hatton chopped ’51 Merc was nowhere near Belgium.
I don’t want to try to go back and reconstruct how I got that erroneous information. But they both quickly clued me that Vince Doll, also known as Nobody, was the owner of Redneck Engineering in Liberty, South Carolina, where he fabricated swoopy, high-end, highly regarded choppers. Both sent me to an article in Cycle World, Dec. 21, 2007, titled “Art of the Chopper: Vince Doll–First Look. A Redneck Named Nobody.” They also were able to find a couple of photos showing glimpses of the Merc.
This one, showing the whole car behind a pretty tame Redneck chopper, was from quite a while ago. It’s primered gray again, the bumper is missing (as are the sidepipes), but the only visible changes are Frenched headlights and again-shaved doorhandles.
This somewhat later one shows the car a bit more lowered, plus a much more typical Redneck chopper–except that this one has a sprung rear suspension and a very rare Vincent Black Shadow engine and transmission. Here we can see the Merc’s hood louvers and ’51 rear window. I had noticed its pop-out rear windows, but overlooked the 1-piece door glass (no wing windows).
You can find listings for Redneck Choppers on the web, and I even found one for Vince Doll on Nix Rd. in Liberty SC, but in both cases phone numbers were no longer operating. As of April 2019, on Facebook Vince posted: “Since I have retired I recently sold my buildings. I have a month to clean them out. Selling equipment and parts, jigs, etc.” As I mentioned last time, I emailed him on 3/30/21 asking about the Merc, and he replied the same day saying he still had it, but it was apart and he was “doing a few things.”
Then, just a couple days ago, I got another email from Brian Hatton, saying he had just found three more photos of the Merc when his dad first got it. The one at top shows it freshly finished (yes, he put door handles back on). This one shows the yellow paint being stripped off:
And this one shows the Paul Hatton paint job freshly finished:
So I must now assume that the car never went to Belgium. Vince Doll said on the HAMB some years ago that he had owned the car, then, over 15 years. The only thing we don’t know is exactly when, or how, he got it, and whether there were owners between Hatton and him. Hopefully this is all correct, and I’ll make no further assumptions on this topic.
Topic 2: Track Roadster Report
Most of you know that my next (and very probably last) car project is a reproduction of the Spalding Bros. track roadster. Starting with little more than an early Wayne 12-Port Chevy six engine, pieces of a Pat Warren quickchange, and a nice steel ’23 T roadster body, Marty Strode of North Plains, OR, fabricated everything else on this car from scratch, getting it near to completion to deliver it to me at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, where we showed it in a booth. However, as has been the case with so many of my projects, other pressing projects got in the way, and the poor roadster has sat in the corner of my garage, pretty much untouched, for nearly two years.
This is how Marty delivered the car to me. Looks pretty complete, but not quite. If you want to see how Marty built it, he did an exhaustive build blog on the H.A.M.B.. You can see some ’33 sedan doors behind it in this photo. But now that the ’33 is done, I’ve gotten to work on the track car, and am making some progress. So here’s an update.
The engine (also covered in the build blog), is in the car and pretty much done. I got this decades ago. It’s built with a 1948 Hi-Tork block and cast iron Wayne (WMD 225) head, and has all the very trick pieces identical to the Spaldings’ when it had 3 carbs (HRM cover, Feb. ’50): new fully drilled crank, GMC rods, Buick straight 8 rockers and shafts, Cad flathead V8 valves, billet main caps, virgin JE pistons, and even the BXOV-2 carbs. Wayne parts include the “sprint car” headers, intake manifold, finned valve and side covers, and a timing cover I had cast as an extra when I did the Iacono GMC engine. I thought it had a Spalding cam in it, but when I took it down to Isky’s to have it checked, they said it had very little lift. But it was a small-diameter, early Chev steel billet cam, and they didn’t have any blanks. Then, wouldn’t you know, Ed wandered in to see what was going on, heard the problem, scratched his head and said “I seem to remember a pallet of those old things somewhere around here. Let me look.” I came back the next day, and sure enough, he had found them, and ground one to a track grind he recommended. That meant I had to find an n.o.s. set of chilled iron lifters, too. I also had to devise the oiling system (with early Mopar filter) and make carb linkage.
But the first job for me now was to get a clutch and trans in the car. The original car had an in-and-out box, with no trans or clutch.
Though I’ve joined the WRA to run the car in vintage exhibitions on local circle tracks, I want to–hopefully–be able to run it at some vintage drags, and maybe cruise some fairgrounds. Having a clutch and starter will make it much easier, and more fun, to use. So I located an ancient Cyclone Chev 6-to-early Ford trans adapter. I couldn’t find a good ’39 Ford trans anywhere, so Jim Gordon, who has been running and is now trying to liquidate Gene Scott’s early Ford parts emporium, said he would build me one from all n.o.s. parts, which he did. This is the Cyclone adapter, which Marty used when mounting the engine. You can see the crank has three dowel pins, and I’ve added a special Chev-to-early-Ford pilot bushing. One big problem with Chev 6’s is that you have to bolt the bellhousing to the block before installing the flywheel. And the flywheel has to be torqued on before the clutch and pressure plate can be added. When old man Cook made this adapter, there must have been some clutch that could be installed, from the bottom, but I couldn’t find one, and nobody knew what it was. I tried three.
The final solution was to cut the lower section of the adapter off, as shown. Then I used a special Ram clutch made for a Chev V8-to-early Ford adaptation, and an early Chev truck flywheel to fit a 6-volt starter and the larger-diameter clutch.
Here’s the new trans bolted to the adapter, with an n.o.s. U-joint added. The longer clutch fork cross shaft is made for a scattershield bellhousing. You can see a pinch-bolt bung on the end, to which I’ll have to fabricate and weld a clutch pedal. The bent arm on the left is the brake, the one at right is the throttle. Getting my big feet and long legs to operate in here isn’t going to be easy, but we’re working on it.Here’s the completed trans, clutch, and shortened torque tube and drive shaft made by Marty. That short, angled shifter isn’t optimum, but was the best fit.
Since I won’t be able to hold the brake and clutch pedals at the same time, Marty also constructed this hand brake to make driving and dragging possible. His work is impeccable–better than my slightly blurry photography.So here’s a look at the current interior. I have all the early S-W gauges, plus a Bell fuel pressure pump for the far right hole. I think the Schroeder steering is the last one Gary made.
Besides the trans the only other change I’m making to the car is adding a starter. This is a pre-’49 foot-operated 6-V type, which I got as a greasy, grungy original, and cleaned and rebuilt. I ran one of these in my ’48 Chevy for years, and it works way better on 12 volts. I’ll make a simple pedal to go through the firewall.
I think I might have already shown the ’32 Nash 12-plug distributor I found (I actually have 2). This is what the Spaldings used to make their dual-coil ignitions. Plus the S-W tach-drive adapter Sam Strube found at a swap meet (afterI looked for years). As shown here, Tom Taros machined the adapter to take the Chevy oil pump drive shaft and gear, plus made a distributor tang-drive to fit. And he rebuilt the distributor on his old Sun machine.
And here’s the combination test fitted in the engine. I have the rebuilt S-W mechanical tach to attach to the cable drive. But as you can probably tell, the Bakelite cap will sit right between the chromed, cast iron headers, where it would probably melt or otherwise get damaged, so my next job is to figure out how to shorten this assembly, or find some other alternative.The next order of business was to rebuild and fit the bearing hubs to the live-axle Pat Warren quickchange rearend. These things are super rare today, and this one (found on the HAMB) was basically a much-welded bare case, which I massaged, and then Marty (and friends) rebuilt with a 3.78 ring-and-pinion, custom-made tapered-end axle, and side bells donated by someone Marty knew. You can also see the large aluminum fuel tank Marty built, plus the tank mount-rear push bar.
I got the hubs/bearing carriers (“squirrel cages”) from Glenn Necessary, made for sprint cars. These mount on the tapered axle ends with a single keyway, like an early Ford. Getting them apart to replace seals and bearings takes a lot of work, a press, and a custom-made tool. Marty made custom centers to weld into the Lincoln backing plates.
By using a long lever on the arm, I got the old original RotoFlo shocks to work quite well. But as you can see in this lower photo, Marty ran out of time to finish the shock arms, as well as the torsion bar mounts to the hub plate (using a piece of angle iron bolted on to hold the torsion arm temporarily to make the car a roller). So this is the next part to finish.
This is how the original car was constructed. You have to look closely, but there are two brackets welded to the hub plates, with three adjustment holes, to hold the end of the torsion arm in double shear. Plus a tab on top of one to attach the shock arm with two small clevises. Since I don’t have a heli-arc welder, I just delivered the car yesterday to Smokey Alleman in Atascadero, CA, to fabricate, weld, and finish these mounts.
My other stroke of luck was finally finding an original, cast Art Ingels grille. It’s a unique squarish shape, and I don’t think more than a dozen, if that, were ever made. I had found two that owners either wouldn’t relinquish or thought were gold. Then, out of the blue, a former car club member that I barely knew called and said, “Hey Pat, I’ve got something hanging on my shop wall that you’d probably like. I’ve had it for years, and won’t ever use it.” Yes, it was an original Engels grille, still fresh out of the mold, complete with casting flash and no holes drilled. After much hemming by both of us, he agreed to sell it to me for a price that was steep, but not ridiculous.
Now comes the part I’m not sure how–or whether–to tell. I’ve shown pictures of Dennis Webb forming a new nose on the Art Ingels buck I rebuilt for him. And then hand-making a grille from full-size photos I had made. This was a long, tedious, and ultimately expensive job. My errors were two-fold. First, I gave him photos of 5 or 6 Ingels noses–each slightly different, and all “deeper” and more angled back than the Spaldings’, which was more vertical and thin because of the longer straight six engine. Second, I had him build it on the bench, without the car to fit it to. You probably know where this is going. Yes, when I sent this nose and grille up to Marty to mount on the car, it just wouldn’t fit. Marty called in metalman Chris Kopp to see if it could be cut and reworked, and he quickly decided, “It would be quicker and easier for me just to make a new nose to fit.” Which he did, trimming it to use the grille Dennis had made, since that’s all we had at the time. Fortunately the real Ingels grille I recently got is slightly larger (note line marked on the nose in photo above). So, since I’m not a metalman, I’ve left the job of fitting the new grille to the new nose to Smokey, because that’s another of his talents. So, this leaves me with a nicely hand-formed aluminum nose and grille that I have no intention to hang on my garage wall. And I would like to recoup at least some of my investment in it. So…if this is something you need or want, contact me.
And that’s the state of the Spalding Repro at this point. When I get it back in 2-3 weeks, I’ll have to plumb it, wire it, install rear brakes, make more carb linkage, and get it running. The plan is to track test it, and make adjustments, before blowing it apart for bodywork, a whole lot of chrome plating, and then bright orange paint.
This was probably more than you needed to know. Marty’s build blog is way longer, but highly entertaining. Otherwise, we’re really hoping that stupid people don’t cause a third Covid infestation, and we can soon get back to some racing, car shows, and other normal human activity. Please.