I’ve got a lot of stuff in my “archive.” I mean a whole lotta stuff. Just in terms of photos–color, black-and-white, prints, negatives, slides, proof sheets, digital–there are 30,000-some images. No way I can count them. It’s just an estimate, and it’s probably way low. But besides those, there are magazines (most from Vol 1, No. 1), books, racing and show programs, audio tapes, not to mention all kinds of what I call hot rodabilia, or “collectibles”: decals, hat pins, dash plaques, business cards, shirts and jackets, model cars and unbuilt kits…I can’t even think of all of it (some of which I will show in upcoming columns). Bill and Sabina really want me to do a podcast with my interview tapes–and I should. But I still have cars to finish in the garage, races to run, trips to take, models to build (hah!), not to mention plenty of things that don’t involve cars. So this bi-weekly blog (plus my Instagram–@patganahl–that Bill puts up for me) is my feeble attempt to share as much of this with you as I can in however much time I have left on this planet.
Whew. Where did all that come from? All I really meant to say was that I have one drawer in a file cabinet labeled “Old Shows and Racing” or something like that, and in it are 20+ folders of B&W photos from custom car shows in big cities all across the U.S. and Canada from the ’60-’61 season. That was the first year for Bob Larivee’s International Show Car Association (ISCA) and it’s my hunch that he paid freelance photographers (primarily Bob Hegge of St. Louis) to go to these shows, shoot lots of photos, and send them to various magazines to get coverage and publicity. The best part is that these 8 x 10 prints have short typed captions taped to them, so I have some info. The bad part is that these folders, which someone dumped in the Petersen Pub. trash and I rescued years ago, are apparently the leftovers (or what we call “outtakes”) after editors picked the best ones for articles. So these might not be the big trophy winners, but they are indicative of what rodders and customizers were building, and showing, at the beginning of the Sixties.
For instance, Vern and Bill Harris’ ’26 T roadster mounted on a ’32 frame with a ’52 Olds V8 and Lincoln trans. The fenders, exhaust, and (rear?) nerf bars were handmade. With medium whitewalls, one item I’ve never seen are the brushed aluminum wheelcovers that look like a cross between Moons and ’57 Plymouth types. The Harris brothers(?) were from Downsview, Ontario, Canada, and that’s my cue to tell you this was the SpeedSport ’61 car show held at Queen Elizabeth Hall in Toronto on Jan. 27-28. I pulled this folder because it had lots of good print photos, with captions.
And what made me think about using one of these ’60-’61 car shows as this week’s topic is the fact that these big indoor car shows have long been a wintertime activity, when snow and freezing temps preclude drag races or other outdoor activities for car owners of all types, and a warm, brightly lit auditorium full of colorful and chromed vehicles is a great place to draw plenty of spectators. What further made me think of this is that we had our huge Grand National Roadster Show at the L.A. County Fairgrounds a couple weeks ago, and not only was there no snow on the ground, but it’s been close to 90 degrees every day since then here in parched SoCal. I understand it’s not like this where lots of you live. And Bob Hegge (who took these photos) noted in one of his jam-packed crowd shots that it snowed 12 inches in Toronto the night before the show opened, which seemed to draw even more spectators. OK, let’s see what was there.
Vic Zikovitz’ pert 5-window full-fendered Deuce placed 3rd in the Street Coupe and Sedan class with its 4-carb ’54 DeSoto Hemi mill hooked to a ’39 box, and white upholstery and running boards. Unfortunately car colors are seldom mentioned, though this appears metallic. This ’32 would fit in fine today, wouldn’t it?
Frank Elliot’s ’38 Standard coupe continues the medium whitewall, Moon disc, T&R running board theme. I’ve always liked the Mooneyes on the lower front fenders. I’d guess the car is black; no idea what color upholstery. With a 340-inch ’52 Olds mill, ’39 box, and ’59 Vette tail lights (hey, these were near new), it took 1st in “Pre-War” class. I’ve cherry-picked these show folders for a couple of articles I dubbed “Angelhairsville” in the past. But it just dawned on me, why mimic snow around your car in here when it’s freezing outside with 12 fresh inches of the real stuff on the ground? Maybe because these shows were around Christmas-time, and that’s when they have angel hair in the stores to decorate? I’d think the palm tree, tiki-head, islands theme displays would be much more appropriate.
In a note from Bob Hegge to Dick Day, Car Craft editor at the time, he stated the show was “put on” by the Corsairs club of Toronto. I still don’t know the derivation of the SpeedSport name (not the same as the racers from Tucson, AZ). But the two photos above show just a portion of the Toronto Modified Kar Klub’s ten entries, which won Best Club Display. The two channeled roadsters with tops, fenders, and nerf bars are indicative of the East-Coast-Style stereotype. The full-fendered Deuces with stock bumpers, headlights, and cowl lights were unusual. But I dig the tuck-n-roll firewall on the Vicky.
A boat? Sure. Inboard boats, especially with big chromed V8s, have always been car show staples. But this one–I think they called them “cracker boxes”–has a tiny 48 cu. in. Crosley (on a pretty scruffy trailer). The Sport Coupe in the background looks tasty, and the roadster pickup right behind the boat appears to be a super-rare ’32 Ford model–even more rare up in cold Canada.
Other than Moon discs and tinfoil under the hood and front wheelwell, this ’55 Ford 4-door is basically stock. So the caption simply says “In the display by the Road Gems from Toronto, the scene on wall is more like Western Canada than the East.” Well, the big mural is more interesting than the car.
British motorcycles seemed to be quite popular in Canada, and the Norton MCC had a large display of Norton, Matchless, and BSA bikes. However Don Esper of Detroit entered this stripped-down Triumph twin drag bike which was as quick as it was beautifully detailed, having won 16 firsts in the prior season. He had just added the tiny Shorrock vane-type blower, also imported from England, to go faster when the snow cleared. This is obviously a “pre-unit” TR, since the unit-type (with integral trans case) wasn’t introduced until ’63.
In the Aristocrats club display this factory dual-quad ’57 Corvette appears completely stock except for questionable dummy spotlights and large air cleaners that require hood removal. The ’60 Impala vert behind it (second seen in these photos) is a brand new car. And what looks like a ’32 Plymouth 3-W coupe with some dual-carb V8 was one of several primered cars in the show. Plus two more examples of wheelwell tinfoil. Was it a local thing?
With plenty of trophies to prove it, the Satans car club from Chippawa, Ont., claimed their short-wheelbase rail was the fastest dragster in Canada with times near 150 mph in 9.8 sec. Big Olds mill ran six 97s, but show sign said front wire wheels and fuel injection came next. Did the NHRA fuel ban apply in Canada, too?
Fred Farndon and Jim Arnold had recently added a Fiat coupe body and an…um…unusual nose to turn their dragster into a B-Modified. A ’58 Buick Nailhead with six carbs was credited with 121 mph (not stellar). But it did place 2nd in Comp Coupe and Roadster class at the show. Perhaps more cool are the three channeled coupes behind it, one in primer, not to mention the similar Model A against the back wall.
It’s a little hard to see Bruce Schambler’s Model A behind all his display paraphernalia, including a model car stand compete with its own angel hair. But its 3-carb 296-inch Merc flathead copped Best Engine for the show, and the car placed first in “Rod Class.” I’ve sometimes wondered why Drifters was a common car club name. But “Ebony Wind,” Bruce’s name for his channeled Model A, is weirder. I assume the car’s black, and the “Wind” is how he gets his hair blown (as Baskerville would say), since he cut the top off a coupe to make this a roadster.
As I said, ’60-’61 was the first season for Bob Larivee’s new show-promoting business (eventually known as Promotions Incorporated), and to kick it off he bought Roth’s Outlaw and put it on display on the complete “Show Tour” to help attract spectators. Hegge’s comment in his photo caption was: “Canadians haven’t seen anything like this before.” The next year Larivee bought the Beatnik Bandit and did the same thing. Then the following year he traded both cars back to Roth for his twin-engine Mysterion, which self-destructed in the trailer as it was towed cross-country from show to show. Thank god the first two were saved and restored.
Art Piel of Roseville, MI, called his ’29 hiboy “Body and Soul” because that’s what he probably put into it. It sat right on a Deuce frame with split wishbones and ’32 grille. The fully chromed firewall and ’48 Merc mill are outstanding, not to mention the Chrysler wire wheels and chromed dropped I-beam front suspension. A mirror under the rear tells me there’s more chrome back there, too. Yet it only placed 2nd in Altered Roadster class. He undoubtedly lost points for not having a cluttered display.
I close with this pre-crowd overall shot of just one portion of the show. In the foreground is Joe Flowers’ “Venus” candy red ’56 Chevy from Columbus, OH, which looks relatively mild in this view, other than the cantilever half-roof. The rear had more customizing with a split bumper, rolled pan, and hooded Lincoln taillights. What you can’t see are the fully upholstered engine compartment and trunk, swivel buckets and a bar inside, and yes, those are fully chromed drum brakes front and rear. Not to mention an elaborate display including a matching candy and chrome pedal car. It not only won first in class, Best Interior, Best Paint, Best Custom, People’s Choice, and overall Best In Show here, but also did the complete show tour to win the new ISCA’s first Season Points Championship. This was a full-on chromed, candied, upholstered, undriven, and even unlicensed show car. Possibly the first of its ilk, and of course followed by many, to this day.
Hey, this one was relatively quick and easy. I know you’ve never seen any of these photos before, because none ever made print. And there are plenty more where these came from. Let me know if you like ’em. But this leaves me some time to get out in the garage and get some work done on the track roadster. Then Anna and I are going to spend a couple days in the mountains. Yes. See you in two.