AUTO SHOP TROG COUPE
Unfortunately, it often seems to me that we are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted when we try to force-feed young people a diet of old car culture, especially hot rods. I feel like we’re buggy whip makers cracking on for the last sale when really we should be looking ahead, in our case to alternative means of propulsion.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hot rods and all the ways we find to enjoy them. However, I am under no illusion that we are not an endangered species. That said, I am encouraged by all the efforts being made to expose young folks to the joys of engineering in all its forms, because not only are we short of auto mechanics, we’re short of people to do anything with their hands. Just watch an episode of This Old House and listen to the contractors talk of the lack of young people learning a trade.
All across the country, and even in other countries, there are institutions trying to fill the void. It was therefore refreshing to hear through David Steele, director of the American
Hot Rod Foundation, about Jonathan Ruvio, an auto shop instructor at Great Neck South High School in Great Neck, New York. Seems that Jon, aided by a group of his auto shop students, raced a school-built hot rod at The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) and did rather well.
Jon has always been into hot rods and building cars. When in 2011 he began work as an automotive educator, he immediately wanted to build cool cars with his students. To get the wheels rolling he started an after-school club called The Rebel Car Club. They built a hot 350 for an ’80 Z28 and subsequently worked on Jon’s ’67 Pontiac GTO. However, in 2015 the club embarked on an ambitious plan to have some purpose to its efforts. After watching some videos of the event, they decided to build a race car for TROG.
Club members wanted to build a banger-powered chopped Model A coupe. After searching the Internet for a suitable donor candidate, they eventually found one, but it was way out west in Nevada. And when it arrived, the “find” turned about to be less than golden. There was no top, at all. No hood, grille shell, decklid or rear fenders. The body, covered with many layers of primer to hide the damage, was cracked all the way down on both sides. The rear axle was bent, and the car would hop when pushed around the parking lot. It didn’t run. It didn’t stop, either. Nothing worked or was correct on the car.
Unperturbed, the students got to work rebuilding everything from the rear axle to the engine. They fixed up the body, licked it with paint, and just made the 2016 TROG event. They got beaten in every race but went home enthused rather than depressed, vowing to return the following year.
Knowing they needed more power, they turned to Max Herman Jr. at H&H Antique in La Crescenta, California. “I was raised in a world with only four cylinders,” Max said. “So, if I can help some kids enjoy the beauty of bangers, I will.” Max handled all the machine work on a new block and threw in a Winfield cam to spur the team on. When the engine returned, the students added a Lion Speed cylinder head and a brace of Stromberg 97 carbs.
They also rebuilt the transmission, fettled the body some more, improved the brakes, and returned to the sands of Wildwood in 2017. Looking a whole lot better with its chopped top, black paint, and racing engine, No. 78 fared well in front of the crowd that included club advisors and school officials. Indeed, the whole project was such a success, the club is now embarking on a more ambitious project: to replicate Corvette designer Larry Shinoda’s Chopsticks Special Model A roadster. In fact, Jon’s new fiancé, Natalie, bought him the roadster after he proposed to her at TROG. What a gal.
(For those who don’t remember, Shinoda, a Japanese-american interned as a child during WWII, designed the ’59 Chevy, ’63 Corvette, the Mako Shark, and the Boss 302 Mustang as well as the Boss 429. He had just started working for Ford in Detroit in 1955 when he took the roadster clear to Kansas for the inaugural National Championship Drag Races at Great Bend. Running in the A/hot Roadster class, he won with a very credible speed of 125.69 mph. Larry built the Shinoda & Powers Chopsticks Special IV while he was in high school and powered it with a C-T Automotive-built Ardun OHV.)
For Jon and his students—sal Angelaras, Deep Datta, Chris Barulic, Daniel Bennett, John Broncado, Dan Bronstein, Ben Cohen, Charlie Judson, Toe, Tim Samuel, and Erick Zizic— and members of the Rebel Car Club, it has been a great learning experience of not only car building but also teamwork and the unrivaled emotions of going racing, win or lose.
The Club would also like to thank Mel Stultz and the entire TROG crew for letting them race and be part of the event; Max Herman Jr. and H&H Antique for help with the engine; Bill D. Plumber for help sourcing old Ford parts; fellow high school teachers Neil Miller and Don Schafer for their invaluable help; David and Aaron Muntner of the local NAPA auto parts; and, of course, the Great Neck High School Principals Susan Elliot and Dr. Gitz for enabling this great project. —TONY THACKER
SCENE AT THE 2017 MOONEYES XMAS PARTY
In its January 2018 issue, HOT ROD Deluxe announced that Irwindale Event Center—the home of a dragstrip inaugurated in 2001—would cease operation in early 2018. As you may already know (or read a few pages back), Irwindale’s execution was stayed, thanks to the efforts of a group of local hot rodders banding together to keep the track open for the foreseeable future. But when our friends at Mooneyes, led by Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama, staged the 2017 Mooneyes Xmas Party, everyone involved believed it would be the final Mooneyes event at the venue.
It seems that enthusiasts felt the urge to visit the beloved venue for what they thought would be one last time, turning out in droves at the gates as early as 3 a.m. Ultimately, more than 1,500 vehicles and 15,000 visitors joined the organized mayhem, to enjoy a busy schedule of activities. Mooneyes’ extravaganza is a great way to sample Socal’s custom car culture, as it mixes a most eclectic array of cool rides: hot rods, kustoms, lowriders, vans, muscle cars, air-cooled VWS, and more ape-hangerequipped motorcycles than we’ve seen in a long time. It looks like some bikers chose to attend the Mooneyes show rather than the Chopperfest that was scheduled for the same weekend, but canceled due to the terrible fires dangerously close to the event’s venue in Ventura.
The Xmas Party also offered a huge vendor area, which enabled the crowd to buy new car parts, artwork, vintage clothing, even haircuts. Mooneyes had an impressive booth, of course, to promote its diverse product line, some going as far back as the company’s early days when Dean Moon opened shop in 1962. The same part of the vendor area was home to the stage used by several invited bands and, later, by the alwayspopular Pinup Contest.
The Mooneyes Xmas Party is more than a static show. Some folks came to watch—and participate in—the Run-whatchabrung drag races, which once again combined a vast range of cars and a handful of bikes. The A/FX sideshow, led in part by gasser guru Dale Snoke, proved entertaining as usual with plenty of wild wheelies.
As of this writing we don’t know what Mooneyes’ plans are for its 2018 Xmas Party or Mother’s Day show. We will let you know as soon as we do.
FUN IN THE SUN: With unseasonably warm temperatures in the 80s, visitors came by the thousands to see great rides in the vein of Robert Rojas’ trick ’31 Ford roadster (left). The venue quickly filled with spectators’ cars as well. By mid-morning, the...
PACKED PACKED: Oh yes, it got crowded. In fact, we don’t remember such a turnout at Irwindale since Mooneyes adopted the site in 2006. The awning on the right covered Mooneyes’ booth, while bands played on the left. (They included Dynotones, Hot Rod...
FUN IN THE SUN
NEXT UP: The TROG racer turned out so well that the club got the green light to work on a more ambitious project, a tribute to the Model A roadster that Larry Shinoda raced at the NHRA Nats in 1955. NEXT UP
READY FOR WILDWOOD HOT ON THE SAND: Jon handled driving duties at TROG 2017. The No. 78 made everyone happy, from Jon and his students to school officials and the club’s advisor. HOT ON THE SAND
UNDAUNTED UNDAUNTED: Seizing on an invaluable teaching moment, instructor Jon Ruvio had his shop students jump feet first into the Model A’s rebirth. Class members did everything from rebuilding the frame from the ground up to bodywork and...
SOME FIND: The auto shop students at Great Neck South High School in New York learned a valuable lesson about buying a project vehicle over the Internet when their Model A arrived from Nevada. What wasn’t broken was bent.
GEARHEADS: The success of the event should be attributed in part to the numerous car clubs onsite. The Gearheads displayed a handful of excellent hot rods, such as Rick Tokiyeda’s ’25 Model T (left), flanked by a trio of ’28’29 Model As driven by...
CALORI CAR: In the foreground, you can admire the GMC six that propels the Iacono dragster, equipped with a 12-port Wayne head and Hilborn injection. The vehicle shares the space with Billy Crewl’s Model A on 1932 rails, an accurate tribute to Jack...
ALL THERE: What a great looking hot rod! Chopped top, Deuce grille, no hood, triple 97 carbs: It’s all there. Peter Rodriguez drove from nearby Azusa in his 1930 Ford, which made some waves in the Suede Palace at the 2017 Grand National Roadster Show....
GASSER FOR SALE GASSER FOR SALE: If you had $26,500 burning a hole in your pocket, you could have purchased this frame-off-built ’30 Model A, which hints at the 1960s gasser scene and occasionally ran at Irwindale. Interesting features include a 383ci...
HISTORIC RAILS HISTORIC RAILS: Longtime journalist Pat Ganahl (who’s now retired and very happy about it) has been the owner of the Ike Iacono dragster since 1988, though he completed its restoration much later, with help from various heroes of the...
DIRTY DIRTY: Dubbed “The Dirty Farm Truck,” Jeff Martin’s pickup has a unique appearance, courtesy of a heavy channel job, suicidemounted I-beam, and unusual choice of wheels. It first sat on 16-inch rims, later replaced with tall, 21-inch wires, plus...