Af­ter build­ing it as a teen, he helped with its re­vival 60 years later.

PRODIGY. Most 11-year-old boys back in the late 1940s would have been happy enough to spend their time rid­ing bi­cy­cles, pi­lot­ing toy trains, or even play­ing with one of the mul­ti­tudes of toy guns that hit the mar­ket in pa­tri­otic, post-world-war-ii Amer­ica. Most kids were, but young Buddy Hin­man wasn’t one of them.

“I was al­ways around cars and trucks,” Buddy re­calls. “My dad owned a coal yard in Rome, New York, and he was quite fond of Model Ts. He had the car bug. Some­times he even traded coal for cars.” Grow­ing up sur­rounded by de­liv­ery trucks and Dad’s small ar­mada of Henry Ford steel, the young­ster be­came quite in­quis­i­tive about the in­ner work­ings of mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles at a very early age.

But it was a trip to Cal­i­for­nia in 1947 that re­ally turned the power switch on in Buddy’s brain. That’s when he saw his first true hot rod. “I had never seen one be­fore, and wow, it just hit me. I re­mem­ber it was a ’32 road­ster.” With an ask­ing price of $500, it was a lit­tle too much for the fam­ily to pur­chase. But from

that mo­ment on, all he could think about was build­ing a real hot rod for him­self.

When he got back to New York, the first thing Buddy did was to “com­mis­sion” a ’27 Chevy road­ster they had on the coal yard prop­erty. “I wanted to lower it like that hot rod, so I took all the springs out of it and just U-bolted it to the axle. I’d drive it around the yard and the doors would fly open from the body twist­ing so bad,” he says with a laugh. But that cre­ative spurt was just a step­ping-stone to his fa­ther’s next pur­chase.

See­ing Buddy’s ea­ger­ness to learn about cars and their func­tion, his fa­ther stoked the flames and pur­chased a Model A sedan at a Utica car lot for $50. Over the next cou­ple of years Buddy added ’40 juice brakes, sui­cided the front end with a Shell Auto Parts drop front axle, and beefed up the banger mo­tor with a Cy­clone head, twin carbs, and full oil pres­sure.

His un­cle even gave to the project, do­nat­ing a mint ’31 road­ster body to the young­ster. Buddy would go on to chan­nel the body over the frame a full 6 inches to get it as low as he could on the chas­sis. From there, the road­ster would be his “daily driver,” ven­tur­ing around his fam­ily’s large pri­vate prop­erty and a full square

“Lower was a hot rod. Lower was bet­ter!” —Buddy Hin­man

block coal yard. Buddy was still not old enough to drive on open pub­lic roads.

A few years later, his fam­ily moved to Deans­boro, New York, where his fa­ther bought a farm. One day a man from the nearby town of Clin­ton saw the road­ster and traded Buddy straight up for a ’36 Ford Cabri­o­let. How­ever, just a few months later the road­ster showed up at a sal­vage yard right there in Deans­boro, now re­lieved of its po­tent Cy­clone-topped banger.

The rav­aged road­ster would soon be­come a mad-mo­tor­ized lab­o­ra­tory for Buddy and his friend Ron­nie Pierce, the son of a lo­cal garage owner. They would pull the road­ster’s body from its chas­sis and Z its frame a full 12 inches, us­ing an ex­tra donor Model A frame they had found at a scrap­yard. To get even lower in the driver seat, they cre­atively turned the fram­erails in­side out, swap­ping them side for side. This mod­i­fi­ca­tion would drop the seats even lower in the cock­pit and give the oc­cu­pants a lit­tle more breath­ing room to boot. A Deuce grille was sec­tioned to fit up front, and the team also built a barrel-shaped bel­ly­pan and torque tube tun­nel to fin­ish the floor and in­te­rior.

The mo­tor-va­tion in this hot rod jig­saw puzzle was a po­tent flat­head pulled from one of Ron­nie’s fa­ther’s stock cars. They set it so far back in the frame that one car­bu­re­tor on their Ed­munds 2x2 in­take was in front of the fire­wall, the other be­hind. A ’39 trans­mis­sion was added to do the shift­ing. One last touch: Buddy’s mom of­fered a leop­ard-print blan­ket that was stitched into a pair of seat cush­ions for the low rid­ing road­ster.

Though the car was never legally regis­tered, it racked up plenty of miles on the back­coun­try roads of cen­tral New York State. Buddy lost track of his lit­tle Model A road­ster af­ter 1955 but con­tin­ued with his love of cars and rac­ing. He went on to build and race stock cars quite suc­cess­fully and even won a few track cham­pi­onships.

Sec­ond Life

No one knew the where­abouts of the road­ster until it popped up on an on­line auc­tion site in 2008. It seemed to have led a hard life, wear­ing a heavy patina of rust and mocked up poorly by a pre­vi­ous care­taker. Its di­lap­i­dated state at­tracted no buy­ers. As a re­sult, it was then traded to a used car lot in New Jer­sey, where it be­came lawn art for an un­known amount of time. That’s where Tom Peach saw it.

Tom was pass­ing through on his way back to Mas­sachusetts and spot­ted the car, now serv­ing as some­one’s front yard planter. He de­cided to buy it and bring it back to his boat yard in Mar­ble­head. Not hav­ing any im­me­di­ate plans for it, he stuck it in a stor­age con­tainer with the no­tion that some­day he would get to it.

In 2015, Eli English, owner of Tra­di­tional Speed and Cus­tom in Pitts­field, New Hamp­shire, an­swered an ad for some Cy­clone flat­head Cadil­lac heads he was look­ing to pur­chase for a cus­tomer. The seller of those parts was Tom Peach. Eli headed to Mas­sachusetts to check out the needed Caddy parts. Once he bought the heads, Tom asked, “Are you look­ing for a road­ster project?”

Eli is al­ways on the look­out for orig­i­nal hot rods and equip­ment, so he was in­ter­ested in what Tom had. “It was buried be­hind rolls of boat rope,” he re­mem­bers. “I couldn’t make out much of it, so I passed on it that day.” That de­ci­sion would haunt him for weeks. “What did the rest of it look like? Did it have his­tory and was it still avail­able?” he thought to him­self con­stantly.

Un­able to shake the urge, he con­tacted Tom and asked if it was still there. A deal was bro­kered, and Eli rode out to Mar­ble­head and loaded up his prize.

Back at his shop, Eli scru­ti­nized his new old hot rod. “The thing I no­ticed right away was the in­side-out frame. I knew if some­one was to rec­og­nize and I.D. the car, the frame would give it away.” He sent some pictures of the road­ster to good friend Peter Flavin, who posted them on the H.A.M.B. Within an hour, a friend of Buddy’s spot­ted the pho­tos and mes­saged Eli. “By the end of the day, I was speak­ing to Buddy him­self on the tele­phone,” says Eli. The first thing Buddy asked was if the orig­i­nal seat skins were still there! Eli con­firmed that they were.

Eli de­cided he was go­ing to keep the road­ster the way it was found, which was the way Buddy had last seen it back in the mid 1950s. A few things had to be changed due to dam­age, but mirac­u­lously, the car was amaz­ingly close to the way it was when Buddy last drove it 60 years ago.

Any­thing that was re­placed was done with fac­tory parts (no re­pops here). For safety, the tie rod ends were re­placed, and the stuck steer­ing box was swapped for a re­built du­pli­cate. The flat­head was also stuck and needed se­ri­ous at­ten­tion, so Eli sourced a re­place­ment as well. The Ed­munds Cus­tom 2x2 was reused, as was the starter. For a lit­tle more fire­power, an old six-volt gen­er­a­tor was con­verted to 12.

To top the in­take, a pair of orig­i­nal Stromberg 97s was sourced and re­built. An old Ford crab dizzy that Eli had around the shop was used for spark. Out back, the gas tank was miss­ing, but the straps were there. Eli de­ducted that the miss­ing tank was an oval Model T type, so he traded some parts for one a friend had ly­ing around. “I also in­stalled the bat­tery in the orig­i­nal rear-mounted bat­tery hanger, and hooked it up to Buddy’s orig­i­nal bat­tery cable, which is made from a weld­ing cord, to make it all work,” says Eli. In the in­ter­est of safety, Eli added a Model T tail/stop light and a ’47 New Hamp­shire li­cense plate, in honor of the year Buddy started the build.

Meet and Greet

Eli has been a staunch sup­porter of The Race of Gen­tle­men since its in­cep­tion, and both he and his wife Lisa have raced pretty much ev­ery year. So it was only nat­u­ral that Eli would take the fully func­tional road­ster to Wild­wood and put it through its paces on the sand. And he wanted Buddy there to wit­ness the event.

In June 2016, Buddy’s son Mike and his wife brought Buddy to the beach for the an­nual event. There, the 81-year-old laid eyes on his road­ster for the first time in 60 years. Not only that, he even got to make a pass down the beach in his hot rod, spin­ning the wheels just like he did on those dusty gravel roads in the back­woods of New York State.

And Eli, well, he made some waves too. He pi­loted the car for a First place win in the Her­itage class. The sleek, low-slung, pati­naflanked road­ster showed that this 11-year-old’s vi­sion of hot rod de­sign still ap­plies to­day.

> The car that started it all. Though Buddy was sur­rounded by cars and trucks at his fa­ther’s New York coal yard, see­ing this hot rod on a trip to Cal­i­for­nia in­spired him to want to build one of his own. > Buddy’s first at­tempt at build­ing a hot rod...

> Once 11-year-old Buddy Hin­man saw his first hot rod on a trip to Cal­i­for­nia in 1947, he knew he had to have one of his own. This road­ster was his first foray into the world of build­ing hot rods and race cars.

> “I don’t have head­lights, gauges, dash­board, or fire­wall be­cause Buddy said that it never had them,” Eli says. “I don’t re­ally need gauges any­way. I can see, hear, and feel ev­ery­thing that is go­ing on with the mo­tor while I’m driv­ing it.” > There was...

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