“There’s something magical about a car that’s built entirely from old parts. It’s like a time machine of sorts,” says Andy Kohler, hot rodding devotee and owner of Kohler Kustom ( kohlerkustom.
com) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. “I’ve always felt that building and driving a hot rod is a way to reclaim something lost in the name of progress.”
Andy has forged a name in hot rodding over the last decade, fabricating period-perfect parts and building top-notch hot rods at his extensive shop, which resides off the beaten path in the quiet hills of the Keystone State. Walking into Andy’s garage/laboratory is like blazing through a wormhole in time, putting you back in a period of history that lies somewhere between the Treaty of Versailles and the Korean conflict.
Vintage tools are plentiful (and used extensively) in his shop, and there are always several hot rods being worked on. His work is well known in traditional hot rodding circles, and he’s got a worldwide following. “I’m just starting on my fourth hot rod that will go to Switzerland,” he says.
As he points out, the craft of hot rodding as we know it is an ever-changing entity. “The term ‘traditional hot rod’ has deviated from its initial meaning as we’ve advanced. The once cut-anddried description is starting to take on another meaning as time moves on and the mainstream embraces the hobby.” The perception of the hobby has changed with the resurgence of roots hot
rodding through major high-visibility, high-intensity shows popping up across the globe.
It’s through well-attended and -covered events like The Race of Gentlemen where traditional hot rodding has now merged into the mainstream. The once underground event, built on the sands of the New Jersey beachfront, has gained a huge following, due not only to the renewed interest in building original-style hot rods, but also because of the fact that the event is a feast for the senses. Aurally boisterous, hypnotically rumbling, and a festival for the eyes, The Race of Gentlemen has become a mainstay for many hot-rod-hungry consumers.
Andy has certainly done his share to make TROG succeed and helped make sure the storied past is not forgotten. He’s one of the many vintage car aficionados not only helping to keep the hot rod hobby healthy, but also striving to keep it moving forward. Since day one, he’s participated with TROG, initially making the ninehour trek in a hard-chopped ’34 Ford from his past hometown of Buffalo to the sands of the Jersey Shore for a day of racing.
Fuel to the Flames
Andy has piloted several crazy-cool hot rods at past TROG events, including a ’34 coupe, a Model T lakes racer, and a supercharged ’32 three-window. For the 2018 event, his ride was definitely one for the ages. “I guess I am hung up on the aesthetics of 1946-1954era land-speed racers, and this car is basically a collection of ideas pulled from a few of my favorite cars from that period.”
“Racing on sand is kinda like piloting a boat: You just point the car in the general direction you want to go and hope for the best.”—andy Kohler
This particular car was first thrashed together in just a few short months for TROG 2016. For this year, however, the low-slung roadster has gone through a few improvements. Race organizers like to see new cars at the show every year and recommend that repeat drivers either build new cars or at least modify their last one. That was Andy’s motivation for the changes.
The car’s history with Andy goes back five years. “I had just sold my ’34 coupe, and I wanted to build a roadster.” He put a want ad up on the H.A.M.B. and immediately got a response. “It was in Detroit, it was rough and in 10 pieces. But the price was right, so a deal was struck.”
When Andy finally got the roadster body home, it had all the telltale signs of being a hot rod at one point. What was left on the subrails was raised to accommodate a channel job, the rear section was cut out to fit a Z’d frame of some sort, and the back fenders had been raised.
Andy built a nice chassis for the Model A body. Starting with an original ’32 frame, he added a ’37 center X-member along with Model A front and rear crossmembers. Andy took little time turning the car into a roller, but then his attention was drawn to something else he couldn’t live without: a set of original Ardun heads. He sold the car to fund his purchase of the rare race parts without a second thought.
A couple of years later, the buddy he sold the body to needed a quick cash infusion, so he called Andy back and offered him the body. He had the cash and the space, so he bought it back in early 2016, just in time for a short but spirited build to make that year’s TROG.
At this point, Andy had enough parts to fabricate a new chassis for the roadster and powered it with a 255-inch flathead. An 11-inch truck clutch joins the engine to the gears in a ’39 Ford transmission, which in turn spin a Mike Moore–built quickchange rear.
For TROG 2018, Andy mounted a set of Ford wide-five wheels, the rears being ultra-rare 16x5.5 pieces. These wide hoops were once used on Marmon Herrington 4x4 conversions. The rims are shod with Tornell 7.00x16s out back and Excelsior 5.50x16s up front. Andy also changed out the MG steering wheel he used in the past to a ’40 Ford wheel and added ’47 Ford juice brakes up front (the ’16 version did not have front brakes).
for a run on> Andy Kohler waits at The Race of the Jersey Shore closely and you’ll Gentlemen. Look2018 issue’s cover spot our Sept. Gene ’32 roadster, with car, Rob Ida’s seat, behind Kohler’s Winfield in the’30 Model A roadster.
> Andy at speed in his dry-lakes-inspired roadster over the slippery sands of Wildwood during TROG 2018. He took styling cues from several notable cars for the roadster, including the historic Khougaz ’32 lakes roadster. His ride is channeled 6 inches over the Z’d frame to help get its aluminum belly to hover just over the sand.