An Ode to Pete



Bar­ron Guss’ ’39 Ford COE

Doesn’t mat­ter what era you were born, the things you did and ex­pe­ri­enced as a child played a part in shap­ing the per­son you be­came later in life—whether it’s a fear of some­thing caused by a trau­matic event, a scary movie your cousins forced you to watch, a fas­ci­na­tion from some­thing as sim­ple as a bub­ble gum trad­ing card, or a day spent at the races with your dad. Many of us can re­late to the lat­ter, as the ex­po­sure to mo­tor­sports rac­ing through­out the decades has led us to this fas­ci­nat­ing world of hot rods—and Bar­ron Guss is no ex­cep­tion to the phe­nom­ena.

By day, Bar­ron is the head of a staffing cor­po­ra­tion in Hon­olulu, Hawaii; it’s when he sheds his suit and tie that the kid grow­ing up in the hey­day of hot rod­ding

and drag rac­ing resur­faces. “The

’60s was a great time for any kid who had been bit by the car bug. I have fond me­mories of my fa­ther tak­ing me to the movies to see the lat­est Steve McQueen car ad­ven­tures like Bul­litt and

Le Mans,” Guss re­calls. “For a wide-eyed 10-year-old, noth­ing was as in­tox­i­cat­ing as the ni­tropow­ered, rear-en­gined, wheel­stand­ing ex­hi­bi­tion ve­hi­cles of the time: Hurst Hemi Un­der Glass and the Lit­tle Red Wagon.”

Fast-for­ward to the fol­low­ing cen­tury—Bar­ron’s liv­ing the life of a cor­po­rate CEO … you know, all the stuff that kid never thought about 30 years ago. But that kid still had in­flu­ence in Bar­ron’s adult life. “Back in 2010, I was brows­ing the In­ter­net and I came across a rear-en­gined ’39 Ford COE. Sud­denly, I was over­come with all of the emo­tion of that 10-year-old kid. Just one click and that truck was mine!”

Bar­ron went on at length ex­plain­ing why and how this par­tic­u­lar project

came to be thanks to our dear friend, the late Pete Chapouris. “My truck was orig­i­nally built in 2008 by Jim Mer­ritt of Ea­gle Point, Ore­gon. Like all COEs, this truck started its life as a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle. Mer­ritt res­cued it and used it as the cor­ner­stone of his project by mat­ing it with an ’80s Chevro­let 1-ton van sub­frame. For the driv­e­train, Mer­ritt in­stalled the front-wheel-drive transaxle and 455 en­gine from an Olds Toron­ado in the rear. He then rounded out his vi­sion with a pickup bed and a sim­ple and taste­ful paintjob. As soon as I saw the truck, I knew it had to be re-themed if I wanted it to stir up the same kind of emo­tions as the rear-en­gined wheel standers of my youth. Once I had my con­cept worked out, I turned to Pete Chapouris and the team at SO-CAL Speed Shop to make it hap­pen. To­gether we em­barked on the fol­low­ing trans­for­ma­tion.

“First and fore­most, the Olds 455 en­gine and its rear­most lo­ca­tion needed to be cel­e­brated. A pol­ished and plated BDS 8-71 su­per­charger with a Top Fuel–style EFI hid­den un­der the Hil­born scoop set the tone for things to come. Next, with all of the ex­tra horse­power the truck had to be me­chan­i­cally sound, so we dis­man­tled it down to the frame and started from scratch. Ex­ten­sive mod­i­fi­ca­tions were made, in­clud­ing re-en­gi­neer­ing the rear sus­pen­sion with Corvette IRS ge­om­e­try and in­stalling load com­pen­sat­ing airbags in all four cor­ners. This re­sulted in a 50/50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion for great han­dling. Since a hot-rod­ded COE pickup is a some­what myth­i­cal ve­hi­cle, it was im­por­tant to make the truck seem as OEM as pos­si­ble. We bor­rowed de­sign cues from the ’39 Ford and in­stalled a work­ing tail­gate and pe­riod-cor­rect de­tails such as rear fen­ders (re­lo­cated wheel open­ings), lights, run­ning boards, and trim. Spe­cial at­ten­tion was also paid to the cab in­te­rior with a Gabe Lopez de­sign fea­tur­ing green Ital­ian hides in pe­ri­od­cor­rect patina to match the body color. Other in­te­rior de­tails in­cluded be­spoke Clas­sic In­stru­ments gauges, a LimeWorks col­umn, Vin­tage Air A/C, hand­made dash trim, and PVD plat­ing through­out. On the ex­te­rior, stain­less bumpers and hand-rolled pans were fash­ioned to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity with the smooth lines of the Art Deco– styled body. We then added Wheel Vin­tiques wire wheels to keep with the theme. Fi­nally, Mickey Lar­son of Twins Coaches fin­ished the body in an olive green metal­lic and black to give the truck the mod­ern yet an­tique feel.

“The SO-CAL Speed Shop ’39

COE is ded­i­cated to Pete, aka PC3.

Its com­ple­tion would have not been pos­si­ble with­out the re­lent­less ef­forts of his son Peter (PC4), Justin, and Evin. In the words of Pete, I say, ‘I don’t hate it!’”

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