Thursday, January 1, 2009

It was a very good year... Part 2

Yes, the looking back at 2008 continues. This time I wanted to give you a peek inside another one of the greatest hot rod shops in the country, Dave Crouse's "Custom Auto". Like Roy Brizio, Dave Crouse has established himself as one of the premier hot rod and custom car builders in existence today. In addition, Dave has shown himself to be the go-to-guy for high level, period perfect restorations on historically significant hot rods, race cars, and customs. This has really set Dave and his shop apart from his competitors as they have been responsible for the restorations of such iconic cars as the Barardini Bros. '32 roadster, the Bell Crankshaft Special, and the Don Waite competition roadster. All of this in addition to building made to order traditional hot rods for customers all around the country. His website is definitely worth checking out and will give you a better look at some of the work Dave has done and some of the projects happening now. Just go to 

    I had the pleasure of hooking up with Dave and his lovely assistant Trish this past summer while playing a show in nearby Denver ( Dave is located just up the road in Loveland, Colorado ). They came out, took in the show, and later on had a great time bench racing over beers deep into the night. Dave has been building cars for many years and is loaded with both an incredible knowledge of every aspect of a build, from paint and body to chassis and engine building, and has the enthusiasm of a teenager when on the subject... something I always like to see. It's guys like this that are the inspiration for the rest of us. Being involved with hot rodding is a passion of Dave's first and foremost and you can tell that the business grew directly from that. 

    Of course I had always wanted to see the Custom Auto shop in person and Dave was kind enough to invite me up the following day. Once again, the generosity and comradery that seems to be in abundance in the gearhead world was evident. I had no idea that Dave would be so generous with his time and I'm forever grateful. I must have burned the better part of his day with my curiosity about everything going on there. So much to see and not all of it was under the same roof. We spent the first couple of hours at the shop seeing some of the current projects and I got to meet and talk with some of his crew and get the back-stories on a few of the more interesting builds and restorations going on. 

    One of the first big highlights was seeing the original Larry Shinoda competition coupe that is currently being restored by Dave and his crew. You'll be able to easily recognize this car in the photos as it is the coupe equipped with center steering. In case you didn't know, Shinoda is one of the original hot rod pioneers who grew up in So-Cal in and around the war years ( unfortunately he and his family were forced into a Japanese internment camp during the war ) and was involved in dry lakes and drag racing during their early years of development. Shinoda went on to work for both GM and Ford as a top designer and was heavily involved in both the Corvette and the Ford Mustang Boss 302 project. 

    A few other things you'll see in the photos that I'd like to point out; Dave was kind enough to drive me out to a storage building a few miles from the shop where some very interesting machines are parked. First of all, the black '32 fenderless roadster that you'll see is an amazing car. Believe it or not ( and I crawled around it just to see for myself ), this is a completely untouched original bodied hot rod that was built in the late '30s early '40s. The paint is original 1932 Ford that has never been touched up and the body has never been removed from its original frame! Talk about a one in a billion hot rod survivor... if I hadn't seen it in person I wouldn't have believed it. Looking over the body and chassis made me crazy thinking about how immaculate the car must have been upon purchase before they removed the fenders and started it down the hot rod chapter of its life. 

   Other notables would be the black '63 R-Code Galaxie that was originally owned by the late great Kong Jackson. How about a time capsule/barnfind '57 Chevy drag racer? That's exactly what the original paint Robin's Egg blue 210 Delray 2-door sedan is. Originally campaigned on local tracks in Oklahoma during the 1960s, this car was put away over 35 years ago and has just recently been unearthed. It is a wonderful study in 1960s speed equipment and go-fast techniques. Dave started this car up and it made me long for drag racing's days-gone-by when small block Chevys were built to 13.5 -1 comp, ran giant solid lifter cams, and made their power between 6,500 and 7,500 rpm. Nothing sounds like these old single purpose high strung motors. 

    In the shop there was plenty to see of course. I found it really cool that the three hot rod coupes that you'll see in the shop being built were original Ford bodies. There isn't a thing wrong with Brookville, it's just that we're entering a time when I think it's generally assumed that when it's steel it's Brookville and these babies were definitely all Henry. Another fascinating project going on is the 1948 "Timbs" special. For those of you who pick up the Mark Morton published Hop-Up magazines, this car will be familiar to you as it was featured in issue #9. The Timbs car is an impressive machine built from both Ford and GM parts of the time. Norman Timbs was a race car builder and fabricator who wanted to build his own car after the war. What you see is his only attempt. The chassis is made up of 4 inch tubing for the most part and features a Buick straight 8, aft the driver, for power and a rather ingenius swing axle rear suspension built from Ford banjo rear end parts. Yet another "can't believe I'm looking at this" moment was seeing the original, unrestored, sister-car to the Xydias So-Cal car, bellytanker. Again, how do these things survive? Apparently, the original builder of the car was pals with Alex and they decided to build their cars at the same time. The similarities throughout are astonishing and I'm happy to say that the plan at Custom Auto is to preserve the patina and as much of the original components as possible while making it roadworthy again. 

     Lastly, no world class shop would be complete without some equally world class parts laying around...  and Custom Auto did not disappoint. How about multiple Ardun heads for both 24 stud and V-8 60? Or an original Indy Offy that is still wire tied? When was the last time you saw NOS pie crust slicks or Firestone land speed racing tires? Of course every conceivable flat-head Ford speed part was in attendance including heads by the dozens, superchargers of the rarest make, intakes, 97s etc. It was also nice to see some really cool '50s hot rod OHV engines in full dress too. Really, anything from your dreams was there including many surprises. 

    All in all, one of the more knock-out days I've had touring a shop. Seeing original hot rods being preserved, restored, and resurrected on top of the new cars being built that will surely go on to legendary status... what more could there be? 

   Thanks again to Dave Crouse and everyone at Custom Auto for providing me with a great day and experience, and one of my true highlights of 2008. 


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