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“The California Kid” (The Back Story)

The Wheels in Motion Story Continues…

I have been involved with cars all my life, more specifically rods and customs. But this story is not as much about me as it is the hot rod coupe I built for myself that became known as – The California Kid.

During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s the “T-Bucket” craze had swept the country, and me along with it. I had a great little car that I built in my dad’s garage and just had a blast tearing up the local streets of Southern California. But there was something missing. I guess I was looking for a more basic ride. Maybe a hot rod that would conjure up the early days of hot rodding. A hot rod that could have been part of the stories I heard as a kid being exchanged between my dad and his pals out in the garage.

The more I thought about it, the better the California Kid got. It would have to be a coupe. After all, my two favorite cars were the Les Hawkins “15oz. Coupe” and Gary Wagner’s legendary chopped, full-fendered street racer. Both cars were ’34 Ford “Hemi”-powered coupes and the baddest of the bad!

The coupe on the day we picked up in Glendora, January 1st, 1972.
The coupe on the day we picked up in Glendora, January 1st, 1972.

As luck would have it, I had mentioned my idea to Randy Troxel. Randy was a local drag racer and really had the pulse of what was going on in the valley. He told me he had heard about a chopped, full-fendered ’34 3-window that was stashed in a Glendora garage. He also said it would be a tough sale, as the guy really did not want to part with it.

We made contact and after what seemed like years (actually just two weeks) the deal was made. I bought the car on News Year’s Day of 1972 and moved it to our backyard garage in Temple City. I sold the “T” and kept the drivetrain, which included the wheels and tires. I now had all the pieces I needed to get started on my dream car.

About that time, I quit my job at Clayton Mfg. Co. (my dad’s alma mater) and went to work for Phil Lukens at Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena. My wife, Carol, and I had a house, two small children (Nicole and Peter4), a ’67 VW and ’50 Chevy Bel Air. At the time, leaving a secure job and heading out into the hot rod world did not seem right to most people, but it felt right to me.

Again the timing was perfect. It gave me the opportunity to hone my skills as a chassis builder, and at the same time get the coupe a pedigree. I made lifelong friends while working at Blair’s: Phil Lukens, Eric Vaughn, Pete Eastwood, the dearly departed Bob Goldsmith, and Jim Ewing. Phil was the boss at Blair’s (now owner); Eastwood and I were the chassis guys; Bob was on the front counter; Eric ran the machine shop; and Ewing—well, he was there for color. It was a special time and we enjoyed every minute of it! Stay tuned next month when we continue the story of the California Kid.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.