Marina Del Rey, California
1929 Ford Roadster
In 1953, my family took a major road trip, and coming back through Elko, Nevada, we stopped at the Stockmen's Hotel to look at this big stuffed polar bear in the casino. On this trip, we were heading through Elko, so I said, "Guys, we've got to stop and see this bear." And we found it-still there and identical to the way I remembered it. The only one excited or impressed was me, but to me it was recapturing something special from 55 years ago.
The roadster has been on several long trips. I prefer traveling with a group because it's good to have someone else around if the car breaks down-and because I like the companionship. What made this trip the most fun was traveling with my family-my son and grandson, and my grandson's other grandfather. We had a great time.
The stops were magnificent. Seeing the Kiwi Konnection and Squeak Bell's shop in Bakersfield, and John Lawson's collection in Fresno was amazing. The trip was filled with generous people-Tom Christian in Carson City, who fed us at the Subway sandwich shop in Carson City, and the members of the Foothill Classics car club in Lake Hogan, who also fed us, brought out their cars, and even gave us goody bags.
Interviewed by Dad-Aaron Kahan
Dad - You've driven in my old cars since you were a baby. What was different about riding in Grandpa Alan's '29 roadster without a roof?
Benjamin- I like how it was open and that you can see all around you.
D. - What did you think of Bonneville?
B. - It was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was hot and bright and I just had to touch it. I couldn't stop myself, I just had to taste it, so I picked up a chunk of salt and put it to my tongue. It was the saltiest thing I have ever tasted! I immediately spit it out and tried to wash the horrible taste out of my mouth with water.
D. - What was your favorite part of the trip?
B. - Going into the water at Lake Tahoe, panning for gold, and riding on the top of a stagecoach next to the driver in Columbia. Walking around the pits and watching the racing at Bonneville. Eating my Subway salami sandwich on the salt.
D. - What was your favorite thing you got to do that you hadn't done before?
B. - Swimming in Lake Tahoe and riding Tyrell's mini bike. After that I was obsessed with riding that mini bike!
D. - You kept mileage each day. What was your total?
B. - 1,835 miles.
D. - Would you do it again?
B. - Absolutely yes!
If you're unfamiliar with the small desert town of Winnemucca, you will soon find yourself having the urge to take a road trip along Interstate 80 which runs through Northern Nevada. Whether you're driving from California or Utah, your target destination will be the Flying A Garage, which sits next to the site of the soon-to-be-constructed America's Car Collection museum. This'll be home to the world's most impressive collection of mainly '50s-through-'70s-era hot rods, customs, drag cars, muscle cars, and related memorabilia. I've been watching from the sidelines and hearing through the grapevine what Ralph Whitworth has been collecting over the last few years. It's been pretty interesting and exciting to see all these cars end up with one owner. At first I found it a bit strange and kind of a bummer that all these cars were going to be kept in a location that seemed like the middle of nowhere. But on second thought I think it's just plain amazing that Whitworth cares enough to collect, preserve, and display all this for us to study first hand.
I first became familiar with Whitworth when I attended RM Auctions' The Originators auction back in 2006. I was fortunate to be an insider at this event and wished one person or organization would buy the entire collection and donate it to a museum. One of the most anticipated moments of this auction (which was most of The Brucker Collection) was when Von Dutch's Paint Box sold for over $300,000. When the gavel came down I wondered who it was who was so determined to take the paint box home. Later that day I had a brief introduction to Whitworth, who is on a mission to collect the best of the best in historic hot rods and customs. He also had plans to take on the huge task and responsibility of opening a museum in Winnemucca, Nevada. My first thoughts were why Winnemucca and where's Winnemucca? It turns out that's where he grew up with his buddy Dave Bengochea, and these gearheads' plan is to give something back to their old stomping ground and in effect put their small town on the big-time map.
After that weekend I realized that unfortunately the Brucker collection of Kustom Kulture hadn't stayed intact, but that a large state-of-the-art museum will soon house a collection of our history like no one has done before. This summer I was able to visit their restoration facility, the Flying A Garage, which is completed and in full operation, as well as their storage facility for part of the collection. For this year's celebration of the 60th anniversary of Bonneville SpeedWeek, the Flying A Garage was turned into a temporary museum for their first special exhibit, Bonneville: The Pursuit of Speed.
The R&C road trip pack arrived in Winnemucca on Sunday, August 17, just in time to check out this exhibit and partake in an open house/impromptu car show and barbeque that was thrown by the museum with assistance from a local car club, the Fuelers, and the eight-person Flying A crew. I was starving but just couldn't concentrate on eating because I was overloaded with the juxtaposition of a sampling of the most historic speed machines displayed in the new 6,600-square-foot, climate-controlled, full-functioning restoration shop. The first thing that caught my eye was Tom Cobb's amazingly preserved and recently found '29 Ford roadster which was surrounded by a display of ultra-rare speed equipment. Out back behind the Flying A Garage the storage garages were open, exposing an unbelievable assortment of cars like Roth's Road Agent, Tony Nancy's roadster, and the Deora. If you know your hot rod history, a large portion is in the Whitworth collection.
Lucky for us, Ralph Whitworth's success as a business investor has allowed him to amass this mind-numbing collection which to date numbers somewhere between 200-300 vehicles and an enormous amount of speed equipment and related memorabilia. The Flying A Garage is managed by Dave Bengochea, who has a capable restoration staff that can handle anything from minor mechanical repairs to concourse-quality restoration on-site. Even though Winnemucca has been off the radar for most of us, I have a sneaky suspicion that is about to change.
The flying a garage
We were greeted in Oakhurst...
We were greeted in Oakhurst by the Coarsegold Cruisers hot rod club, which filled the motel lawn with some great-looking rods and customs. What a great way to end the day.
On Friday, the Foothill Classics...
On Friday, the Foothill Classics car club showed off their amazing hospitality by treating us to a picnic at the Hogan Dam Lookout, including barbecue, homemade cakes, and even goody bags with some T-shirts donated by Olympic Tune Street Rods Plus. They treated us like rock stars-or family members. The view of the lake was amazing, and the view of the parking lot full of hot rods wasn't too bad either. Thanks to all of you.
Not many people have had the...
Not many people have had the privilege of touring John Lawson's amazing private collection of cars, engines, motorcycles, and other machinery. We counted something like three dozen finished cars, all in immaculate condition and ready to hit the road when the urge hits.
The local lunchtime crowd...
The local lunchtime crowd is probably used to seeing hot rods in front of Tom Christian's Subway sandwich shop in Carson City. Tom generously treated our entire group to lunch. He and his friends drive some cool traditional-style rods, including five of our favorites, featured elsewhere in this magazine. They always make the trip to SpeedWeek and we were proud to have them rolling with us.
The party was already under...
The party was already under way when we got to Winnemucca. Ralph Whitworth's Flying A Garage is the home of the America's Car Collection Museum. The barbecue tri-tip, live music, and crowds of people were great but we were there to see Ralph's collection of famous race and show cars.
Who can sleep during SpeedWeek?...
Who can sleep during SpeedWeek? After-hours in Wendover, the action shifts from the salt flats to the asphalt outside of the Nugget Hotel.
Just like with old cars, sometimes...
Just like with old cars, sometimes the barn-fresh, unrestored ones can be more interesting than the restored ones. Getting a peek in the storage buildings of the Nevada State Railroad Museum provided plenty of jewels.
The official pace car of the...
The official pace car of the road trip was this '50 Ford, owned by George Poteet and generously loaned to R&C's Kevin Lee for the trip. The Ford must have been nervous about going onto the salt, and developed a clutch problem in Winnemucca the morning we were heading out. It couldn't have happened in a better spot, because we were able to leave it in Larry Tregellas' hands at the Flying A Garage where it was fixed in time for Kevin's trip to Pleasanton. They even loaned him their shop dualie to take to the salt. He asked for the Druid Princess but there wasn't enough room for the luggage.
An unexpected stop and a trip...
An unexpected stop and a trip down a private dirt driveway in Fallon, Nevada, took us to Fallon Engine Service, and the car and parts collection of Louis Cote. Louis let us tour several buildings full of mid-Thirties Fords and an astonishing assortment of parts. The sights outside could have kept us busy for a while as well.