When we first met Bobby Walden at the '02 NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, the talented metalworker was set up on the manufacturer's midway selling hand-formed steel doorskins and roof inserts for early Fords. He spoke of his desire to move from Texas out to Southern California, so he could be closer to his friends in the SCTA Sidewinders as well as the dry lakes they love to frequent. Less than a year later Bobby made the move to So-Cal, literally.
As it turns out, Pete Chapouris and his crew at the So-Cal Speed Shop needed a talented metalman to round out their newly formed racing division, and Bobby fit the bill perfectly. After shipping off his power hammer and packing the trunk of his recently completed '46 sedan, he was off, destined for the land of speed, beauty, and smog. That's right, boys and girls, he drove the hot rod you see before you from the Lone Star State to the Golden State and has been driving it every day since. Lest you think that this is some kind of high-tech highway hauler cleverly hidden under the skin of a traditional rod, perish the thought. We could tell you all about how this incredible gem was carefully preserved in stock form for half a century before getting a mild makeover by Bobby and friends, but he does a much better job of relating the tale.
"This car was sold new in San Diego and kept inside by the original owner and his family until it was purchased in 1961 by the Harrah's Automobile Collection, where it remained on display unchanged for 25 years," Bobby recalls. "In 1986 the Harrah's Collection was downsized and the car was bought by a gentleman in Amarillo, Texas, who continued the tradition of pampering and maintaining the stone-stock sedan until his death in 1997. A friend of mine bought the car and drove it until some minor mechanical problems relegated it to the sidelines. One day I asked if the car was for sale, and a deal was struck. And so began the 'The Spanish Fly.' Since the car was still completely stock and un-restored, just the way it left the factory, my goal was to build a '50s-era hot rod with no parts that were available after 1958. The factory lacquer finish, fenders, stainless steel trim, interior, instruments, and even the stock radio were all just about perfect. At the time I purchased the car it had a total mileage of 51,000.
"The first order of business was to lower the car, so the front crossmember was raised 4 1/2 inches and a Magnum 2 1/2-inch dropped axle was added. The front brakes were replaced with a '58 Buick aluminum drum replacement kit I sell through Walden Speed Shop. The brakes were bolted onto stock '40 Ford spindles and dropped steering arms," Bobby continues. "The rear of the car was dropped down by raising the back crossmember and modifying the spring so it mounted inside the X-member, which dropped it 6 whole inches. Next came the motor, which was delivered to Doug Scott at JJ Machine, where it was rebuilt and filled with traditional hot rod parts and lots of polished aluminum. Next, the stock Ford Washington Blue was rubbed out and restored to its former glory before the traditional flames were sprayed on with colors that were available in 1958. I didn't want a car with flames buried in clear, because they didn't do it like that then. Finally I had Reynolds Upholstery in Fritch, Texas, stitch up the seats and door panels in red tuck 'n' roll, which added the finishing touch."
We think Bobby did an incredible job transforming a well-preserved stocker into a tastefully traditional period-correct hot rod. In an interesting twist of fate, the newly reborn "Spanish Fly" was debuted at the '03 Sidewinders Banquet, which took place at the Petersen Automotive Museum. What makes it even cooler is the fact that this little sedan now serves daily driver duty, hauling Bobby back and forth to the So-Cal Speed Shop, where both he and the Ford fit right in.