What if you could follow the last 50 years of hot rod styles through one car? From the time it was purchased by teenager Miles Merkt in 1956, this '32 roadster has changed with the times, reflecting the trends in hot rodding from the '50s, through the '60s, into the '70s, and ultimately, half a century later, back to the traditional style of the '50s. In the entire time, the car has never left the Merkt family.
The roadster is now owned by Bob Merkt Jr., who took his first ride in the car when he was just a few weeks old, and now drives it almost every day. Better known in traditional hot rod circles as Bob Bleed, this young Milwaukee-area builder has returned the roadster to the traditional '50s style he grew up liking. Bob can tell you the rest of the story.
Some of these photos were taken earlier this year. The rest are Merkt family photos going back to the roadster's first days as a hot rod. -Tim Bernsau
When my uncle, Miles Merkt, was a teenager he wanted a hot rod like the ones he saw in the Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, and Car Craft magazines he read every month, but his father (my grandpa, Francis Merkt) wouldn't hear of it. So Miles did what any kid would do, he went to his mom (my grandma, Anne). In 1956, with his father away on a deer hunting trip, Miles talked his mother into helping him buy the car that would become the roadster. There wasn't much to it then, just an original '32 frame, Fordor cowl, and the back half of a '29 Model A coupe. They towed it home with a chain. She claims she never got paid back the $45 she shelled out for the car.
For the next couple of years, Miles worked hard on the car, with his father's help. Together, they Z'd the frame. Miles sectioned a '49 Merc dash, and Francis made all sorts of neat brackets, like adjustable headlights and nerf bars-really inventive stuff, even by today's standards.
By 1957, they had a driveable car. It was a typical '50s hot rod with a flathead and toploader-kind of rough, but well on its way to being a really nice car. There weren't too many hot rods in Milwaukee in the '50s, so the roadster got a lot of attention; it led the parade to the grand opening of the Great Lakes Dragaway and even made in onto TV with a doo-wop band singing in it.
My dad, Bob, was only 14 at the time, but he would steal the keys to his brother's car and drive it up and down the driveway when nobody was home. When he accidentally knocked a water spigot off the side of the house, his buddy helped him swipe one from another house, leaving water spraying everywhere.
Around 1959 or 1960, my dad found a '50 Olds engine with six Strombergs and a bunch of chrome. Miles bought it and started putting it in the roadster, and molded the rear pan to resemble an Alexander Brothers car of the day called The '69er.
After Miles joined the army, the roadster sat in my grandparents' backyard for a couple of years. Meanwhile, my dad became old enough to drive and began customizing all sorts of cars of his own. He eventually bought the roadster, sold everything else, and spent the next few years turning it into a nice, finished hot rod.
The roadster as it looks in 2006.
Before it was a roadster, it was a frame, a four-door sedan cowl, and the rear sheetmetal
Bob Merkt Sr. bought the roadster from his older brother, finished it, and put it on the s
This is what the interior looked like at that time. Details included the button tuck door
If you wanted your hot rod painted by the best guy in Milwaukee in the '60s, you went to B
Bob's mother Sue took her turn behind the wheel of the roadster in the mid '60s. The fende
This profile provides a good look at the roadster in the summer of 1967, wearing it's whit