"I was 16 when this photo was taken in the small town of Adams, Massachusetts. It was June of 1962, the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I'm the one kneeling in the lower left corner; the other three are friends of mine. The car had just been completed and reassembled and this was its first outing. You'll notice holes in the rear pan for nerf bars that were not back from the platers yet.
"My parents bought me this car from a local used-car dealer in 1960. It was a '53 Ford Sunliner convertible, the last of the Flatheads, with a Ford-o-matic. It was in perfect shape. I was 14. The plan was to do a mild custom and have the car completed by the time I turned 16. The first thing I did was to convert it to a three-speed with a Hurst shifter. The motor remained stock with dual exhaust, four scavenger pipes, and a two-carb manifold.
"I worked with a local bodyman who did all the metalwork and shot the burgundy paint, while I did the finish bodywork. The goal was to build a custom like the ones we saw in Rod & Custom. Bodywork consisted of a rolled rear pan, frenched rear license, quarter-panel side scoops, frenched lakes pipes, frenched headlights, nosed, decked, door handles removed, front '53 Studebaker roll pan, rounded hood corners, '55 DeSoto grille, and those four '56 Packard taillight lenses-brand new, out-of-the-box from the local Studebaker-Packard dealership.
"Over the next two years, with the help of some talented individuals and the support of my parents, I completed the car as shown. By the time the summer of '62 was over, it had a new white top that I never put down because I didn't want to wrinkle it. The last thing I did was to replace the Flathead with a fresh 283 with two fours. I sold the car in the middle of my senior year and replaced it with a '58 Corvette.
"The young fellow who bought the '53 ground off the paint with a body grinder, destroying the bodywork. The last time I saw the car, it was in bare metal sitting in the rain-pretty much a block of rust."-Art Fortin, Gilroy, CA
Mail your vintage photos of you and your hot rod, along with a brief story to: Tim Bernsau, Rod & Custom, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870, or e-mail them (3x5 inches at 300 dpi) to email@example.com. We are unable to return any submitted material.
FoundEd Roth's Orbitron Is "Missing for years." "Worn out and faded." "Spotted outside a south-of-the-border sex shop." These descriptions, typically reserved for former child TV stars, are now being used in connection with the surprise discovery of one of the coolest '60s show rods.
Ed Roth's Orbitron, built in 1964 and missing since the early '70s, was spotted this summer in front of an "adult bookstore" in Mexico, where it was being used as a trash can. It has since been rescued and returned to the U.S.
The new owner, Michael Lightbourn, sells automotive parts and has numerous Mexican customers. When he discovered Orbitron in its lowly locale, the car was surprisingly intact. The distinctive bubbletop and asymmetrical nose are missing, and the candy-blue-over-pearl paint, shot by Larry Watson, is long gone, but the original small-block engine complete with 3x2 carbs and valve covers, suspension components, fenders, steering wheel, Moon gas pedal, Astro wheels and knockoffs, and tires are still in place. Michael spent a long time negotiating with the bookstore owners, finally convincing them that selling their uncle's car so it could be restored was better than filling it with trash.