In 2001, Greg McComas was poking around on eBay, looking for vintage parts for a project he wanted to build-a Bonneville-style '32 coupe, channeled with a track-nose.
He found a track-nose, complete with grille, hood, and side panels with hand-punched louvers, but his bid was too low and the assembly ended up in Maine. Greg e-mailed the buyer to express his interest in case he ever decided to sell it. A year later, he was contacted; plans had changed and the nose was for sale. Next stop was Greg's garage in Loveland, Colorado.
After a year of head-scratching, Greg concluded that the coupe and the nose weren't a match, and the assembly was back on eBay. Responses started filling Greg's e-mail inbox, including one from Rick Rennebohm from Washington: "I bought this car from Keith Treece in the Sixties and it has not seen daylight for many years. If you want information and the hot rod history, you can call me." Instead of selling the track-nose, Greg bought the car, and so began the restoration of the survivor you're looking at here.
When the roadster was originally hot rodded in California in 1948, it was a channeled, open-wheel car, and was already sporting the aluminum track-nose, along with a souped-up Flathead and hand-painted flames.
In 1956, Jerry Sprague bought the roadster. He and fellow members of the Grinders car club in Seattle bobbed the frame horns, fabbed a custom grille for the track-nose, and painted the car light blue.
A year later, fellow Grinder Keith Treece bought the roadster and gave it a complete makeover. The Flattie was swapped for a '55 265ci OHV V-8, bored, balanced, and rebuilt using '58 Corvette FI ported heads, a Duntov solid lifter cam, and a polished Weiand intake with four 94 carbs. Keith made the body mods in his driveway, adding a polished aluminum firewall and floorboards, bobbed fenders, handbuilt running boards, and Nerf bars. The interior modifications (described below) were created during this same period. All this, plus the eye-popping '59 Buick Lido Lavender paint, caught the attention of several magazines, including Hot Rod in 1961 and Car Craft in 1965.
Rick Rennebohm was the next owner and redid the whole thing to fit the trends of the late Sixties and early Seventies. In addition to replacing the nose and Nerf bars with a modified '32 grille shell and dropped headlight bar, he added five-spoke Americans, a tunnel ram with dual four-barrels, and a 14-inch Cal Custom steering wheel-and covered the white upholstery with black Mar-Hyde dye. The Lido Lavender was updated to candy apple burgundy, with black fenders.
In 1974, Rick put the roadster in storage, where it stayed until he contacted Greg. Luckily, he'd kept most of the parts he'd removed. The exception was the track-nose assembly, which bounced around West Coast swap meets before ending up on eBay in 2001, where Greg found it.
Once Greg owned both the nose assembly and the car, he knew that such a complete and original hot rod deserved to be restored back to its magazine-feature condition. Careful attention to period correctness was foremost during the restoration, and prior owners provided memories, photos, and technical tips. Approximately 98 percent of the roadster's original hot rod parts were recovered, rebuilt, refinished, rechromed, and reused for this restoration. "In a strange way, I feel the car and its parts came to me seeking restoration," Greg told us.
The buildup took two years, but the project-including research and locating the original parts-took six. Gary Vahling and his crew at Rocky Mountain Street Rods in Arvada, Colorado, assisted with the restoration. At home, Greg got help from his wife Anita, son Gunnar, and daughter Cayley.