Twenty-five thousand years ago, a humongous chunk of what is now northern Utah and Nevada was soaking under a prehistoric sea 10 times the size of the Great Salt Lake. Sometime between then and now most of that sea dried up-but it didn't disappear. It left behind an enormous lake bed and an expansive deposit of salt to remind us of what once was. Driving out there on that crunchy carpet of salt makes you feel connected to something that came before.
The feeling gets stronger during Speed Week, when the place is crawling with hot rods. When you think about it, hot rodding isn't just about going fast or building a cool car or driving something different-it's also about connecting with something that came before.
All five of the hard-driven hot rods in this story are from the Reno-Carson City area of Nevada and all five of them are recently finished projects. But you wouldn't know that from these photos. Every one of them looks like the hot rods you would've seen on the salt 60 years ago. These cars were built under the influence of those earlier rods. Too many of those old salt flats cars are gone, but these five and others like them are keeping our heritage from drying up.
When planning to build a Sixties-style Gasser, Troy wanted to start with a car that had actually been built during that decade and finally found what he was looking for on eBay. The coupe had come out of South Dakota, had already been chopped and channeled, and was running a Nailhead and Lincoln three-speed. Once the coupe was in Troy's hands it was torn completely apart so anything not correct to the Sixties era could be replaced and any problems could be fixed.
Troy's son, Branden, stripped the body to bare metal and discovered that it looked good for an old chop and channel job. The body lines didn't quite line up, but that's what they looked like in the Sixties, so Troy left it alone. The original plan called for leaving the coupe in gray primer, but when a friend showed up with a couple of gallons of Sherwin-Williams blue lacquer, Troy couldn't resist. "I had to consult with my dad on how they shot lacquer back then," he said. His friend Grease at No Coast Custom let him use his booth and helped him with the paintjob. When Troy saw the cool satin blue result, he decided not to buff it.
Mike Hughes refreshed the worn-out 322 Nailhead and Lonnie Grace built the T5 five-speed. Troy restored the much-abused frame, filling holes, patching crossmembers, and straightened and boxed the 'rails. He added a 4-inch drop Dago axle and Lincoln brakes with rare CA Racing Equipment backing plates, drilled for a custom look. Original Halibrand 5 on 5 1/2 kidney bean rims-and lettering by Grease-perfect the period appearance.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Troy & Ramona Moyle
Carson City, Nevada
1934 Ford three-window Coupe
The original frame was deemed suitable after it was straightened and boxed. It was then modified with rounded front horns and bobbed rear horns. A Model A rear crossmember was added to make room for the Halibrand quick-change. The center crossmember was modified to use the five-speed transmission along with the unsplit '37 front wishbone. A Dago-dropped '37 Ford axle with Lincoln brakes and CA Racing Equipment backing plates rides on a stock buggy spring and Columbus velvet ride shocks.
The balanced and blueprinted '56 322ci Buick Nailhead was built by Mike Hughes. A Carter 500 cfm carburetor sits on an Offenhauser intake manifold and is topped with a Cal Custom air cleaner. Offenhauser valve covers give it a little sparkle. The '85 Chevy T5 transmission was rebuilt by Lonnie Grace and uses a Hays clutch, aluminum flywheel, and a modified truck shifter. Hot Rod Works rebuilt the Halibrand quick-change which features '36 Ford bells and spins 4.11 gears and Dutchman axles.
Wheels & Tires
Vintage Halibrand 15x4 and 15x8 kidney beans are complemented with Firestone 5.00 bias-plies in front and Cheater slicks measuring 30x8x15 in back.
Body & Paint
The coupe was chopped 2 1/2 inches and channeled 8 inches years ago, so Troy's son Branden stripped it down and straightened it up. Troy sprayed the Sherwin-Williams lacquer with some help from Grease at No Coast Customs (who also lettered the coupe). Guide 682C headlights and '50 Pontiac taillights keep it street-legal. A chrome tube bar rear bumper provides a little protection. Plating was done by Joe the Chromer.
Military aircraft seatbelts keep Troy and his passenger secured in the '34 Ford Tudor bench seat which has been covered with black cloth upholstery by Hendricks Upholstery. A Stewart-Warner insert and Sixties-era gauges were added to the stock dash. The original steering column is now topped with a '39 Ford steering wheel.
It's easy to see some salt flat history here. The previous owner, Gary Barsma, spent 40 years collecting parts for a "someday" project. "Someday" came when Ray bought the survivor, complete with sheetmetal in excellent condition, a 7-inch chop done in the Forties, and lots of info from Gary.
Ray and his son Rory rebuilt the floor 2 inches higher to channel the body to the bottom of the 'rails, keeping a rake at the nose to match the top. The original grille, four-piece hood, and inner fenders were refitted. The stock firewall was modified to clear the '57 Buick Nailhead donated by Ray's friend, Hal Baglin, and rebuilt by Mike Hughes. The '40 Ford rear features a Halibrand Culver City quick-change.
The finished car is a driver now; its first big trip was to the L.A. Roadster show. "The feeling of riding with its 'ghosts' as I sit in these bomber seats and look through the very slanted and short windshield is something indescribable," Roy told us. "I feel honored to be the present caretaker of this car and its legend."
Inside, vinyl-covered P38 fighter-bomber seats with war-era belts face a Schroeder steering column and vintage 17-inch Bell steering wheel. Ray created an aluminum engine-turned dash filled with vintage Stewart-Warner gauges, a '50s S-W police speedo, and a GE fuel gauge from World War II. A '40s fuel pressure pump and '52 SCTA tag are signs of the history we're talking about.