I was 29 years old and wanted to build a hot rod from the ground up. I had some experience in restoring cars but had never started from the ground up! I knew eventually in my life I would start a family so a sedan would be the way to go. Back when I was 19 years old I was living in Webster, South Dakota, with a couple of my friends, Dave and Don Kwasniewski, who happened to have a '30-31 sedan body lying behind their shop. This was the party place and this poor sedan body took some of our abuse over the years. I moved away to the Black Hills, where I got married and bought my first house. Building a garage was the first step in building a car and once that was done I called Dave and asked if he still had the sedan body. It was still there and a price of $400 was agreed upon. He loaded the body and delivered it to me.
I had already spent lots of time reading and looking at hundreds of magazines and books for the look I wanted. I went to the local rod shop, A&A Restoration, and met Gene Jobgen. There were several other guys there who had cars being built by Gene. I recognized several of them and knew they had the money to have turnkey cars built, so I was really impressed when Gene stopped what he was doing and started asking me questions about my build. I was just a punk kid looking for information. I thought I had everything figured out, but boy was I wrong. We discussed chassis options and I eventually decided on a Pete & Jake's four-bar chassis.
While saving for the chassis, I started tearing down the body. I completely disassembled the entire body to clean up all of the rust in the seams. The left side of the body was rotted from the bottom about a quarter of the way up. It was going to need cowl patch panels and a driver's side door skin as well as new subrails and floor. It was hard to imagine at that time that this car would ever be back on the road. I traded some work with Tim Frelich, a local blacksmith/welder, to install the patch panels and massage out some of the dents. Once the panels were ready, Gene reassembled the body.
I wanted to run a Deuce gas tank because I felt that when running the fenders it looked like there was something missing from the back of the car. It turned out to be a real challenge. Eric at Adler Industries in Whitewood, South Dakota, worked really hard on the rear portion of the Tudor. With the Deuce tank in place, the frame covers looked funny because of the sharp bend outward to match the rear fenders. After moving the tank up, down, forward, and back, we finally got it to where it looked the best. We decided that by widening the rear fenders inward 1 1/2 inches and reworking the rear body line, the frame covers would have a less gradual curve outward toward the rear fenders.
Traditional cars were not really the "in thing" back when I started, but that's the look I wanted. I don't know how many times I was asked how much I was going to chop it. And when I told people I was building a full-fendered car I got laughed at. I was determined to give the car the right stance. I really studied other cars' tire and wheel combos at shows.
Once the chassis was painted and powdercoated, it was time for me to get to work. While I was assembling the chassis, the body was at Adler Industries where John Rindy could spray the House of Kolors Tangelo Pearl. Martin Pena, a retired Air Force airplane mechanic, was well known around town for bending stainless lines and fuel lines. We spent several days on the lines and I really had an enjoyable time with him.
I'll always remember the day I sat the body down on the frame. She was all shiny and new-looking. I spent a lot of time on the look of the car and was so nervous, I couldn't even watch. I couldn't believe how much time and effort it took to get this far and how many new friends I made along the way.
The car then went to Roy Powell of Roy Keith Customs in Hot Springs, South Dakota, for the upholstered top. I was getting excited, but after eight years I didn't want to rush to get it done. The day I fired the engine for the first time was another one I'll never forget. What a great feeling-there's nothing like it! Now that it was running, it went back to Roy Keith Customs to complete the interior.
I have enjoyed driving the sedan through the Black Hills with my family. The Tudor performs very well with only some minor bugs left to work out. The most amazing thing about this project has been the people I've met by building and owning it. It's been a life-changing experience. I did all of the work on it that I was capable of doing, and the number of talented people who helped me with this build is incredible. I give credit where credit is due and without them, this would have never turned out the way it did.