Radical But Practical Revisited
The Decline And Renaissance Of Jay Everett'sPart 2
Last month we began the tale of Jay Everett's sports rod. For a recap, the car was unique by literal definition. Whereas a custom car is an existing vehicle modified to distinguish it from others, Jay's car was entirely a fabrication of his vision built from raw sheet and tubing and a few essential parts of existing vehicles. Even by the standards of the 1950s, considered by many the Golden Age of the custom car, it stood out.
So too was the car's story unique. Upon its rebirth as the Astra Coupe in 1956, Jay's car enjoyed another few years in the limelight. Jay sold the car in the late 1950s, and while nobody recalls exactly when it happened, there's a good chance they parted ways in 1959, the year he founded Scale Design with partner Jerry Williamson (incidentally, Jerry said he met Jay at Fred Karo's shop, Fibercraft, the shop responsible for the body of Jim Lytle's Allison-powered Big Al, the first flopper-bodied dragster according to many).
This much we do know of the transaction: a guy named Dick Hoy bought the Astra Coupe. Though we can't find him, "Dick was another gearhead guy, part of the gang that hung around the shop...we did some shows together," George Barris remembered. He wrote in Barris Kustoms of the 1950s that Dick, "bought the car unfinished from Jay and we then finished the paint and interior." While the car did in fact acquire a "richly vibrant blue" finish according to a magazine article in Fawcett Publications' Hot Rod Ideas (1961), it's likely that all the Astra got at Barris' shop was paint. The interior that was in the Astra upon its restoration was the same as when Jay owned it and photos of the car in Jay's stewardship show the Astra as a completed car.
While we don't know exactly when Dick bought or sold the car, we know to whom he sold it: Johnny Morris. "Johnny was a machinist around the corner from us," Jim Gordon recalled. Jim's story is that he runs Antique Auto Parts, the wood-faced shop founded by Gene Scott (the righteous Ford guy, not the evangelist) in Rosemead, CA.
"He (Johnny) had a little yard on Rosemead in south El Monte. He moved all his cars in, and when they built up all around him there was no way to get the cars back out," Jim added, chuckling. "He had all kinds of interesting cars and a few people did seem to get some of the cars out of there, but it wasn't an easy job."
One of those who succeeded in wrangling cars from Johnny's boxed-in yard was Fred Torrisi, who bought the Astra in 1979. "He ran our wrecking yard in Irwindale for a while," Jim recalled. "That was Antique Auto Acres for want of a better name. He wanted someplace to store his cars, so Gene made a deal with him where he would run the yard so he could store his stuff." Ostensibly the Astra Coupe was one of them.
According to Brandy Torrisi, Fred's daughter, "It took my dad two weeks to dig the car out from under a collapsed carport." Actually, Brandy's being generous; the "carport" was more like a tin-topped lean-to. "There were weeds growing through the floor," she added. By the tags on the '63-to-69-era plates on the car when it surfaced, the Astra's last registration expired in 1969.
When Fred died in 1990, he left Brandy with several cars too many to manage. She eventually brought them up to her new home in the Pacific Northwest, but reluctantly decided to part ways with the Astra when storage bills started racking up. She sold the Astra to Spokane artist Jeff Allison in the summer of 2004. "It was heartbreaking" she admitted, "but financially it wasn't viable for me to restore it."
Though Jeff said he initially toyed with the idea of resurrecting the car in brushed-aluminum, he too admitted that the amount of work required to make the Astra roadworthy was far beyond his skills, much less his budget.