Spectators at the '09 Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) were the first to see Jim Benitez's Model A roadster pickup in finished form. Jim's newest and greatest creation, nicknamed Faster Pussycat, made its first formal appearance in Pomona, California, last winter-and not just in the show, but among the finalists for the prestigious America's Most Beautiful Roadster award. This was not, however, the RPU's first trip to the GNRS. The car was there the year before in unfinished bare metal, and the year before that as a finished frame-both times in the display booth for the Jalopy Shoppe.
Jim's car pretty much owes its existence to the GNRS. He told us that, as a builder, his personal challenge was to create something cooler than what he's seen in the past few years-and his motivation came from the confidence that he could. The aim to build an AMBR car didn't actually come along until about halfway through the six-year buildup. When this project began he says his goal was to build the best roadster pickup he could. That's a steep challenge considering that he'd already built an amazing roadster pickup seven or eight years ago.
Remember Jim's bare-metal '28 with a riveted body and bed, slammed and channeled over a custom tube frame, and powered by a Chevy small-block with four Rochesters? It was a great roadster pickup and earned attention from Del Mar to Louisville. This one, though, knocks it out of the ring.
The buildup began six years ago at the Jalopy Shoppe in Escondido, California, where Jim works. It started with the steel Brookville body, and continued with the chassis, completely custom-built from square tubing. He said he wanted the car to have "all the horsepower it could take," and stuffed it with a 0.060-over 392 Hemi making 11.0:1 compression and an estimated 400 hp. "Something you could take out on a Sunday and drive fast on windy roads through the mountains," is how he put it and, as the creator of the Ranch Run, the annual windy mountain road trip he hosted for several years, Jim knows what that means.
As Faster Pussycat evolved and AMBR competition worked its way into the agenda, progress slowed. As with all projects, there were money issues and time issues. And there was Jim's perfectionism. Not happy with good enough, if something turned out not exactly the way he intended, he walked away from it for a while and came back later to do it again. That's the second bed, the third cowl top, the third dash, the second set of doorskins, and the third grille. Every piece of the car was worked and reworked numerous times.
Now that Jim has met his personal challenge at the Grand National Roadster Show and his goal of building the best roadster pickup he could, he's still got miles and miles of windy mountain roads surrounding his home and 12 months of sunny Sundays to let Faster Pussycat stretch her legs.