So many hot rods, and especially customs, start with a piece a paper-be it a scribbling on a napkin or a formal artist's rendering, before any of the actual construction begins, ideas need to be interpreted from one person to another. Working from a blueprint or a set of plans, as it were, makes achieving the end result that much easier-especially on one's wallet.
A good automotive illustrator not only must truly understand the mediums he works with-paint, markers, etc.-he has to fully understand the inner and outer workings of each and every automobile he's designing on paper ... that is, if it's ever to be successfully transformed from art to reality. While Ed Roth was indeed an artist in his own right, it's safe to say that few of his creations were ever really turned into fully functional vehicles. Jeff Norwell, on the other hand, has the talent to do both-sketch a bubbletopped showcar or ink out a practical hot rod. Exhibit A: The "Diamond Deuce". And taking the stand to testify in his own words, here's Mr. Norwell's account of the build:
"In the early spring of 1989, fresh out of school and grounded in my own studio, I returned to my desire of hot rods. I really had never left them-but I realized very early on that an education would help bring my personal wants in life later on.
"I found this little pickup at a swap meet sitting upon a hill, waiting for a new owner. A price was agreed upon and it was brought back to the fold. The lil' red pickup was full of speed parts-but upon closer inspection, some sad truths were revealed. The Flatty was wasted with a bad cracked block and the Top Loader had no Second gear or Reverse. This was not going to cut it, so the hunt began for a new drivetrain. Quickly, I located a 289 and a decent C4. The swap was made and we shared many trouble-free road miles.
"Early on, a friend of mine noted that this truck was featured in Hot Rod magazine in December 1961. Astonished at this fact, it was called the "Diamond Deuce" from the local graybeards who remembered her. I set upon an adventure of sorts to return it somewhat to its former glory. I never wanted to rebuild it to exactly what it was; I needed to leave my mark on it somewhere. In other words, return it a wee bit to its early history in tribute to its past-but with the addition of my personal touches!
"Work began in early 2000 and the hunt for parts was on. Drawings, sketches, and napkin notes filled the studio. Every spare moment I had I dreamed of this truck-mixing new with old-and making phone calls to those who knew the truck back in the day. One call in particular was to an older gentleman telling me back in 1959 or 1960, he remembered the original owner/builder, Gerry Watson, doing a burnout on King St. in Hamilton, Ontario, digging the rear tires into the pavement about 5-6 inches! Whether true or not, it fueled my imagination with more overkill for horsepower. I could see it clearly ... those visions drove me harder.
"I set forth with Ken Stewart, a famed chassis builder and fabricator extraordinaire. We talked and discussed at length a mock-up, and then a chassis was born. I was stoked. My vision was under way.