If nobody has bought NAPA parts for an AMBR contender in decades chances are nobody ever considered using NAPA’s house-brand Martin Senour paint. Russ did. A guy named Dan Wilcoxon is the paint guy at the store where I work and he’s phenomenal with custom formulas, he says. He took this real blingy silver that has cut glass and mirror and crap in it and he gave it a 10 percent hit of this violet toner. So you kind of get that candy hint to it but it’s really just a basecoat. The crushed glass adds some cost but it’s no way any $2,000 color. It’s probably only like $200-$300 a gallon. In the grand scheme of all things paint, it’s not much money at all.

How Russ applied that paint bears mentioning too. First he painted the entire car white.

The white is actually the stripe color. Only instead of laying it over the finish coat, a process that’s vulnerable to the vagaries of a hand-held brush, he buries it under tape and sprays the topcoat. He, Emperors’ most exalted potentate John Gunsaulis, and resident artist and jester Jeff Allison, each took eight-hour whacks at laying tape. Removing said tape reveals a line sharper and more consistent than a brush could ever make.

Jeff Allison also designed the interior that fellow Emperor George Frank rendered in hides from the elusive river-dwelling Connecticut Nauga. Only Frank didn’t follow the plans exactly. It’s awesome because he has a way better eye than I do. Prior to trimming the top he skinned it with aluminum sheet to which the material attaches. That way we didn’t have to put snaps in the body.

Contrary to popular belief, show chrome needn’t blow a budget; it just takes a bit more work.

Kim Degenstein at Spokane Metal Finishing does all my work, and his guys showed me how to do a lot of the prep myself. That’s a good way to save money because prep takes a lot of time.

Which brings up a good point: Russ’ car may have been exempt from a lot of things that make show-car construction crazy but time wasn’t one of them. Headers, for instance, came down to the last minute. Darrell (Peterson), Johnny Logsdon, and I tacked ’em together and Johnny welded them completely. Billy Payne (another Emperor) spent three weeks sanding them.

We got the car running at the shop for approximately 30 seconds because ISCA rules were that the car has to run. Thinking that we would just have to have the car move forward, backward, and turn left and right, we head off for the show.

To hedge their bet Russ and John appealed for an exemption for the driving part as the car was drained of all but a few quarts of gasoline and engine oil to prevent leaks. We go back and John says, Well, let’s see what it’ll do.’ We started it and I said, Screw it; I’m driving it in.’

Russ’ car took a number of awards that weekend, including Outstanding Engine and the Jalopy Journal pick. That the paint affordable enough to use on an ordinary car won the Triple Gun Award of Excellence makes one hell of a statement.

I didn’t ever fool myself into thinking I was going to win the show, Russ explains. I was just happy that I made it. I couldn’t have done it without my friends and (wife) Loralee.

That amateurs’ passion and resourcefulness can get a car to the top rung of the show-car ladder says a lot. For the first time in a long time enthusiasts on working men’s salaries have a chance at greatness. There really could be hope after all.

Rod & Custom Feature Car

Russ Freund

Spokane, Washington

1925 Model T Roadster