Nearly 60 years ago, our soon-to-be-sister publication Hop Up magazine declared NorCal’ian Al Dal Porto’s handsome racer the “World’s Most Beautiful ‘Lakes’ Roadster” on its July ’52 cover. Inside, the cover roadster was given appropriate accolades to back up that mighty statement—among them, credit given to metal artisan Jack Hagemann for the roadster’s beautiful, hand-crafted front section and intricate frame and to John Errecalde for the stroked, 296ci Flathead, not to mention an accompanying cutaway drawing by Jim Richards. In all, the feature was very complementary and fairly in-depth for the space allotted. For a car of this caliber, further print coverage would undoubtedly follow … or would it?
Unfortunately, if you were to research the Dal Porto Lakester, other than a few tidbits in early R&Cs, the July ’52 Hop Up is about all you’d turn up. For a car credited as such, that doesn’t seem right, now does it? Well, there’s a perfectly good explanation for that.
You see, 1952 was a busy year for Dal Porto and his hybrid ’27 T lakester. It all started out with a class win at the Grand National Roadster Show, thanks to its extremely good looks. Then it went on to prove it was just as much “go” as it was “show” by setting class records at the dry lakes (driven by Ray Righetti with the SCTA Sidewinders) and on the quarter-mile at Kingdon Drag Strip. And that’s where the action pretty much comes to a screeching halt—more like a thundering crash, literally.
Before the year came to an end, the life of Dal Porto’s lakester did just that—came to an end. While once again competing at the lakes, the ’27 was severely wrecked and subsequently relegated to storage with Errecalde, where its remnants would stay for the next two decades. Errecalde would eventually pass the pile of parts along to friend Carl Schmid, but unfortunately, storage is where they’d remain once again for the better part of yet another 20 years.
Finally, in the early ’90s, Don Orosco acquired the incomplete, tattered Dal Porto roadster. Now, one would think that it would be at this point that things would make a turn for the better—with the ’27 in the hands of the very same man responsible for bringing back to life such historic hot rods as the Dick Flint roadster—but that’s not the case. For whatever reasons, Orosco felt someone else should do the resurrection, and that someone else would turn out to be an old road racing buddy of his, Kerry Horan.
To say Kerry was faced with a difficult restoration project would be a huge understatement. Considering what he physically had to work with—or rather, didn’t have—Kerry was looking at quite a bit of recreating as well. What remained of the cowl-back ’27 T looked more like a crumpled milk carton than an old Ford roadster, such a twisted mess that even the savviest of rat rodders would walk right past it at a swap meet. But none of this, not even the lacking of the original engine, transmission, and one of the three belly pans, deterred Kerry from the pursuit of bringing the “World’s Most Beautiful ‘Lakes’ Roadster” back to its former glory (he was so determined, he went so far as to scour Schmid’s 10-acre yard a decade after he’d bought the car in hopes of finding some of the missing parts, which he did!).
Add yet another decade to the picture and, yes, a brand-new life has been bestowed upon the beloved beauty, just as Dal Porto, Hagemann, and Errecalde had done over a half century ago. And whether coincidence or irony, the venue Kerry chose to debut the ’27: the Grand National Roadster Show (where it was fittingly given the Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Preservation Award). This time around, however, the key roles in the car’s restoration would be played by different—but equally as talented—players.