There definitely seems to be a theme to cars built by members of the Persueders Car Club out of Hollister, California. Big ’50s and ’60s cruisers in suede paint sitting low seem to be the club’s mainstay. You might remember Ki Hansen’s Mercury featured on these pages back in April 2009. Hansen is a buddy of Danny Dornan, who owns this ’61 Chrysler Newport, and knowing Danny was looking for a project, he called him when he spotted an ad for this car in the local paper.
According to Danny, “The grainy black and white picture just showed the front of the car, but I was intrigued. Two days later I met the owner, a nervous-looking guy standing next to an 8-foot fence with a locked gate. Turned out he was getting divorced, and his soon-to-be ex-wife was on the other side of the fence. Before we went in he told me he had to sell or move his cars by the end of the week or she was having it all taken to the dump. His collection included Mopar muscle cars of just about every model packed in so tight we could barely walk between them. The Chrysler was wedged between a rusty Dart and a Challenger. It had a little surface rust, but all the trim was present and the glass was in good shape. Then I saw them! The biggest fins I had ever seen on a car, starting mid-door and launching off the back like some wild ’60s spaceship. It was just what I was looking for.
“The guy was now pacing and nervously looking at the house and the figure staring at us from a window. Then he hit me with the price. He muttered “$2,000 and it’s yours.” I thought to myself about how he had to move these cars by the end of the week and figured I was in a good position to negotiate. I offered $1,000, which of course got me back to the gate and on my way with no car. I kept my fingers crossed and two days later he called. He took the $1,000, and wasn’t happy that I wanted it delivered to my friend Junior’s shop, Aldape’s Automotive, in Salinas, as part of the deal. I guess the timing was right as that afternoon the car showed up at the shop! Junior thought the car was crazy, but I had big plans.
“After a couple of days I had a running car with new brakes. Now it was time to start the transformation. I wanted a mild custom, not straying too far from the factory looks, but low and super smooth. I looked to Pep’s Customs in Salinas, California, who molded the front turn signals, reworked the taillights, shaved the door handles, mirrors, antenna, and emblems, and repaired some rust in the rear quarters. Lionel Duran, at Spectrum Auto Body, then shot it in Prowler Orange basecoat. Yeah, I know it’s green now, I’ll get to that!”
With re-chroming handled by Best Chrome in San Martin, California, and Mirror Image in Salinas restoring the stainless trim, the Chrysler was taken back to Aldape’s Automotive to get it sitting right. The torsion bars at the front were turned a few notches, and 3-inch lowering blocks added at the rear to achieve the desired stance, just in time to throw some old blankets on the seats and head to Paso Robles for the West Coast Kustoms show. This was back in 2003. Danny says, “Nothing beats that feeling I had when I pulled onto Spring Street. The sun was going down and the Friday cruise was in full swing. I had Skratch pinstripe the decklid at the park, and was amazed as I watched him lay out the intricate pattern. I had always wanted to be able to paint like the greats and ever since my dad had his truck painted by Rod Powell back in the day. I asked Skratch how I could learn to pinstripe and he simply said, ‘Just go for it man.’