It never ceases to amaze me how many times coincidences play a part in either this lifestyle of ours or, more specifically, my profession. A chance conversation can trigger a chain of events when it comes to resurrecting old cars, or buying parts to build new ones, while publishing a long-lost photograph can fill in huge blanks in a car’s history. We can go for months writing features on new builds or restored hot rods, yet rarely do we get to feature cars that have some form of family history.
Dave and Patti Hochevar’s ’42 Dodge pickup in our last issue was exactly that, then, just like buses—none for ages, then two come along together—we follow it up with Taylor Kennedy’s ’35 three-window coupe. Unlike the Dodge though, this was Taylor’s father Wayne’s car, not his grandfather’s. In fact, it was his first car! Just like the pickup though, this coupe was also put away in the garage for several decades before being brought back to life by a new generation.
Wayne Kennedy bought the coupe from its original owner, a farmer, sometime in the mid-to-late ’50s. Along with some buddies, his first intent was to build a race car. Those plans never came to fruition, and Wayne updated it and put it on the street, driving it for 10 years or so, all through his college days. As Taylor told us, if it could only speak, the coupe would probably tell more than a few wild stories from those times! When the clutch release bearing let go in 1967, Wayne parked the ’35 in the garage where it stayed until 2009, when Taylor, who’d by now bought the house he grew up in, got tired of seeing it sitting there covered in dust, pulled it into the basement, and tore it apart, much to his dad’s surprise.
Wayne had never lowered the coupe when he built it back in the late ’50s, though he did add ’39 hydraulic brakes, a ’37 banjo steering wheel, and found a good, used 303ci Olds Rocket engine (circa 1950), which he bolted up to the stock three-speed trans using an adapter he found at the local junkyard. Try doing that now! He also had the interior re-upholstered in blue vinyl, with 2-inch pleated white inserts, including the rumble seat. That same interior is still there, though the rumble seat is currently out of the car in need of new springs.
In fact, with the exception of adding a 4-inch dropped I-beam and a lowered rear spring, both sourced from Speedway Motors, all Taylor did was rebuild the motor (it’s still stock, right down to the original side draft Rochester carburetor, but with an 0.030 overbore) and brakes, clean out the gas tank and lines, and attend to some electrical issues. New wide whitewall bias-plies on ’56 Lincoln Premiere wheels replaced the original wires too, though one still resides below the rumble seat lid as a spare. He then put the coupe back together and hit the road, leaving the body untouched. “I just washed the dust off,” he told us, “and after 30-plus years in the garage, there was a lot of dust! I like how it looks, and just plan to drive it. I may add carpet but that’s about it. My dad loves it, and never thought he’d see it on the road again.”
Though photographed without a hood, the coupe wears the original again now. It was only missing as it was barely back on the road at the time, and as Taylor put it, “It’s a lot easier to fix something at the side of the road without a hood!” Turns out Taylor and Wayne own a number of old cars, with Kennedy Sr. still owning a ’35 cabriolet that he drove more than he did the coupe, as well as a bunch of ’50s Cadillacs and Lincolns. All of which means the coupe hasn’t made any long journeys yet, but sees regular duty for local cruises. It even won a trophy at the Heavy Rebel show in North Carolina, for Most Dialled-in Hot Rod, which pleased Taylor’s dad. How will he feel seeing his old hot rod featured in a magazine, we wonder?
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
1935 Ford Three-window coupe