Early on John found and intended to use a Fordson tractor tank. "After a while I didn't want to use it because it was obvious that it was the only rat rod part," he decries. But he says he liked the idea.
Earlier he scanned the V-8 badge and drew a typeface to match. John's coworker Dick Lile converted John's graphics into 3-D so a CNC router table could mill the tank sides from 1/4-inch-thick aluminum plate. "It's trickier than you'd think because a letter like the 'A' has a tiny little triangle in it," he reveals. "We made the file to cut those parts a little bit shallower than the rest."
John and Peterson formed the tank skin in the likeness of the Fordson tank, which Ken Carvalho and Justin Merrill welded together. Jimmy Sadkowski slip-rolled the straps to which Peterson welded eyelets and ribs. John made a filler neck and Model A fuel gauge from aluminum, including the arms and graphics.John derived cockpit inspiration from a tubular-steel chair designed in the mid 1920s by Modernism pioneer Marcel Breuer. Familiarly known as the Wassily chair, it resembles a splayed-open paperclip with slings between its rails.
The rear legs drop over sleeved bolts that mount the body. Jeremiah Fanning at Resurrection Upholstery in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, spanned the rails with 1/4-inch-thick leather.
"Jeremiah was one of the other great people with the build," John says. "His answer to any idea I'd come up with was, 'Oh yeah. We can do that.'" At one point he told John he'd cast some small rubber pads for a boat. "When I heard that I said, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna make a whole floor mat like that.' He just said, 'OK, let's try it.'"
They pulled a fiberglass mold from the floor. John designed a rib pattern in Illustrator, had a negative pattern cut from plastic, and bonded it to the mold. Jeremiah had the material sprayed into it.
An arched tube that evokes the one John Tjaarda used in the "Briggs Dream Car" in 1933 spans the cowl. It skewers a pod that John built from antique car radio housings and sheet steel. A CNC router carved an aluminum bezel to resemble a 1940 Standard cluster that mounts vertically. John designed the gauge and odometer graphics to read upright and in his typeface
The 1937-39 wheels bear about the least modifications on the whole car. In fact the rears remain stock. They're not common, though; their 5.5-inch width suggests that they were accessory wheels. The front wheels measure 3.5 inches wide thanks to Peterson. Even though John based the car's typeface on the 1939 cap's logo, he had Russ Meeks fill the stampings.
John's good friends Dusty Smith, Travis Thornburg, Brad Gortsema, Josh Scott, and Korey Huenink prepped the car for paint. John's close pal Russ Freund, who competed for the 2011 AMBR title with his "Takeout T" (July 2011 R&C), applied the black Martin Senour urethane. Kim Degenstein's crew at Spokane Metal Finishing plated the car's brightwork.
After his dad's premature death, John's mom Barbara married longtime family friend and drag racer Clarence Bennett, a guy who John refers to as, "...the coolest dad I could ask for." Unfortunately, Clarence's health started failing toward the end of the build.
"I wanted to spend more time with him," John says. "He'd yell at me to go out there and finish that car because it was his goal to come to L.A. to see it." He almost made it. Rather than quit, John's family, coworkers, and club mates, Thee Inland Emperors, rallied around the car.
You likely know by now that John didn't earn a spot on the trophy. But that he and his broad family made it into the esteemed group of AMBR contenders is a victory in itself. Not to get too romantic, but friends and resourcefulness earned him membership in a group most people consider beyond their station in life.
Every worthy contender makes a statement, but John made a point, one that Freund made two years prior. "I'm not going to lie; we wanted to win" he summarizes, "but the goal was to show that normal people can do this." He may not have a bunch of money but he's indeed a rich man. I mean, when was the last time you heard an entrant's mom helped build a show car's display?
The Woodward Roadster may not have taken the title but it bears something that almost no big-trophy contender will ever have: the sum of its creator's experience. And no money in the world can buy that.