The Life Of Bud Bryan - The Bud Bryan Story
He Drove The Roads And Talked The Talk
From the December, 2008 issue of Rod & Custom
By Dick Martin
Photography by Andy Brizio, Buddy Bryan, Greg Sharp Collection, Hugh Teitsworth, Jay Storer, Jerry Kugel, Jim Jacobs
Get used to it, boys, because...
Get used to it, boys, because you're going to be close and personal for a bunch of miles. Bud, shotgun, and Andy in his Volksrod are about to head for the Mid-South Rod Run in Tennessee.
Simon and Garfunkel's song "Mrs. Robinson," posed the rhetorical question, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" Miffed, Joltin' Joe would often tell his close friends, "I haven't gone anywhere, I'm still here."
Likewise, Editor Bud Bryan's associates, friends, and his loyal R&C readers wondered the same thing. When Bud left Rod & Custom, he vanished.
When the fledgling street rod movement was taking hold, Bud knew street rodders wanted their own sport. While they respected hot rodders, they weren't racers. The R&C readers related to Bud because he was one of them; he drove what he built and got rodders to do the same.
When I wrote the story in the Oct. '07 issue of R&C about the 1st Rod & Custom Street Rod Nationals in1971, more than 35 years had passed since Tom Medley and his staff had talked to one another. Little did I know how my reuniting Bud Bryan, Tom Medley, and Jim Jacobs would change the former editor's life.
"I was raised in Liberal, Kansas," began Bud. "My playground was Uncle Perry's junkyard. He had a Mack bulldog truck with a big A-frame boom, and he would pick up Model As and sling them into railroad gondolas parked on the tracks. He'd lift up the cars and let 'em fly." You might say Bud got hooked on Model As (and their preservation) because of Uncle Perry's glee in giving them the hook. The A-bones were contributing to the war effort overseas.
"What do you mean we were...
"What do you mean we were speeding officer? It has a Volkswagen engine in it." Bud's feature, "Tennessee in a T," chronicled his road trip from California to the Nashville Street Rod Association's Annual Mid-South Rod Run with Andy Brizio in Andy's Volkswagen-powered '26 T. Look for that Jan. '70 R&C issue; it's a great Bryan piece. When asked if Bud had made notes during the trip for such an extensive piece, Andy said no. Read it and you'll be amazed at the detail.
Bud's world changed, for the better, when he was 5 years old, when he and his mother moved to Southern California in 1943. He lived by the old Long Beach oil fields and tank farm just along Cherry Avenue, not far from the action at Lions Drag Strip and hot rod heaven in Compton.
Bud's first car was a '29 Hudson four-door. "There was a gas station by my house and I used to talk to the old codger who owned it, and I did a little cleaning for him. The Hudson was my reward," he said. "My buddies and I used to sit in the Hudson parked behind his station and BS. It was kind of a meeting place. He wanted to get the Hudson off his property, so he sold it to me for a buck. I was 13."
Bud fired up the hulk (a popular getaway car in the '30s capable of sustained speeds of more than 80 mph) and drove it from the station to the back of his mother's fence.
Noticing a strange automobile sitting on her property, his mom inquired where the old car came from. "I'm not sure, somebody just parked it there," replied Bud. It was hauled off while Bud was in school. "I was heartbroken. Eventually, I fessed up to parking it there."
While attending Jordan High School in Long Beach, Bud worked the graveyard shift at a rubber company to help out his retired mother financially and allow him to afford a '47 Ford. Bud went to his sister's house after he got off work in the morning, cleaned up, and had just enough time to have some toast and get to school in his '47 Ford. This went on until his senior year.
Then, Bud traded the '47 sedan for a '40 coupe with a 3/8x3/8 Flathead: "It had slicks on it, and I was replacing a trans every weekend at my house, my friend Hugh Teitxworth's house, or Chuck Finders' shop. Chuck worked on transmissions in Bellflower and had the world's fastest blown A-Gasser. It was a Willys pickup and it was an absolute animal.
"I traded the '40 for a '52 Chevy, which was a mistake. I completely destroyed the front of that '52. I totaled it twice," laughed Bud. "The first time, it was in front of the Clock Drive-In on Lakewood Boulevard messing around. My friend, Hugh, and I were throwing firecrackers out the window. I didn't see the light change-the guy in front of me stopped and I didn't.
"The second time, I was backing out of my girlfriend's driveway, and I sideswiped the neighbor's car. It wasn't just a tender sideswipe-it was a crunching, grinding, shattering affair. I was going so fast, I wiped out both cars. Her dad and the neighbor weren't real happy with me. I bolted on some new sheetmetal and traded it in on a '55 Chevy, which ended up with a custom Cadillac Linton Green lacquer paintjob."
Andy Brizio and Bud, taking...
Andy Brizio and Bud, taking a quiet break on the way to the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. Bud would politely convey to his readers that scenery like this couldn't be experienced with the street rod parked in the garage. Bud considers Andy one of his closest friends: "I met Bud a couple of months before we went to Gatlinburg in 1969," recalled Andy. "I had built a Volkswagen-powered '23 T for my wife, Sue, because we had a gas-crunch then, just like now. If it weren't for Bud getting me involved with all the people with the magazine, they wouldn't have found out who I was, and I wouldn't have gotten involved with all this stuff. Everybody would ask me over the years whatever happened to Bud, because they knew I knew him. There was no way I could find him. It was like he was lost somewhere."
Bud had the thankless job...
Bud had the thankless job of scraping an old Larry Watson fade-away paintjob off the track nose (shaped by the legendary Whitey Clayton) of Jim "Jake" Jacobs' NieKamp roadster. The Buick V-8 and cool candy paintjob was not the way Bill NieKamp had run his roadster at the lakes or how it appeared as the first Oakland Roadster Show winner. It was because of Bud's influence that Jake decided to restore the '29 roadster. "Bud was building his '29 highboy at the time," Jake said, "going Flathead and full nostalgia. We would sit around and throw out ideas. Bud made the suggestion, 'Why not restore my car back to the day?' And I did. I was running short on time to get the car done for the 2nd NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Memphis. We had a friendship, a kinship more than just guys you worked together with at R&C." Jake still has the receipt for $1,300 that he paid for the car.
You can almost see the wheels...
You can almost see the wheels turning as Bud rescues the first pieces of his '29 roadster body. "I probably started collecting parts in 1968," he said. "I came across bits and pieces over a period of time."
Bud cherishes this Gray Baskerville...
Bud cherishes this Gray Baskerville photo. "It was taken shortly before my rearender on Sunset Boulevard. Many skilled individuals brought my '29 this far, only to be destroyed by a negligent driver with no insurance or driver's license," lamented Bud.
This yellowed June 1970 photograph...
This yellowed June 1970 photograph shows Bud's highboy about to head north to the capable hands of his friend, Andy Brizio, to finish the job. "Andy helped a lot on the roadster," said Bud. "The first event my roadster went to was Andy's Picnic at Crow Canyon, near Castro Valley, CA. Roy Brizio, probably 13 at that time, rode with me on a milk carton for a seat. It didn't even have finished paint."
Two historic hot rods and...
Two historic hot rods and a newcomer to the group, Ron Weeks owned and restored the '24 T Dick Kraft Special (later the Highland Plating Special) that Kraft drove 60,000 miles and won 20 trophies in at Santa Ana Drag Strip. Jake's restored '29 A NieKamp roadster and Bud's '29 highboy are also pictured. The three drove their cars from SoCal to the 2nd annual Street Rod Nationals in Memphis in 1971, where such long-distance trips in Flathead-powered roadsters were unheard of back then. So was the concept of their club, Traditional Rod Owners and Drivers Association (TRODA) (no Chrysler Hemis, no SBCs) ,where they shared a common foundation to build or restore cars their heroes used to race.
Some of you might remember...
Some of you might remember Bud's '37 Buick Special project car in R&C. A used-car dealer would call Bud's all-power-equipped sedan "loaded," with its 455 Buick, Turbo 400, and A/C. "One of the reasons I built the Buick (still on the road today with a new owner) was because it was kind of an ultimate statement-big car and big power," said Bud. "It was the family sedan for almost 10 years."
That's Bud (bending over)...
That's Bud (bending over) assisting Jerry Kugel during the brake test portion of "Duel of Deuces" as they measured 44 feet of skid marks left by Gray Baskerville's Lincoln drums that he locked up, compared to Jerry's four wheel discs at 15 feet. "They still talk about that article today," said Jerry (a fun re-read) of the story that appeared in R&C's Aug. '72 issue. Gray's and Jerry's roadsters were daily drivers; moreover, Jerry's black beauty was his only source of transportation for many years. Call it a rod test where Gray and Jerry swapped and compared Gray's gennie-suspended Deuce versus Jerry's state-of-the-art "Deuceuar" (as Gray called it) independent Jag ride. Bud Bryan called Kugel's a "mod rod."
After getting back in contact...
After getting back in contact with some old friends and attending Morty's Reliability Run, Bud was reinvigorated to get going on another A/V8 project and is making pretty good progress. This time, though, he's planning a small-block Chevy but still plans to drive the wheels off it.
"I was sitting in my easy...
"I was sitting in my easy chair with a cup of coffee," recounted Bud. " I opened my R&C to the Detroit Autorama, because I'd been to it and there it was: a clone of Bud Bryan's highboy roadster-my roadster. I just about fell out of my chair; I had no idea the influence I had. It's a validation."