A New Movement
"I got married," continued Bud, "and became an advertising manager in Bakersfield for a large department store in 1963-64. I had a '60 Pontiac Bonneville that barely fit in my little one-car garage.
"I did a couple of freelance articles on model cars for Don Typond, the managing editor of Rod & Custom at the time. It was a way to break into the business. This happened while I was still working in Bakersfield. We'd drive down, my wife would go see her family and I'd spend Saturdays in the Petersen (Publishing) photo studio, shooting model car stuff. That was also during the slot-car era.
"Tom Medley came into the picture and said, 'This model car thing is fine, but I have a better idea for us. What do you think about turning Rod & Custom into a world-class street rod magazine?' I became a staff member and moved down to Glendale, California.
"The R&C readers, themselves, carried that tradition on," continued Bud. "They were street rodders, not hot rodders. They wanted to drive their cars from the get-go. While they looked at Bonneville, El Mirage, and drag racing with great interest, they weren't racers. They wanted their own sport. We stuck with that."
"Street rodding wasn't a movement yet when Bud came on board," said Tom "Stroker McGurk" Medley. "Bud got the readers interested in driving the heck out of their street rods, because he drove the heck out of his."
And drive he did. By 1971, Bud had become a seasoned veteran of cross-country street rodding, heading to the Street Rod Nationals, this time in Detroit. On that trip, Tom got close and personal riding shotgun in Bud's '29 to and from Motown.
"We started out at night to head home," recalled Tom. "A lot of street rods were heading out, as well. All of a sudden, Bud pulls off by the side of the road and stops. I said, 'What's the matter?' I thought maybe he heard something or it quit. Bud said, 'Look at those fireflies! I've never seen fireflies.' We got out and Bud started taking photos of them. Pretty soon, here comes a whole bunch of street rods. They thought we broke. All of a sudden, we had a slew of guys watching fireflies," laughed Tom.
Greg Sharp-the curator at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona- was an LAPD motorcycle officer the first time Bud ever saw him. Greg walked in with his helmet and dark glasses on, and told Bud's secretary he wanted to speak with Bud Bryan. "Everybody just went, huh?"
"Greg knocked on my door, came into my office like he was going to do a pinch, and asked, 'Are you Bud Bryan?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' I thought I was in deep puckey," laughed Bud. "I've always wanted to meet you," said Greg, shaking Bud's hand vigorously. "I love the magazine." It went on from there, and eventually Greg started writing articles for R&C.
"By then, everyone was getting ready to move into Petersen's new building on Sunset Boulevard," Bud said. "Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Skin Diver (launched in 1951), and Guns & Ammo were all under one roof.
"I remember one time while in the old building on Hollywood Boulevard, the Guns & Ammo guys rolled a cannon out the back door right next to the building. 'We're thinking about shooting it,' they said to Medley. Eric Rickman said, 'Shoot it! Stuff it up!' so they did. The concussion blew out several windows in the back of the building, emptying the offices," laughed Bud.
"That's when I first met Alex Xydias; he was editor of Car Craft. Guess who was his ad salesman? Bill Burke (father of the belly tank). We had a mutual love for cars. Alex was either in my office or I was in his. We were drinking coffee and laughing. It's a wonder we managed to put out monthly publications on time. I was in the company of some of the greatest hot rodders of all time. We all had a mutual love for cars."
Scroungin' a Roadster
Bud built his roadster over a long period of time by scouring the swap meets to acquire tin. Besides, part of the fun was finding that obscure piece. Overheads, automatics, and 9-inchers were the vogue when Bud chose to go old-school. Bryan's highboy could have easily been built in the late '40s with its Flathead, gearbox, and quick-change. Anything but the genuine article was not in the equation.
"My '29 roadster was a statement in true hot rod tradition. I never went to the dry lakes or Bonneville with it, but what I wanted to emulate was those early lakes and Salt Flats racers where the foundation of this sport began.
"I probably started collecting parts in 1968. I came across bits and pieces over a period of time," recalled Bud. "I found the framerails at a swap meet for $18 and started filling the 100 holes in the frame. Then, I found a center K-member and different pieces of the body."
Behind the Scenes
While some legendary rodders had a hand in Bud's roadster, every part on the car was paid for out of Bud's pocket. Sam Foose, Chip's father, was working for Gene Winfield at the time and did the bodywork for Bud in Winfield's shop. Bill Desatoff, an Early Times club member, painted the flawless black lacquer in the family garage. Bryan visited Phil Weiand to write a story on Phil's company. In the process, Bud purchased an intake manifold and heads from the legendary hot rodder/manufacturer.
Bud had the same experience interviewing Barney Navarro in his shop. "I asked Barney if he knew where I could find a block. He said to follow him, and stuffed under a shelf was a brand-new 59AB block wrapped in original Ford Cosmoline that had never run."
Bud's personal life at home had begun to unravel, plus being the editor left little time to devote to his project. Bud had bogged down. Out of the blue, friend Andy Brizio took charge. "Andy helped a lot. He called me and said, 'I'm coming to get your car. I want that thing finished. We're going to get it running. A trailer will be there to pick it up.' Thinking back about Andy's generosity to me, I can honestly say it was and is absolutely unprecedented.
"It was 12 midnight when the phone rang. Who in the world could that be? It was Andy, who said, 'I want you to hear something.' He went, 'Hit it!' I heard the starter and an engine fire. I asked what it was, and he said it was my Flathead. It's the best rump-rump I ever heard."
The True Story Has Never Been Told
"Gray Baskerville (the late associate editor at the time) and I went to Mickey D's to get a burger," began Bud. "On the way back to the Petersen building, I stopped at a light on Sunset Boulevard; the guy behind me didn't. He drove us into the vehicle in front of us. That accordioned the roadster, damaged Gray's left knee, and my '29 was absolutely destroyed. I had it towed to a wrecking yard and later towed it home."
Bud had written off his highboy when Tom Medley, shooting photos of incoming rods at the entrance of the'71 Street Rod Nationals in Detroit, spotted a '29 roadster body heading for the swap meet area. Tom told Bud he had better find the guy and make him an offer.
"After I found the body in the swap meet area," said Bud, "the seller told me he was hoping to see my highboy here. The man had followed the project articles in R&C. I told him that I had totaled it two months earlier. When he asked what the body was like, I told him it looked like a waded-up piece of paper. I never met the fellow in my life. He said, 'Here, I want you to have this.' It was a complete '29 Ford roadster body, all original. He gave it to me free of charge."
That moment has stayed with Bud all these years, but the identity of the gentleman has not. Bud was in shock, so he never got the man's name. Maybe this story will reunite the two.