Get used to it, boys, because you're going to be close and personal for a bunch of miles.
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 speeding officer? It has a Volkswagen engine in it." Bud's featu
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 a quiet break on the way to the heart of the Great Smoky Mount
Bud had the thankless job of scraping an old Larry Watson fade-away paintjob off the track
You can almost see the wheels turning as Bud rescues the first pieces of his '29 roadster
Bud cherishes this Gray Baskerville photo. "It was taken shortly before my rearender on Su
This yellowed June 1970 photograph shows Bud's highboy about to head north to the capable
Two historic hot rods and a newcomer to the group, Ron Weeks owned and restored the '24 T
Some of you might remember Bud's '37 Buick Special project car in R&C. A used-car dealer w
That's Bud (bending over) assisting Jerry Kugel during the brake test portion of "Duel of
After getting back in contact with some old friends and attending Morty's Reliability Run,
"I was sitting in my easy chair with a cup of coffee," recounted Bud. " I opened my R&C to
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.
What happed to Bud's roadster after that devastating crash? And, what motivated Bud to sell his famous A-bone after beaucoup blood, sweat, and tears spent building it? After all, he had a cherry body that was given to him by that nameless benefactor in Detroit. "There were several guys who wanted to buy my roadster," said Bud. "It was lying in my garage, and I convinced myself to sell it. When I sold the car, the body went with it. I decided that I was going to turn my attention to the Buick, the future family sedan. The destruction of my roadster is what did it-that's what pushed me over the edge."
"I was just getting started with my business when I met Bud," said Jerry Kugel. "I was still doing general car repair. Bud would come to my shop, and he had followed several of my projects in R&C before there was a Kugel Komponents.
"Bud was the catalyst for a lot of us in the street rod parts business. Hot rods have been around forever, but the street rod movement was just getting started. Street rods were built for the street, not for El Mirage or Bonneville. Then, Bud just dropped out. He was out of the picture-off the radar screen. He was doing his thing other than cars. I lost track of him for a long time."
Devastating news shook the Sunset Boulevard R&C offices like a 7.0 on the Richter Scale. The magazine as everyone knew it was no more. The staff was to stay together, merging Rod & Custom with Hot Rod magazine.
"Everyone tried to present a positive face to the readers, but it was distressing news nevertheless," said Bud. "After R&C was cancelled, we all stayed to ride it out, except Jake.
"I began working for the Book Division of Petersen Publishing, Hot Rod magazine Street Rod Quarterly, and Hot Rod Industry News. Then, they brought back R&C. Tom and I returned, and Gray Baskerville replaced Jacobs."
After the second cancellation in May 1974, read into Bud's comment what you will: "I'd been to Disneyland twice."
With his A-V8 roadster badly mangled, a marriage that would soon end, and his desk cleared for the last time, Bud left the public eye.
Ironically, on that last cover was the very roadster body (in the background) that was given to Bud in Detroit. It was sitting on the back of a pickup.
Once Jake and Tom were able to contact Bud by phone, three lost decades were dissolved, as though they never existed. In Jake's case, the timing was perfect for the two to reunite, since an event that Jake attends each year was coming up shortly-Mark Morton's River City Reliability Run.
Interestingly, this was to be the first time (ever) that Mark's event was to begin and end in Central California, instead of ending in Riverside. The travel distance was halfway for both Bud and Jake. Jake drove his fenderless '34 sedan and Bud a transportation car.
"Through Jake, an invitation was extended to me to attend Mark's run that concluded at Harris Ranch (off Interstate 5 in Central California) in 2006," explained Bud. "Mark had provided sack lunches for everyone, and he had one for me, as well. I will never forget that.
"That was the first time I laid eyes on Jake in more than 30 years, and we started looking at the cars. I kept thinking, this is a very important part of me.
"Some of the guys remembered me and embraced me warmly. I can reach out and shake the hands of these men, even though I'm not apart of it anymore. I gotta have a car. A week later, I called Gary Mussman at Cornhusker Chassis to get the ball rolling."
The Turning Point
What Bud has been doing these many years matters not to this story, except they've melted away memories best forgotten but rekindled the ones that started Bud's juices flowing in the first place-all revolving around street rods.
The important thing is "Highboy" Bryan, as Gray Baskerville called him, has resurfaced. In the process, Bud has begun building a '29 highboy, just like his old one. Frankly, Bud's roadster is the smelling salts that revived him.
"I realized, once again," stated Bud, "that the true enjoyment of a project like this is resurrecting some old bits and pieces that will actually work again. I'm having fun again."
Bud attended the Grand National Roadster Show recently, stopping at the Hop Up booth where he purchased the magazine. Bud asked "Morty" (who was manning the booth) to autograph his publication. Mark wrote: "Bud you have inspired us all for years. Mark Morton." "That really stuck with me," said Bud. "It meant a lot."
Young Mark and his dad had built a '27 Chevy coupe with a 283 Chevy in 1967, never thinking their home project was R&C caliber. "I didn't know Bud then, but I followed his articles when he was building his Buick," said Mark. "After my dad and I finished the Chevy, and hours after I sold it, the guy that bought it pulled into a shop to buy a tape deck. Bud Bryan drove up, saw my car, and pulled in to look it over. Bud made a deal with the new owner to cover my old Chevy and it got into Rod & Custom."
It takes an exceptional journalist to energize one's readers, no matter the publication. Bud did that. When he was approached, he was friendly and down to earth, as were his printed words. Specifically, Bud motivated rodders across the country to fill up their tanks, throw in the suitcase, and split.
For those of us who were there, a whole bunch of time has zipped by when Bud banged out his last piece on the Underwood. We're either full-blown seniors now or about to join the club.
We're not ready for the walker yet; we're still building street rods like Jake, going to car shows like Andy Brizio, running Bonneville like Jerry Kugel, and campaigning go-karts like Tom Medley. Although we've aged, we're still kids (with a few gray ones and a jowl or two) playing with our toys.
You might say Bud is that kid in a toy store. He works at Sacramento Vintage Ford in the wiring shop. "I make up early Ford and street rod wiring looms. Great fun," he said.
On a Personal Note
Greg Sharp has helped countless writers with historical information and priceless photographs he's collected over the years. When I called Greg to see if he had any photos of Bud, he was preparing to travel to the NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Even though he was pressed for time, Greg responded with 18 photos, including hand-written notes on each one. "I want to do right by Bud," stated Greg. You certainly did, my friend. Thank you for contributing so much to Bud's story.