Still Fired Up
I was thrilled to see this great article about the Ala Kart a few issues back. Throughout one's life everyone has a memorable occasions. Here is one of mine.
In 1963, my shop, A&M Automotive in Youngstown, Ohio, had built two customs on the ISCA show circuit, winning a number of trophies. Fortunately for me they got the attention of Mike and Larry Alexander (The Alexander Brothers), finally leading to a trial opportunity to go to work for them in their new shop which was still under construction.
Your article mentioned that the paint was not exactly as original because of a fire. Let me shed a little light on that incident. After a day of heavy leading on the Alexis, one of the Ford Custom Caravan, Mike drove me to the new shop. Inside, there it was, the Ala Kart. As I walked up to it, I sadly saw the scorched firewall and cowl damage from the fire.
Apparently it was in the area for an appearance for one of the model makers. Someone had taken it for a ride on the freeway and unfortunately it caught fire. The A Bros. agreed to store it until a decision was made about its repair.
But there I was, standing by the famed Ala Kart. What a great thrill-a private showing. I called Mike Alexander just to verify my recollection; he stated that George Barris then took the Ala Kart back to California for a repaint.
A couple of years ago, at the Cobo Hall Show, my son and I had a great conversation with Blackie about the Ala Kart build and his great input on the project. He had told us about the restaurant menu name incident.
Keith Kaucher's Dream Car of the Month in your June issue brought back some great memories, especially the Quincy Automotive sign on the door of the pickup. EX stood for EXBROOK if I remember correctly and with no area code. Quincy even had the first dyno I ever saw. My '55 Ford in high school, circa 1961, had a lot of parts on it from Quincy and another place called Shells. It, and every car to follow, also had Santa Monica's Engle Racing Cams' great stick in them. Quincy closed and Shells moved but Engle is still there.
In 1996 or so, while at Engle Cams getting a camshaft for my '55 (about the 10th for the many engines it had in it), Mark Engle told me to come in the office. Doug and Jack were in there with a familiar face I just couldn't quite place. Having been on Santa Monica PD for about 20-plus years at that time, this worried me a bit. The guy was in his 60s or early 70s and asked if I had a '55 Ford with a McCulloch-blown Y-Block in it. Being a bit suspicious and having had that motor in it in the Sixties, I said, " Maybe, why?" He asked if my name was John. Again, "Maybe, why?" It turns out it was the guy I always called Quincy and the owner of Quincy Automotive. Quincy isn't his real name but he will always be known that way by me. I thought the Engles set me up but they were adamant that his memory of his customers is that good. I ended up being invited to a Quincy Automotive Reunion in Thousand Oaks, which was great.
Kaucher is right, it was a great time to have grown up. The Olympic Drive-In, A&W, Ships Coffee Shop, The Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Ocean Park, on and on.
I loved Chris Shelton's story on the Astra Coupe. I wasn't too interested until I read the text and realized how special it actually was. Jay Everett was very talented in many ways.
Also included in the story was a parallel path to mine. Before I was 16 and able to drive, I (without mom's permission) would peddle my Schwinn from Charter Oak/Covina to Rosemead and hang around Gene Scott's store. After I got my license, I bought a restored '31 Tudor from some kid in LA and, with Gene's patient advice, transformed it into a striking Earl Scheib orange 4cyl daily driver.
At the age of 20 I got a job at Aerojet (draftsman) in Azusa and drove past the "Antique Auto Acres" in Irwindale lot daily. I always planned on climbing the fence to see all the treasures inside but the big guard dog was a definite deterrent. I spent many a time staring through that damn chain link fence.
Aerojet's east parking lot backed up to a stone quarry where I found an ancient collapsed tin enclosure (forgotten small wrecking yard). I would visit it during occasional lunch hours and brought home a '25 Dodge roadster body (left the fenders and chassis) on the roof of my mom's 4-door Corvair. I soon sold it to a small body shop on Arrow Hwy for $10. I believe I saw it at the LA Roadster Show at the Hollywood Bowl show years later as a nicely made Fad car.
The tin enclosure was dozed into the quarry one sad day and they built a New Year's Eve float manufacturing company in its place. Shoved over the side was a water-filled V16 on a huge chassis, an unrestorable Woody, and a tired but very complete Studebaker coupe professionally made into a tow truck. Also found were the very sad remains of an old biplane, a cool old bus, and a few cars too far gone to recognize.
I was really taken back seeing the Astra in your June '09 issue. I do so remember being at the 1953 Petersen Motorama, standing near my '52 Lincoln which had been customized by Valley Custom but looking over and really admiring the Astra. I envied the owner having attended the Art Center College of Design. I so wanted to be an industrial designer but the nearest I got to it was messing with my Lincoln. I ended up being a civil engineering designer, designing sewers.
Ina Mae Overman
Arroyo Grande, CA