SEMA Seen: 1957 Plymouth Savoy

Wally Parks set speed records in his 1957 Plymouth Savoy | Larry Edsall
Wally Parks set speed records in his 1957 Plymouth Savoy | Larry Edsall

ClassicCars.com’s editorial director Larry Edsall is among the staffers attending the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show this week. In addition to checking out the newest in vehicle customization, preservation and restoration supplies, one of his duties is to post a classic car of the day. Here is his selection from the official opening day of the show on Tuesday:

Wally Parks is best known as the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, which means he was the man who got drag racers off the streets and onto the strips. But he also was the first editor of Hot Rod magazine and president of the Southern California Timing Association, and a racer on the area’s dry lake beds.

Because of his connections, Parks and Hot Rod technical writer Ray Brock were able to acquire a 1957 Plymouth Savoy as it rolled off the line at Chrysler’s East Los Angeles assembly plant. Calling themselves the Backyard Racing Team, they borrowed and installed a Hemi engine, bolted on stiffer torsion bars and Firestone racing tires, and sent the car off to Bob Hedman for a one-off set of Tri-Y headers.

Hemi under the hood
Hemi under the hood

As soon as Hedman was finished, Parks and Brock flat-towed the car to Florida to compete in the experimental class at NASCAR’s Daytona Beach Speed Trials. Driving a car they called “Suddenly” in honor of Plymouth’s “Suddenly it’s 1960!” advertising campaign, Parks set a class record with a top speed of 166 miles per hour and another for averaging 161 over the course of back-and-forth runs on the hardpacked sand. (Later that same year, Brock got the car up to 183 mph.)

After its racing career, the car was used as a daily driver and was sold to cam grinder Howard Johansen, whose children drove it to high school. Eventually, the car disappeared. However, Jim Travis, who worked with Parks, built two tribute replicas — one a sedan and the other, like the original, a coupe.

Parks' son plans to race the car on dry lake beds
Parks’ son plans to race the car on dry lake beds

Parks’ son, David, has the coupe and is working with several aftermarket companies to take it to the exact specification of his father’s race car. One of those companies is Hedman Hedders (now Hedman Performance Group), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary at the SEMA Show, where it has the car on display in its booth.

Once the car is back to full racing spec, David Parks’ plan is to run it on the dry lakes of California and the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah.

SEMA Seen: 1939 GM Parade of Progress Futurliner

Restored Futurliner, complete with jet-engine cutaway | Larry Edsall photos
Restored Futurliner, complete with jet-engine cutaway | Larry Edsall photos

ClassicCars.com’s editorial director Larry Edsall is among the staffers attending the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show this week. In addition to checking out the newest in vehicle customization, preservation and restoration supplies, one of his duties is to post a classic car of the day. Here is his first selection:

Futurliner closed up and ready for the road
Futurliner closed up and ready for the road

OK, so it’s not a car, but it certainly is a classic, a 1939 General Motors Parade of Progress Futurliner, which has just been restored by Kindig-it Design of Salt Lake City.

This restoration project is remarkable on at least two fronts: Restoring the rusted-out remains of such a huge and historic vehicle — this is the third of the 12 Futurliners built by GM — is a massive undertaking, and the vehicle’s owner turned out to be not a traditional classic vehicle restoration shop but a company that made its name doing wild custom cars, many of them featured on the Bitchin’ Rides television show on the Velocity network.

“When building a custom you have a game plan. I do a rendering and hand it off to my guys,” said Dave Kindig, whose company’s name plays on his own. “For this project, I did a lot of research because we wanted to be true to what it was originally.”

One thing Kindig and his team did was to bring in a specialist in 3-D laser scanning, which provided detailed measured renderings of the Futurliner so it could be precisely rebuilt. One example of the benefits of such technology, Kindig noted, was the way the GM initials were milled right into the center section of the front and rear rubber bumpers.

Front bumper detail
Front bumper detail

Kindig said 60 percent of the original sheet metal had to be replaced, but his team rebuilt the chassis structure and the exterior surface sections that needed to be redone just the way they had been constructed in the 1930s at GM’s Fisher Body. In fact, he said, the Futurliner was really updated in only two areas: The structural metal was covered with an epoxy for anti-corrosion protection and the air brakes were updated to modern standards.

Kindig said another big difference between this restoration and his usual customizations is that, “One guy can’t do this. This takes a lot of guys, four to 12 at any given time,” he said. “In fact, all 29 in the shop had their hands in this thing.”

Kindig said that the Futurliner’s owner was so pleased with the restoration that he has a new assignment for the Kindig-it team:

“We’re building Futurliner 2.0,” Kindig said, explaining that the Futurliner’s owner has a technology company that often displays its wares at trade shows.

“This will be a lot more fun than a traditional booth,” he noted.

The cutaway jet engine
The cutaway jet engine

Ironically, the Futurliners were built originally as a group of rolling show display booths. No. 3 carried a cutaway version of an Allison J-35 jet engine to show the public how such an engine worked, and the Kindig-it crew even recreated that display as part of its restoration.

Futurliner 2.0 won’t be a restoration but a scratch-built custom. Kindig’s plan is to guess what contemporary GM designers and engineers might do given the same assignment…Well, given the same assignment and the freedom to think even further outside the box, in this case a very big box.

 

How (and where) are you celebrating Collector Car Appreciation Day?

IMG_6361“Resolved, That the Senate —

  1. designates July 11, 2014, as ‘Collector Car Appreciation Day’;
  2. recognizes that the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is an important part of preserving the technological achievements and cultural heritage of the United States; and
  3. encourages the people of the United States to engage in events and commemorations of Collector Car Appreciation Day that create opportunities for collector car owners to educate young people about the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of the United States, including through the collection and restoration of collector cars.

The words above come from U.S. Senate Resolution 493 as passed last month by the 113th Congress. So, how are you going to celebrate Collector Car Appreciation Day this weekend?

This is the fifth year in a row that the SEMA Action Network, the legislative relations arm of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, has worked with the U.S. Senate to produce such a resolution, introduced again this year — as it has been every year — by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, and for 2014 with co-sponsorship by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sen. Mark Begish of Alaska.

It’s not just about the cars, it’s also about spending time with my son – who is really into them. He and I have spent hours in the garage together working on vehicles.”

— Sen. Jon Tester

As a car collector myself, I have a great appreciation for classic cars,” Sen. Tester told ClassicCars.com in an email exchange. “Not only are they are an important part of preserving technological achievements and acknowledging our heritage, they’re also a helluva lot of fun.

“But for me, it’s not just about the cars, it’s also about spending time with my son – who is really into them. He and I have spent hours in the garage together working on vehicles.”

Sen. Tester owns a Model T, Model A, 1938 Chevrolet, a Willys Jeep, a 1956 Buick Century, a 1970 Buick Electra and a 1955 step-side pickup truck.

The wording of the resolution affirms the role collector cars play in the U.S.:

  • Many people in the United States maintain classic automobiles as a pastime and do so with great passion and as a means of individual expression;
  • The Senate recognizes the effect that the more than 100-year history of the automobile has had on the economic progress of the United States and supports wholeheartedly all activities involved in the restoration and exhibition of classic automobiles;
  • The collection, restoration, and preservation of automobiles is an activity shared across generations and across all segments of society;
  • Thousands of local car clubs and related businesses have been instrumental in preserving a historic part of the heritage of the United States by encouraging the restoration and exhibition of such vintage works of art;
  • Automotive restoration provides well-paying, high-skilled jobs for people in all 50 States,
  • Automobiles have provided the inspiration for music, photography, cinema, fashion, and other artistic pursuits that have become part of the popular culture of the United States…

The above is directly quoted from the resolution, though we edited out all the Whereases.

“Unfortunately, I’ll be away from my garage,” Sen. Tester said of his duties in Washington. “But hopefully all the other car collectors across America can take their vehicles out for a spin, perhaps put the top down, rev up the engine and enjoy the open road.”

SEMA has set up a special website that lists Collector Car Appreciation Day events taking place across the country. They range from the Bear Paw Festival Classic Car Show at Eagle River, Alaska to the Key West Power Cruise in Florida and from the Atlantic Nationals Automotive Extravaganza at Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada to a gathering at the Wild West Muscle Garage and Mick’s U.S. Musclecars and Classics in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

If you know of other events not listed on the SEMA site, please list them in the “Share you comments” box below. We already have been notified of two such events:

  • Motown Automotive Professionals, a non-profit focused on automotive vocational training will stage a special “Collector Car Appreciation Day” car show Friday from 4-8 p.m. at the A&W All American Restaurant on 12 Mile Road in Berkley, Michigan,
  • Carlisle Events plans a special Collector Car Appreciation Day celebration as part of its annual Carlisle Chrysler Nationals this weekend. The focus at Carlisle will be the 100th anniversary of the Dodge brand and the 50th anniversary of both the Plymouth Barracuda and of the Hemi engine.

We also encourage you to fill out our Question of the Week poll on this subject.

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