One that got away – Michael Lamm’s Texas Tan hot rod

This post was originally published on this site

I found this hot rod as a roller in 1951 and bought an engine, transmission, Columbia axle, and radiator at a local wrecking yard. I had the car up and running within a few months. Photos by author.

In 1951, when I was 15, I came across what was left of a hot rod that somebody had started to build sometime in the past. It was essentially a roller—no engine, no transmission—but I could see great potential in it. So, with stars in my eyes and very little cash in my pocket, I bought the roller for $20—a lot of money back then, especially for a kid making 35 cents an hour working after school, weekends and summers.

I was working two jobs as well as attending school. Here’s a photo from my high-school yearbook.

I had two jobs, actually, one at Miller’s Garage and the other at Joe Machner’s Humble filling station. This was in my hometown, La Feria, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The weather in South Texas is a lot like Southern California’s, warm and sunny, so we could work outside on cars year around.

Fuel tank stood in the trunk. I had the Model A roadster body painted Texas Tan, added Pontiac taillights and twin exhausts. The 1932 Ford frame had been zeed by the previous owner.

The hot rod, such as it was, had a 1929 Model A roadster body on 1932 Ford frame rails. The rear frame kickup had been zeed, which gave the car quite a nice stance. Other modifications included a 1949 Ford pickup instrument panel, steering column from a 1949 Nash, and a special pitman arm that was stouter and longer than normal, giving the car quicker steering than was usual in 1950s American cars.

I shaved the heads and added a Thickstun intake manifold with two Stromberg 97s. I could never afford aluminum heads nor headers. That’s the tach drive on the firewall and an oogah horn on the frame rail.

The pinion spline on the Columbia rear axle was worn, so the collar that connected the shortened driveshaft often rounded out. I could install a new collar in less than an hour.

I soon bought a 1948 Mercury 59-AB V-8 at a local wrecking yard and also a 1939 Ford three-speed transmission. The fellow who ran the yard threw in a Columbia two-speed rear axle plus a radiator, and I think the whole ensemble cost me less than $60.

Seat came out of a Ford Anglia, upholstered in tan-and-green plaid nylon, with green door and kick panels.

Motorboat windshield used flat glass, and Mike soon replaced the cracked right side. Instruments and dash panel were from a 1940 Ford pickup, steering wheel was Nash.

Before I put the thing together, I sanded the body and had it painted a Hudson color called Texas Tan. I liked the name. I also brush-painted the wire wheels a complementary Hudson hue, Boston Ivory. The frame and chassis got a coat of gloss black. The car had no seat when I got it, so I bought one out of a Ford Anglia and had it upholstered in a plaid nylon weave, with green diamond-tufted door and kick panels, which I made myself. But keep in mind, I was only a callow teenager, so my tastes ran to the bizarre. To my mind, here was a car that embodied total coolness and style.

This is my best friend in high school, Mike Eaker. We chummed around together in the hot rod and still keep in touch.

I had the hot rod up and running within a couple of months. Meanwhile I was also buying and selling other cars on the side, sometimes making a dollar or two but mostly not. I drove the hot rod to school, did a lot of stop-light dragging, and occasionally entered formal drag races which, at that time, were held at a decommissioned military base near Port Isabel, on the gulf coast. I didn’t do particularly well as a drag racer, but the car was great fun to drive and had loads of personality. I’ve owned dozens of open cars since then, and I think that in each one I’ve been trying to find and duplicate that wonderful combination of sophistication and crudeness that formed the soul of my hot rod.

Eleven years ago, for my 70th birthday, my middle son, Charlie, built a model of the hot rod, using the above photos for reference. Nothing could have warmed my heart more.

After driving the hot rod for about 18 months, I stumbled onto a 1932 Cadillac V-16 sedan that I simply had to have. I bought the Cadillac for $90 and sold the hot rod for $450. Some kid in Weslaco bought it. From then until I went away to college in late 1954, the V-16 served as my daily driver. I have no idea what became of the hot rod and, as I say, I’ve been searching for a replacement ever since. Never really found one.


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