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OK – so I can’t stop thinking about that little VW roadster.  It’s really made an impact on me.  Add to that it was built over just a few months!  I really hate hearing stories like that, partly due to the fact that I simply can’t believe it, mostly due to the fact that I am jealous that I probably couldn’t pull off a build of a car so quickly.  Could I do something so quick and effective?  Probably not.

I already have a 1960 Cadillac Convertible sitting on jack stands in the garage.  It’s the first car that I set out to do a “low brow” make-over.  It already got set aside once so I could make over “FireMaker”.  And now it is still collecting dust waiting for a big mill Cadillac, Ford 9”, custom front bumpers, body mods, wide whites and Radirs.  I really shouldn’t be thinking about another project before finishing the last one – but I am.

1960 Cadillac Custom I should be thinking about.

So what can I create in the spirit of Rocky’s bug, but completely different.  I have always loved 50’s chrome and fins and wouldn’t it be quite a contrast to take one of Detroit’s dinosaurs and repackage it into a much more manageable form?  What about another Cadillac?  Should I cut up the 60?  Probably not, it’s much too nice of a car.  Plus I want something new to look at.  How about something really unique that you don’t see all of the time?  That would rule out a car from GM or Ford.  What about Chrysler?  Now there is a company that really had some outlandish ideas.  I think a chopped down Chrysler might be the ticket.

There is a junkyard in Northern New York that has been there since the forties, kind of a sleepy place and it’s never had a car crusher in it.  There has to be over 3000 cars from the thirties though the seventies.  I’m sure they would probably have the fodder I would need to build a chopped down Chrysler.  Most likely any car I find there would be rusted from the beltline down or at least the rockers and floor would be gone.   What does that matter if I am just hanging some body panels on a little open wheel roadster?

Northern New York Desoto

Rows of Possibilities

So with a loose concept in mind and a possible source for body parts I start looking at what Chrysler had to offer in the late fifties and early sixties.   Desotos had some great body lines, the ’60 has a fin that came all the way to the mid point of the front door, the ’59 has a better side lines with outlandish trim on the fins and a nice front end.   The ’57-’59 Plymouth Furys are cool, but they always remind me of “Christine”.  The ’60 Plymouth is just too goofy.  Now the angriest looking car ever made has to be the 1959 Dodge Coronet.   Something really pissed off that car!  And to match the scowl, it has dangerous, pointy tailfins.  There are lots of directions to explore here.

Incredible Fins!

At the top of the Penta Star heap is the Imperial.  As I would come to find out later these were hand built in Hamtramck, MI and more expensive than a Cadillac or Lincoln.  They exuded the height of luxury with electro-luminescence gauges, cruise control, swivel seats, and the first cars to have curved side glass.  I always found their “gun-sight” taillights, stamped spare tire trunk lid, stainless steel roof insert, and floating headlights intriguing.   As I began to compare a few different years I keep coming back to 1959.  From the front to back it really has a lot of beautiful details, but just too much ugly in between.  So I started some drawings and subtracted sections of the car. 

The Imperial was hand-built in Hamtramck, MI.

That's a lot of metal!

Starting with a four door car, figuring they might be cheep and plentiful, I shortened the wheel base by removing the front doors.  My plan was to keep the rear doors because the tail fins started there.  I shortened up the rear end, removed the roof and created a short little windscreen – much like a speedster from the 50’s.  Up front I kept the length of the front fenders and filled in the wheel openings as hood sides.  I added some lake style headers and steelies with wide whites.  After playing with the combination a little bit – I had a nice, simple, little roadster.  I imagined it with unfinished welds, flat paint, and a little rough around the edges.  It was the type of car that wouldn’t have to make any excuses for its crudeness – just a whole lot of attitude.

A quick rendering of a roadster made from a 1959 Imperial.

There is a traditional hot rod show near Chicago called the Hunnert Car Pile-Up.  For the past five or six years a number of 30’s cars have showed up with 50’s fins grafted to them.  Ed “Newt” Newton has also drawn a number of wild configurations with some of them turning into Ed Roth creations.  All kinds of crazy things have been done to open wheel roadsters, but as best to my knowledge this is the first time a full size automobile has been reduced to it’s most elemental components. 

Now I will be the first to admit that drawing a cool little car and building one are two completely different things.  Thousands of hours can separate the two.  Meanwhile a good drawing or plan can save a few hundred hours over the course of a project.  Not to mention a rendering provides great motivation and illustrates your vision to all involved.  Plus, without one, everyone just might think you are crazy and you just might doubt yourself as well.


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