West Coast Report – Fifth Edition: By John Gilbert

Walls to the Ball

There’s nothing quite like crashing a’64 Chrysler through a 6-foot brick wall to get a guy’s attention. I didn’t actually drive through the wall, but I came so close I visualized seconds into the future as the adobe blocks bounced off my hood leaving a clear pathway towards my screaming neighbors diving out of their backyard lounge chairs.

In last week’s West Coast Report I mentioned the notice of violation letter I received last January from the city I live in. The letter was relating to complaints from a neighbor regarding some vintage cars stored on my property. Sure, its sounds a little ridiculous the neighbor has to peer over a 6 foot wall to spy the cars are there, but that’s all it took for the city to get involved. Two of my cars are in violation of the municipal code stating that vehicles must be parked on a fully paved surface. Instead of pavement, I parked my ’69 Buick, and ’64 Chrysler on the grass. The municipal code gets a little unreasonable when it comes to inoperative vehicles and car parts specifying they must be kept in a fully enclosed garage.

I live in California, but the problem of heavy-handed urban decay laws threatening the preservation, and restoration of vintage vehicles are spreading nationwide. The seizure of private property sounds like a plot line from a nightmare movie where ruthless fascists bust down doors, but local zoning laws can make confiscation a reality in your town.  I contacted Colby Martin, director for the SEMA Action Network to find out how to get started towards enacting a reasonable law in California, and he said to start at the local level. In future West Coast Reports I’ll recount my meetings with local legislators, and share how things went. Updates to follow.

                                                                                — John Gilbert

It was over ten years ago I drove my ’69 Buick Riviera and ’64 Chrysler 300K into my backyard for storage. Here’s where I crashed the Chrysler into the wall. All at once I was able to stomp the emergency brake, throw it in park, and turn the ignition off… almost just in time. The K hit the wall with a loud bang, but neither car nor wall was hurt.

I had to gas it hard to plow through the soft dirt and when I hit the brakes to stop the master-cylinder popped. Here’s the empty aftermath.

For adjustable suspension instead of air bags the Chrysler is on hydraulics. The hydraulics stopped working, so I cut up wood blocks to lift the car off the bump stops.

Partly with a pruning saw, and mostly with a Chrysler bumper I had to trim my dwarf orange tree to make room to get the car out. This was a pit stop, changing the wood blocks that disintegrated every six feet under the load of the 413’s torque.

Rear wheel-spin on the grass was at a maximum with the car drifting uncontrollably sideways towards the wall. I got real close to hitting, but thankfully no cigar.

I can just imagine the headlines: ’64 Chrysler found in the backyard of Orange County hoarder. A neighbor said “Mr. Gilbert has always been a quiet man. We were quite shocked when he came flying out of his entry way courtyard backwards with the Chrysler’s tires smoking.

All Chrysler Letter Cars came standard with bucket seats, and a floor shifter. Checkout the square steering wheel.

The original mileage is 38,047. When I found the Chrysler it was in storage, and then I parked it for 25 years after buying it.


Mullin Automotive Museum: By John Gilbert

This gives new meaning to the French curve. The benefit of visiting an automobile museum dedicated to cars from one particular country is it really opens one’s eyes to construction methods unique to that country. What I’m trying to say is my two visits to the Mullin museum in Oxnard, California really opened my eyes to how incredible 1918-1941 vintage French automobiles really are. My first visit to the Mullin was for a press opening on April, 15 2010, the second time July 14, 2012 coincided with my 60th birthday— My mom always used to say I was a little Bastille ever since.

I know for West Coast Eastwood readers appreciation for these automobiles will rate on numerous levels with styling, engineering, construction, and craftsmanship at the very top.

At center is my all time favorite hood ornament the Lalique Eagle. Originally intended as a distinctive radiator shell ornament for early 20’s luxury automobiles the Lalique Eagle now stands alone as a work of art to be shown in a glass display case.

If memory serves me well this is one of if not the very first Bugatti Veyron made.

Here’s world renown cinematographer and yacht builder Henry Mohrschadlt photographing the Schlumpf Reserve Collection. Checkout the cute little Bugatti soft-top delivery hack at Henry’s left.

I don’t believe its open to the general public, the upstairs lounge features furniture designed by Ettore’s father, Carlo Bugatti, and bronze sculptures by younger brother, Giovanni Bugatti.

Sarah from JMPR was my personal guide for the first visit. A very patient person, Sarah had her hands full preventing me from drooling onto displays.

This 1927 Cooper Miller Indy racer was sponsored by the Buick Motorcar Company of Flint, Michigan. Through later owners the car made a major impact in European racing decimating an entire fleet of specially constructed Gordini Alpine bread trucks on the streets of Monte Carlo — Sorry, I made the last part up.

Powered by an inline eight-cylinder engine this 1925 Bugatti Type 25C was ordered new by the Bugatti dealer in London, England.

In a full-scale paddock setting the upstairs features open wheel racecars. This 1911 Hispano-Suiza featured DOHC (dual overhead camshafts) and produced 64 horsepower from 3,616 cubic-centimeters… in 1911!

In Southern California we’d call this ’37 Hispano-Suiza a woody wagon. The proper name is a Shooting Brake, and has nothing to with inadequate brakes causing the car the to shoot through a red light.

Powered by one-horsepower this is one of three Bugatti carriages built by Ettore Bugatti for his horse ranch in Molsheim, France.  Notice the rear suspension consists of parallel leaf springs linked with a transverse leaf spring at rear.


Jewels of Julesburg: By John Gilbert

The images of what looks to be a 1950 year model Plymouth Deluxe Two Door Sedan were taken by me on the outskirts of Julesburg, Colorado in early April, 2012. I know its not a ’49 because it doesn’t have triple-fluted bumpers, or vertical positioned taillights. By 1951 the single-fluted lip at the bottom of ’50 bumpers was replaced with rounded blade type bumper. The odd feature of this particular car is the stainless steel molding (trim) on the door and quarter panel. I say odd because search as thoroughly as I might on the Internet for another ’49-52 Plymouth with this trim I couldn’t find photos of another example equally equipped.

That said I do have a trusted source I go to when I can’t find information online it’s called the Standard Catalog of American Cars by John Gunnel. Truly an inspiration, John Gunnel is one of my heroes that I finally got a chance to meet in person and discuss his work. If there ever was an author that should go down in gearhead history as the most prolific producer of great automotive research books, it’s John Gunnel.

You can locate this ’50 Plymouth by exiting I-80 onto Highway 385. It’s on the East side of 385 just a little ways south of the Julesburg sign. I guess I should mention it was stored behind a chain link fence with no signs of life around. The antique shop next door was out of business with a for lease sign posted in the window. There’s a Subway sandwich shop next to the Interstate.

The good thing about this car is it’s a two-door. I don’t want to hurt any four-door owners feelings, but two-door cars make for much cooler customs. Can you imagine how badass this fastback coupe would look with a chopped top, and a nice custom paint job?

Notice the door handle is of the turn-down type instead of pushbutton.

In California we think of Colorado cars as usually being rusty,  but take a close look and you’ll see this car has only surface rust… No big ugly rust holes. Look at the chrome it’s all there and it’s perfect— yikes!

Zoom-in and checkout that dashboard. Can’t you just see it packed with custom gauges, and color-matched to the custom exterior color with your  girl’s name lettered on the glove box — a chrome plated glove box door.


The Chadly Coupe: By John Gilbert

Got $34,995?— This baby’s for sale. Here’s copy I wrote about the Chadly coupe for Newport Classic Cars website. The old car is really starting to make a name for itself. Since the blogs that were posted on Street Rodder’s web during my cross-country trip the Chadly coupe has appeared in the May 2013 issue of Street Rodder, plus in an ad for Coker tires on the back page of Car Kulture DeLuxe. Future coverage on the Chadly coupe will be for KUSTOM a French magazine, and then maybe Rebel Rodz, and Chop & Roll an Italian magazine.


Google the “Chadly Coupe” and numerous search results pop up with links to text and photos illustrating the traditional style hot rod displaying everything from a Wisconsin license plate to a Florida Antique plate progressing ultimately to sporting a California dealer’s plate.

The story of the Chadly Coupe and its origins are as interesting as any traditional car in the annals of hot-rod history — Hi, my name is John Gilbert, and after driving the Chadly Coupe on behalf of Newport Classic Cars over 4,000 miles from St Augustine Beach, Florida, taking the long route across country to Newport Beach, California I’ve got a pretty good idea of what this car is all about.

Chadly started with the “best example”

The saga of the Chadly Coupe began when Chadly Johnson of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a manufacturing support technician for Hutchinson Technology Inc. decided to build his first hot-rod. “I built the car after spotting Kris Elmer’s “Green Grenade” in a hot rod magazine, and had to have one just like it. It took approx 3 years of weekends and evenings to build the coupe. I got a ton of help from my fellow Hot Heads Car Club members in as well as from many veteran hot rodders in my home town. I found the coupe at a buddy’s transmission shop after he’d purchased it at an estate sale. I had to have it due to its great patina with a rock solid body. Before I left Southern California to pick the Chadly Coupe up near St Augustine Florida, I called Chadly to get an impression if it really was feasible to drive the car across country. It was quite interesting to learn that as a first time builder Chadly adhered to the advice of Boyd Coddington among other top car builders, and started with the very best example he could find — It’s a credo that strikes terror in a purist’s blood. The estate the Model A came out of was from a man that had owned the car for a very long time, and only used it to drive in summer parades. It was a perfect original paint car that any serious Model A collector would have loved to get his hands on and preserve it as Henry Ford made it. That all changed when the very first thing Chadly did was to severely chop 7½-inches out of the top. The coupe’s virtually rust free body is still in its original Ford factory applied black enamel except for the minuscule areas where Chadly sprayed black paint onto the welded seams of the chop.

On pinched ’32 rails

Underneath its near perfect body, the chassis of the Chadly Coupe appears outwardly as a traditional 1932 Ford frame, but that’s where the similarity ends. One of the main reasons I attribute being able to drive the car over 4,000 miles without a problem was thanks to the modern technology incorporated into the Pete & Jake’s Stage III 3100 chassis. In between the boxed ’32 rails there’s steel reinforcement tubing that doesn’t allow the chassis to twist or flex. Instead of buggy springs for rear suspension Chadly chose the Aldan coilover option and I’m glad he did, this car rides and handles great. For braking up front GM style disc brakes with large late-model Ford drum brakes bring the coupe’s ability to stop into the 21st Century. Tired from the drive, and not all that alert I made a few hard panic stops in Atlanta, Georgia during afternoon rush hour traffic. What could have been a major pileup with the coupe totaled turned out to be nothing more than a tense moment for the cars stopped in front of me. I pushed onward until I made it to Chattanooga, Tennessee that night.

The switch from Coker bias-ply to Coker Excelsior radials… in Chattanooga

The week before I flew out to pick the coupe up in Florida, I met with Corky Coker in Irvine, California, at a SIM (Source Interlink Media) editor’s roundtable on Coker tires. As in years past Corky extended an open invitation for any of us editor types to visit him, and view his legendary vintage car and motorcycle collection at Coker headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In less than a week to the day I screeched up to Corky’s Chattanooga headquarters in the Chadly Coupe, and spent most of the day with Corky. As a part of the visit for an upcoming tech story, and car feature in Street Rodder magazine, Corky took an active part in replacing his bias-ply Firestones with a new set of Excelsior radials. Next Corky insisted his crew over at Honest Charley’s Speed Shop give the car a thorough going-over before I hit the road to Speedy Bill’s Speedway Motors in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A low-mile ’54 Chrysler gets sacrificed for its 331-inch Hemi

The purists will cringe — Damned if Chadly didn’t do it again. The 331-inch Hemi engine powering the coupe was plucked out of a mint ’54 Chrysler New Yorker with extremely low mileage. Chadly left the Hemi in its original silver engine enamel, in fact he didn’t even clean the original grease and grime off the engine. The internals of the Chrysler Hemi are stock with a mint example of a Weiand 6-duece intake manifold packed with Holley 94 carbs supplying fuel. A Joe Hunt magneto style HEI distributor along with a high-torque starter fired the Hemi up every time on the first try during the entire course of my journey. Corky had the crew at Honest Charley’s Speed Shop change the oil with Champion Classic & Muscle 20W-50W oil enriched with high levels of ZDDP. Amazingly the coupe only used one quart of oil from Chattanooga, Tennessee up to Lincoln, Nebraska on to Lake Tahoe all the way home to Newport Beach, California, a pretty good indication of its excellent condition. The 4-speed transmission is a close-ratio Muncie originating from a ’63 Corvette Stingray. Thanks to tall 3.23:1 gears in the 9-inch Ford rearend the coupe just sipped gas from its Tanks 18-gallon gas tank. Another item with an old school look that’s actually quite high-tech is the Delco-Remy style PowerGen alternator delivering 75-amps. The coupe’s Stewart-Warner volt gauge never dropped below 14.5 volts the entire trip. For engine cooling the coupe behind it’s Deuce grille shell is running a genuine Walker radiator, a company that has been manufacturing radiators in Memphis, Tennessee since 1932.

“Stitch Bitch” did the black tuck ‘n roll

In Florida, Todd, the coupe’s second owner installed a ’32 Ford dashboard packed with genuine Stewart-Warner gauges plopped in front of a shrunken ’40 Ford steering wheel. The black tuck ‘n roll upholstery was done by “Stitch Bitch” of Stillwater, Minnesota.

The Chadly Coupe passed its trial by fire with colors… er, make that Flat Black.

After my 4,000-mile banzai run across country in the Chadly Coupe there’s no doubt the car has proven itself reliable. To get an even better idea of how monumental its cross-country journey was please check out my blogs on the Chadly Coupe at www.StreetRodderweb.com  or read the May 2013 edition of Street Rodder.




  1. Hey Kit,

    That’s “Clean” Dean in the background next to the 385 highway sign. I don’t he took a picture of the rental truck we were driving. Tommy’s Buick Riviera was off camera. Thanks for leaving a comment, I wasn’t sure anyone saw this week’s edition.

    John G.

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