1974 Ford Maverick
Wilber Laboy
Las Vegas, NV

When it comes to winning PHR's annual photo contest, it really does come down to the photos. Wilber Laboy's Maverick is a very cool, nicely done car that has to be an absolute riot to drive, but beyond that, notice the time and care taken to find a great location, to dramatically light the car with multiple reflectors and flashes, and to create interesting compositions. There's a reason this Maverick pops off the page as you look through the 2013 entries; there's way more than snapshotting going here, and it shows in the final result.

This Maverick has been a long time coming for Wilber. His brother originally purchased it back in 1982 as a light green six-banger commuter. With three teenage boys in the house, that didn't last long, though. Within a few years, the sixer had been yanked in favor of a modified 351 Windsor, loud exhaust, slicks on the rear, and an assortment of custom gauges in the dash. The Maverick was a source of fun for a while, until all the brothers moved out and on with their lives and it was stored in Wilber's parents' garage. It wasn't forgotten, though; when Wilber finished technical college and bought a house in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, the Maverick moved along with them.

From the start, Wilber swore the little Maverick would never see snow, so it lived in the garage while the daily driver sat outside. With his wife's blessing, Wilber tore it apart and began a several year build filled with thousands of hours of work, including the nine-point 'cage, sheetmetal interior, fiberglass quarter-panels, 9-inch rearend, and, of course, the monster 8-71 blown 427ci Windsor backed by a Lenco five-speed.

The years flashed by and now Wilber, his wife, daughter, and the Maverick all live in the mountains of Las Vegas. Twenty-five years of building, changing, and tinkering have resulted in what is affectionately referred to by his family as "Dad's man-sized model car." Not only because the radical little Maverick looks like a life-size Hot Wheels, but because just when it's all put back together, the gears start turning for yet another modification. But that's hot rodding for ya.

These days all of the Laboy brothers live in the Las Vegas area, and the Maverick rolls out regularly to car shows. "Although we may be older, we revert back to those three teenage brothers when we share our cars' journey with other enthusiasts," Wilber says. And the journey continues every time a catalog with a new interesting part arrives in the mail!

Engine: 650hp 427ci Dart aluminum Windsor with BPM heads, Ford Power Solutions custom cam, Hampton intake, Weiand 8-71 blower
Trans: Lenco five-speed
Rearend: 9-inch with 4.11 gears
Suspension: stock front, ladder bars with coilovers rear
Brakes: stock discs front, Wilwood discs rear
Wheels & Tires: 15x3.5 and 15x12 Weld Pro Star with front runners, and 31x15 Mickey Thompson tires

1961 Ford Falcon
Larry Rhea
Lindale, TX

Ever since he was a teenager back in the 1960s, Larry Rhea has had a burning desire to build a gasser-style hot rod of his own. Like a lot of guys of his generation, military service, work, and raising a family (and putting five kids through college!) put building his gasser on the back burner. Now that Larry is retired and the kids are out of the house, he finally has the extra time, money, and a green light from his wife, to make his dream come true.

Larry spotted this 1961 Falcon sitting under a tree on a country road. There wasn't a "for sale" sign, but he took a chance and knocked on the door anyway to inquire if it was available. Turns out it was, and after a bit of negotiating, Larry loaded the Falcon onto his trailer and hauled it home.

Once back at his shop, Larry did a complete teardown on the Falcon and built a rotisserie for the body. Over the next three years it slowly morphed into the gasser it is now. It still needs a paintjob and an interior, but Larry hit a point in the build when he was really ready to just get out and have a little fun with it. As a retired pilot, Larry took the call sign used by British Airways flights for the project: Spd-Brd.

Even in its unfinished state, Spd-Brd gathers a ton of attention whenever Larry takes it out, and never fails to get at least one thumbs-up. But it's not just cruising for this Falcon; Larry enjoys getting it out on the dragstrip as well. It is a gasser after all. He's still getting used to the car and dialing in the chassis, but so far the Falcon has been good for 7.27 at 93.87 in the eighth-mile, and 11.86 at 118 in the quarter.

Engine: 408ci Windsor with RHS 215 heads, COMP Cams XR294RF-HR10 cam (242/248 duration at .050), Edelbrock Air-Gap intake, Holley 750-cfm carb
Trans: Hughes C4 trans with 3,500-stall converter
Rearend: 9-inch with 3.89 gears and Detroit locker diff
Suspension: Speedway Motors straight-axle kit up front, four-link with QA1 coilovers in the rear
Brakes: 9-inch Speedway Motors discs up front, 11-inch Wilwood rear
Wheels & Tires: 15x6 and 15x10 American Racing Torq-Thrusts D with 26x7.5 and 315/60 Mickey Thompson

1972 Chevy Vega
Jerry Gary
Smithfield, VA

"I'll never forget the first time I saw Jim Bell's Vega," Jerry Gary tells us. "It was voted as one of 'America's Best Hot Rods' in the April issue of Popular Hot Rodding in 1986. Jerry was already into Vegas, and this wildly painted custom with a Z28 302 and a trick TH400 was the coolest he'd ever seen. It was his dream car.

Almost 26 years later to the day, Jerry was browsing Craigslist when he saw a Vega with a familiar paintjob. Jerry called immediately and when the owner said he was home and Jerry could stop by, he left work right then. The Vega was sitting in the corner of a garage covered with dust and racing stickers, and in need of some TLC. Jerry glanced under the car and saw the chromed suspension and cautiously asked if it was an old show car. The owner pulled out a copy of the Apr. '86 issue of PHR and Jerry realized he was looking at his old dream car. He immediately left a deposit to buy it.

After posting about his find on a couple websites, one of Bell's friends got in touch with Jerry and said that Bell would love to catch up regarding the Vega. Jerry was ecstatic to not only get to talk to the guy who built his dream car, but also get details on how to restore it back to its show car glory. Jerry has also spoken with Dusty Palmer, who originally painted the Vega, and continued showing it for a while after purchasing it from Bell. Matter of fact, Jerry tells us that both Bell and Palmer are planning a road trip to come visit the Vega soon, and bringing some original parts from the show car days. So not only does Jerry get to be the guy who saves his dream car, he also knows it'll be exactly as he imagined it in the end. You really couldn't ask for a better home or more ideal set of circumstances for an old show car.

Engine: 406ci SBC with 1970 Z28 LT1 heads, .600-inch lift Lunati cam, Weiand tunnel ram with dual Holley carbs
Trans: TH400 with 3,800-stall converter
Rearend: narrowed 12-bolt with 4.56 gears
Suspension: chromed stock front, chrome four-link with coilovers rear
Brakes: stock discs and drums
Wheels & Tires: 15x3.5 and 15x8 Weld wheels with 25x5.5 and 29x12.5 Mickey Thompson tires

  • 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
    In this month's Hometown Hot Rodding, we check out our readers' rides including a 1955 Chevy Bel Air wagon dubbed "Las Vegas."
  • November 2012 Hometown Hot Rodding
    “Unreal!” “Very nice!” “Sick car!” Earl Blundell says it’s amazing to him to hear these things about his Firebird after working on it for so long.
  • August 2012 Hometown Hot Rodding
    Steve Travers’ first car was a ’67 Camaro, so he’d been on the hunt for a first-gen F-body when he came across this ’68 Firebird.
  • 26 Readers Rides
    Car mags are usually packed to the gills with high-dollar rides made from unobtainium, and it can be frustrating if you’re trying to wrench together your own project on a thin dime.