While the big-name builders and shops on the scene often get credit for being the most influential sources of innovation, some of the most creative thinking in the hot rodding community is born out of the garages of everyday enthusiasts like you.
This year for our annual Reader’s Projects feature, we took a slightly different slant inspired by our annual Trendsetting Builders special, and cherry picked a few readers pushing boundaries and expectations—and possibly defining their own trends.
So are we looking at trendsetting readers? Only time will tell, but there is one conclusion that’s obvious: PHR’s readership harbors some of the most creative minds in the hobby.
1962 Dodge Dart
Jerry Stewart • Wayne, MI
Despite the surreal amount of work involved in bringing to life something like this dream Dart that appears to have escaped from a gearhead time vortex where Vipers and second-gen Darts exist simultaneously, Jerry wants PHR readers to know first and foremost that this is a budget-oriented, family man project coming together in his garage. Actually, this will be the second time Jerry has built it, though the first time it was a custom scale model. A friend convinced him that the concept was too cool for plastic, so Jerry began collecting parts and determining where the cuts would have to happen to morph a real ’62 Dart as closely to the model as possible. The D.H. 500 Special, named for Jerry’s son, Daltyn, and daughter, Hailey, will serve as a rolling billboard for Jerry’s All American Auto Upholstery business as well as sunny day stress relief. We love pretty much everything about this thing—the surprisingly appealing blend of Dart and Viper style, the dramatically shortened wheelbase, the V-10 underhood. Do it right, and this is the kind of build that can really make a mark. We’ve only seen one other project successfully pull off a morph of this magnitude: Murray Pfaff and his gorgeous Imperial Roadster. Could we be witnessing the birth of a trend—reshaping curmudgeonly cars into a sexier style? Let’s hope! We like where this is going so far.
1958 Chevy Corvette
Greg & Nancy Taghon • South Bend, IN
You know how some projects just get back-burnered indefinitely as the plans and ambitions of the owner change or progress? That’s where Greg Taghon and his ’58 Corvette are. Originally the plan was for a showroom stock restoration to be completed on the car in time for Greg and wife, Nancy, to drive away in it on their wedding day. Well, they’re celebrating their 26th anniversary this year. The reason for the derailment? Somewhere along the way, Greg decided a Pro Touring build with an emphasis on performance and driving enjoyment was what he really wanted. PHR may or may not have been partially to blame. It’s all OK with his ever-understanding wife; however, she thinks Greg made the right decision because he’s having so much fun with the build now.
1965 Ford Falcon
Pierre Wessels • Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Pierre Wessels started his project with a question: “Is it even possible for an average guy to build an innovative, cool, non-rat rod, mid-’60s two-door anything for under $10,000?” Then he decided to do it for almost half that. By plumbing the depth of Craigslist and eBay, Pierre turned up everything he needed to build a big-block ’65 Falcon with an airbagged Mustang II–style frontend, mini-tubs, and an eight-point ’cage. He’s even powering the 390 FE with a killer retro Tri-power EFI setup using Honda CBR1000RR throttle bodies and an old 3x2 manifold. Budget can be the mother of invention. So far, Pierre is on target to complete the car (including paint) for around $6,000. He says the only drawback is that sometimes there are delays in finding the right deals, but he’s he says the hunt for parts and doing the engineering is very rewarding.
1967 Ford Mustang
Shane Bowman • Blountsville, AL
Shane Bowman found his dream shop in Alabama, and it just so happened to come with a house, so he bought it. Soon he was trolling the back roads looking for a new project. He finally spotted a familiar profile of a ’67 coupe—like he had in high school—sitting out in a field. The owner was tired of moving it to cut the grass, so for $25 and dinner at a local diner, it was his. Shane restored the body and had it nearly ready to run with a 289 and three-speed, until an intriguing idea occurred to him. He hated everything about his daily driver Mercedes-Benz except the straight-five diesel engine, and he’d sure like to drive the Mustang everyday with good mileage. You can see where this is going; the diesel dropped right in with just custom mounts and a bellhousing spliced together from the original Mercedes-Benz and a Ford toploader.
1964 Ford Falcon
Chuck Kretsinger • Idyllwild, CA
Gassers are retro, but right now the revived interest in them is as high as the stance. We have seen guys gasser-izing nearly everything lately, but next to Tri-Five Chevys, the ’60-65 Falcons are probably our second choice as the best-looking cars to shove a straight axle under. For this one Chuck Kretsinger is going full ’70s style, which is appropriate for this particular car since it had been residing in a scrap yard in Long Beach, California, since 1973. How it survived intact we’ll never know, but the body is remarkably straight; most of the bodywork has consisted of welding up dozens of trim holes. Our favorite touch so far, though, is the ’65 Mustang rear wheelwells. This gasser won’t be a car show cruiser, though; when finished this summer in Candy Apple Red, Chuck plans to drive it during the week and race it on the weekend.
1955 Chevy 210 Wagon
Tony L. Morse • Pellston, MI
When 17-year-old Tony Morse cruised this ’55 to high school back in 1974, it had a 396 and a Muncie four-speed with 4:11s. It was cool, but a ’72 Chevelle SS soon occupied his time and money, followed by marriage and a family. After 30-plus years of being set aside, it’s time to get the Handyman back on the road with all the touches Tony dreamed about back then, such as flares, fenderwell headers, and a retro-cool one-piece fiberglass frontend. The radiused rear wheelwells, Ansen slots with M&H Racemaster slicks, and the big teardrop hoodscoop will remain—just like the old days. The Chevelle that originally caused the wagon to slide from the limelight will donate its 454, TH400, and posi 12-bolt with 3:73 gears. With Hedman headers, Cherry Bombs, and 18x4 resonators, Tony says it sounds like the ’70s again when he fires it up.
1971 Ford Ranchero
Clark Watkins • Carmel, CA
We love basing PHR projects on distinctive platforms, and Clark Watkins’ track-prepped ’71 Ranchero is right up our alley. The ’70-71 body has a rakish and aggressive frontend styling, and since it’s essentially a Torino, there are good suspension parts and tricks available. Clark’s main focus so far has been removing weight and enhancing the aerodynamic profile of the already decently sleek Ranchero. Custom ground effects and front air splitter, a bellypan, and a lightweight aluminum bedcover help him reduce drag and lift and take full advantage of the 620hp 408ci Cleveland underhood. He didn’t get specific on his goals for the Ranchero, just the simple mandate of “drive, show, race.” Actually, that sounds just right to us.
For this year’s reader project roundup Detroit-based Equipe Watches donated one of their bitchin’ Big-Block watches to the reader with the best combination of cool concept, good photography/artwork, and solid construction technique. Jerry Stewart’s ’62 Dart is bold and ambitious, and he deserves a timepiece that reflects those qualities! The automotive-themed Big-Block timepiece Jerry wins is a full-function chronograph ($449) with a stainless steel body and piston-themed push-buttons. Congrats to Jerry and thanks to Equipe for making our contest a reality!