Hot Rodding, Then and Now
Rumbleseat's East Coast Run 2003 Part Eleven
PART ELEVEN: Grand Junction MI is about 60 miles due north of Granger, IN. BillB lives several miles east of Grand Junction. His place is pretty tough to find due to the lack of signs on the farm roads. However, I still had a detailed map from last year when I had swung by Bill's place on the way home from the Falcon Nats in Nashville TN (this is on the way to Denver from Nashville? I've got to learn to read road maps better.). I had met Bill on the forum a few years ago. We've become close friends over the years. Last year was the first time I met Bill, his wife Lue, and……… Sami.
Which brings up a funny story. Last year Lue, Bill, and I sat down in their kitchen to get acquainted. We were talking when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It was a plastic ball about 8" in diameter slowly rolling across the kitchen floor. It had narrow slots in it similar to a plastic whiffle ball. I just figured a puff of wind had caused it to roll. Then it abruptly changed direction and rolled towards me. It bumped into my chair and then went off in a different direction! Strange. It rolled a short distance before bumping into a kitchen counter. Then it changed directions and rolled away again. I couldn't figure it out. Thought it was radio controlled and they were messing with my head….. and they were succeeding! As far as I could tell, neither of them had a remote control. After more of these antics I had to find out. Seems Lue has a pet exotic Dwarf Hamster named Sami. She keeps Sami inside the ball most of the time so he can exercise. Sami loves it and continually rolls all around the main floor. They have expanded fences to Sami proof the stairs etc. He even has outside deck privileges! Neat.
As always, Bill and Lue (and Sami?) were glad to see me. Like last year, they put me up for the night. Their place is about 35 miles from the nearest motel. Bill had made space for my rod in his garage. It was the first time he'd seen my "asphalt river conveyance". We unloaded the back of the rod and yakked. It was early evening before the three of us piled into the roadster (now that's being chummy) and drove somewhere (I have no idea where) to get pizza. It was some of the best pizza I've ever had. Bill said it was Chicago style pizza… whatever that is. All I know is it went down good with a glass of wine and a couple of beers. Then back to Bill's. Put the roadster in the garage and put a fan in the rumble seat area to dry it out over night…. like that's going to happen.
Next morning, Lue fixed a SUPER breakfast with coffee, pancakes, eggs, and sausage. Made a pig of myself. The maple syrup was fantastic. Lue said they got it locally from the Amish. Well worth the extra units of insulin I took to counter the sugar kick. Spent the day dinking around his '37 coupe and my heap. His '37 is nearly done and is one of the prettiest shades of metallic maroon I've seen. The body is perfect…. at least to these tired old eyes. He's got all the bugs worked out and only needs the door and kick panels done to complete the interior. As usual, the upholsterer is dragging his feet and not getting it done. Why is it body men, painters, and upholsterers all have problems keeping their time frame commitment? Seems like IF they get it done within two years of their promise date, it's on time to them. Bill's flathead is running finned aluminum heads, Mallory distributor, a four barrel, and a Max cam. Nice lumpy idle, exceptionally good mid-range, and makes good revs. It'll probably be the next cam that goes in my mill. He has disc brakes on the front and drums on the rear with no power assist. He's done a super job throughout the coupe. Absolutely rattle free and everything fits right. And it drives as nice as it looks. Nice job, Bill.
Fortyone lives just a few miles from Bill. Charlie passed us early that morning and honked. But since he wasn't in a flathead, I thought he was just honking to be friendly and I just waved. After lunch I called him. He said he'd be home. Bill and I drove the few miles to his place. Charlie has a '41 coupe body and two '41 frames which will be used to make one car. With the high humidity and the use of extensive road salt, all projects from this part of the US definitely have serious rust problems. His is no exception. He's started repairing the body and building a chassis. Boy, he has a lot more ambition than I do. He's recently picked up a '53 Merc overdrive transmission for it. He's got a couple '53 Ford pickups for parts. Both have steering boxes. These steering boxes are super to use in '32-'34 Fords because of they use a fore/aft pitman arm.and drag link. However, they need shimming since the '53 frame angles and the early frames don't. Many guys machine a plate and others simply stack flat washers to match the frame angle. A plate distributes stress over a larger area and is the way to go in my book. Got to meet his wife just as we were leaving. Another nice lady. She wants to get the '41 done so she can cruise in it. It'll be a while before this happens!
Back to Bills. Set the fan in the rumble seat for the night. Sipped wine and talked until midnight on their screened in patio. They have it screened in because of the industrial strength mosquitoes who will haul you off if you're outside after dark. I'm certain they can easily kick start a hopped up Harley. They'd probably haul you off to keep the big ones from taking you from them!
The next morning I repacked the roadster. The carpet was nearly dry after running a fan for two nights. Just too much humidity to get it completely dry was my guess. The night before I told Lue and Bill that I wanted to take them to breakfast. But Lue woke up with a migraine and begged off. Bill didn't. Good thing he led because I'd still be driving around the farm roads trying to find a main highway. Anyway, I followed him to some town where we had an excellent breakfast in a rustic café Bill frequents. The two day rest I'd had at Bill's had restored me more than I had hoped. This decrepit old body just doesn't have much stamina left in it. Probably a good thing this was my last run. After breakfast we bid goodbye. Next stop would be in Watseka, IL to see Mervin.
Watseka is due south of Chicago and only about 100 miles from Bill Bentley. Ran.two lane roads. Sun came out in a clear blue sky once I cleared an early morning rain squall in MI. The squall was just enough to get the roadster dirty. Put the top down after giving it a wash job at a car wash in some town I passed through. Felt good on these bones to be in the warm sun. I had told Melvin I'd be there sometime around noon. Went nearly all the way through the town before I found a pay phone. Called and told him where I was. He pulled up within minutes. Followed him to have lunch and talk. Afterwards we left his driver in the restaurant's lot and took the roadster to his business shop several blocks from his house. Lots of early memorabilia in the office part of the building. In the back of the good sized shop is an original '41 tan colored coupe. Didn't record the mileage, but it has to be about 20,000 mile to be in such mint condition. It's absolutely immaculate from one end to the other. His current project is a ground up restoration of a '50 convertible. He also has a '50 sedan sitting next to the '41 that's he's finished. He does everything himself and does super work. While we were there, Delbert, one of his best buds, came in. After Delbert retired he was bored and looking for something to do. So he restored a model "T" to original condition. We drove the few blocks to his garage to see it. When he found the "T", it was a basket case….. a big basket with a huge hole in the bottom to aid in losing a lot of parts. Delbert made new sheet metal to replace lost sections. He scrounged around finding engine, transmission, chassis pieces, etc. I could not detect anything that didn't look original. The neat thing is he drives it frequently….. just like Henry Ford intended all Fords be treated.
Went to Melvin's house and met his wife, Norma. Nice people. Melvin gave me tour of his shop in the rear of his property. Absolutely packed solid with goodies from top to bottom. Many still in their original boxes. He gave me a pair of starter springs that were still in an original box. Said he had read on the forum where I had cratered one on the run. The attic was the same way as the main floor…. packed solid. He has quite an accumulation of rare parts. Melvin enjoys repairing speedometers, instruments, and tube radios. He won't mess with transistor units. Had a super visit with he and his wife. They're typical of the couples I've met on this run….. people I wish I could have spent a lot more time with.
Fired up the flathead in the hot afternoon sun and headed towards Effingham, IL. This would be the last forum person I'd meet. I was getting dangerously close to running out of medications. A lot closer than I was comfortable with…..….. rumble seat