Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jigsaw puzzle Part II

Before this book project, my experience had been writing one feature at a time for magazines. Now I found myself overwhelmed at the prospect of juggling dozens of features. I put the wagons into their respective chapters in order of year of manufacture, for the sake of efficiency. As the project unfolded, I noticed an interesting phenomenon - the first story in each chapter was often the most dynamic. By the final deadline, this was still the case, which I took as a sign from the publishing gods that this book was meant to be. Get a load of this:

Chapter 1 (When Wagons Were Wagons And Horses Were Tired) opens with 'Barefoot Bob' Hardison's depot hack. This guy was already an action figure, way before building the 'hack. He'd carved a canoe from a tree and paddled it from Idaho to New Orleans and back, built a boat to sail around the world and was nearly killed in it during a rowdy storm in the Mediterranian, and put almost a million miles on his motorcycle before deciding to rebuild an original 1914 depot hack to drive coast to coast. He was 73 years old when he hit the road in the 'hack. His escapades during the trip were hair raising, hilarious, heartbreaking and inspiring, all at once.

Chapter 2 (Stock As A Rock) kicks off with Aaron Johnson's Model A woodie, which had been completely restored, then parked for 27 years before Aaron discovered it. He basically kicked the starter, loaded up the family and the dog and hit the road. Now the whole family has rusty tin fever. Yes, it can really happen that way - sometimes.

Chapter 3 (We'll Be Right Back, After This Commercial) starts with the story of how John Stimac grew up admiring the speed shop down the street from his dad's scrap yard, where he worked from childhood until retirement, then bought the speed shop from the 90 year old owners. It's still thriving today and John built a dandy Deuce delivery shop truck to keep up with orders.

The Dave Lyon story jumpstarts Chapter 4 (Beaters!!!), big time. Dave's childhood was peppered with stories of an infamous '40 Ford delivery that not only was involved in many local highjinks, but also did multiple stints at Bonneville as a push car. But he never actually saw it until decades later, when a chance meeting at a swap meet finally led him to the car he'd grown up with in his head. He (literally) dug it out of 42 years of hibernation and drove it into the sunset.

At the beginning of Chapter 5 (Utilitarian Customization), we meet Jason Wolfswinkle, who'd worn out his old hot rod and needed a new one that he could fit his family into. He teamed up with Squeeg's Kustoms to build the ultimate '33 woodie and when you see it, you'll have to concede him victory. It's a masterpiece of craftsmanship (understatement) and gets driven like a rental.

In Chapter 6 (Draggin' Wagons), we begin with a look behind the scenes of a car you've seen before - Larry Fator's '46 Chevy delivery. The story of how Larry came to own his childhood dream car (twice) is amazing enough, but we managed to sneak in some details not disclosed in its many magazine features... Luckily, we have no advertisers to make nervous, so why not go for full disclosure?

Chapter 7 (More Longroof Motorsports) comes smoking outa the gate with our own Scott Parkhurst's '67 Chevelle road race wagon. This car was mostly built while Scott manned the Tech Editor chair at Popular Hot Rodding. He uses the feature as a pulpit to challenge other wagoneers to step up their game and try to match the Chevelle's level of craftsmanship, competitiveness and road worthyness. You'll have to read the rest of the chapter to decide for yourself if they've met his match or not.

Scott will be on this blog soon, providing insight into how he got here from there and what the future might hold for him and us, both.

So now you have some idea of what to expect if/when you crack the book open. It was an absolute riot to write! I hope it's half as much fun to read. We'll all find out in a few short weeks.

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