Pick Your Commuter
It’s cold and wintery in many parts of the country, but let’s talk hypothetically for a moment. The year is 1964 and you’re living in sunny Southern California. You landed a decent job, you’re making good money and you’ve recently moved into a house with a one-car garage. Your commute to works isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, just a few winding miles out of the suburbs, a brief blast on the freeway and then a couple stoplights before you’re at the office. All in all, it usually takes about 25 minutes when traffic is at its worst.
You’ve just sold your flathead-powered ’46 Ford coupe and you have your eye on something new—something different and more with the times, like the cars you see in the big magazines. You want to street race, cruise, pick up girls and maybe even enter a car show or two. Pre-war Fords are getting expensive, but you’re not sold on the new breed of machines that are coming out of Detroit. You want something old, quick and affordable.
*Pulls out the July ’64 issue of Car Craft, cracks it open and starts reading*
Immediately you’re drawn to T-buckets like Chuck Penry’s roadster from Riverside. The black lacquered ’23 is built from a smattering of easily obtainable parts, from the glass body and 283cid smallblock Chevy to the early Ford axles front and rear. It’s light and quick. The lack of top and fenders leave everything in the open, giving a perfect opportunity to show off your detailing skills. And hey, who doesn’t want a roadster?
Then you think back to the trip you made to Lions with your high school buddies last summer. You dug the dragsters and appreciated the Altereds, but it was the Gassers that really drew you in. High riding, ground pounding, ferocious and fat fendered, these machines will forever be ingrained in your brain.
Maybe you should build one for the street? Yes! It looks like the Smith brothers of Inglewood had the same idea with their ’41 Willys coupe. Other than the 2×4-fed 409cid Chevy and ’51 Merc rear end (complete with long ladder bars), they kept almost everything else stock. The front suspension remained as-is, although coil springs were added. Bumpers stayed. Trim stayed. Vent windows stayed. The coupe maintained its factory charm while also becoming a terror in A/Gas as well as on the streets. Sounds like a win/win, doesn’t it?
And so you think, think and think some more. You’re swaying towards the Gasser, but you figure you’ll ask your friends. So today we’ll end with this…which of these two would you pick for your daily commute in SoCal, circa 1964?
Photos by Bud Lang