Bass Finds A Way
Brian Bass was strolling through the Puyallup swap meet in Washington State when he stumbled upon a pretty decent ’25 roadster body at a fair price. The fact that his rental car was a 1/2 mile away and his only additional labor was his wife didn’t bother him. Nor did the fact that his shop was an additional 2000 miles away. Nope. Those are both small hurdles. Brian made a deal and then he and his wife hoisted the old steel sheetmetal onto their shoulders and made the long trek back to their Subaru Outback rental.
Once that 1/2 mile leg was figured and done, Brian worked on the remaining 2000. He had his brother-in-law crate the thing and load it onto a FedEx freight truck. By the time the little roadster body made it to Texas, it had been crushed on three sides by a clumsy forklift driver.
Brian worked on a claim with FedEx, but it never came to fruition so the body just sort of sat in the background of his shop. It wasn’t until he attended the Race of Gentlemen in 2015 that Brian really found the motivation to work on the beat up old body. The idea was as simple as it was ambitious – Build a lightweight 1950’s styled Bonneville roadster founded on a chrome-moly chassis inspired by early Watson Indy car examples.
Brian has always had a good eye for that early 50’s style and he had a shitload of chrome-moly tubing laying around, so there wasn’t really anything in his way other than labor. He worked feverishly aiming for the 2016 TROG event, but came up just short of his goal. After the missed deadline, lingering priorities took grasp and didn’t relent until earlier this year.
To get the car ready for the 2019 edition of TROG, Brian had to build a belly pan, figure the interior panels, fabricate the exhaust, and get the damn thing to run with that blower sitting proudly. He did it all in a few short weeks of “here and there” work and then made the journey up to Jersey for the event. By all accounts, the car hauled ass and made some pretty serious sand-filled rooster tails.
I sent John Helmuth up there for the shoot and he had one hell of a time getting the job done due to folks wanting to stand around and study the details while his exposure meter timed out. I guess this should have been predicted. Like I mentioned earlier, ‘B’ has always been great with building to a specific period and keeping the language consistent, but distinct… But what really sets his cars apart are the details and the little things that make you think – “How’d he do that?”
The chassis on this car alone is worth getting your clothes sandy to study – the hairpins, the bat wings, the motor mounts, the shock mounts, the… it’s a long list of shit to talk about, think about, and figure. But there are really three details that do it for me.
The first is the dash. Brian hand formed it out of aluminum and there’s nothing all that remarkable about it… and that’s why it’s special. If you have the skillset of Brian Bass there’s opportunity to go crazy at every corner, but to me the ability to show restraint and make something how it should be rather than how it could be shows real awareness. This is a race car. The dash communicates that as well as the rest of the car.
The second are the backing plates. Brian handmade them using ’46 to ’48 brakes as a guide. They are skeletonized and I’ve never seen anything like them. I’m sure she’s a squirelly bitch after a car wash, but less rotational mass equals more speed and this, by god, is a race car.
And then finally, there’s the taillights. I know. Why would I focus on the taillights when there’s a blown flathead on the other end to discuss? Again, it’s because of the restraint Brian showed. I just love the simple profile of the teardrop daintily frenched into the modified turtle deck. It communicates the business at hand without screaming and to me, that’s the very essence of this car.
Brian, however, isn’t done. In fact, he plans to one day finish the car roadster paint and further polish. I’m hoping for black lacquer, but I feel pretty confident I’ll love it no matter the direction Brian goes. The man just has a way of finding his way on his cars – ya know?