Remembering the Bluegrass Bomb
While packing my bag at my parents’ place in Michigan, I realized that not everything was going to fit. Rather than overstuffing my hiking backpack, my folks graciously offered to ship a few boxes of things back to San Francisco. What I thought was just going to be a couple books and a flannel shirt quickly grew into a mountain of treasure ranging from car parts to a very robust 1950s vise. On the top of the stack sat two issues of Rod & Custom. I thanked them and flew back without incident.
Earlier this week, the boxes arrived. Upon initial inspection, there was no broken glass or ripped pages. Everything appeared to be intact. Naturally, I grabbed the R&Cs and started leafing through them. That’s where I found today’s feature car: “The Bluegrass Bomb.”
After a little bit of reading, I discovered the car was the pride and joy of Kentucky hot rodder Don Conrad. Based on a 1931 Model A, Don didn’t hold back when he gave it the full 1950s hot rod treatment. With a dropped axle up front and a stepped frame in the rear, he got the stance dialed in right off the bat. According to the article, he channeled it four inches, because anything more would render it too impractical for regular use. According to R&C, it was merely a “mild channel.”
In his quest to build a serious double-threat machine, he installed a ’50 Olds V8 between the rails. It was backed by a ’41 Ford transmission and stock Model A rear. A single four-barrel remained atop the engine and the headers were custom-made. The project took nearly three years to complete, but the finished product was nothing short of impressive.
Although Don followed the hot rod formula we now consider classic, there are a handful of elements that make this car stand out to me. They are, in no particular order:
- The nerf bars. Nothing says 1950s hot rod like a custom set of nerfs for front and rear. Interesting that, for the most part, the front one is swoopier to work with the Deuce shell’s curves, while the rear is far more angular to mimic the lower portion of the body.
- The chrome. There’s no doubt that this was a well-detailed car. From the full wheelcovers and backing plates to the windshield stanchions and upper dash rail, Don didn’t cheap out.
- The wraparound upholstery. At first I thought this may have been a hint that the car is a coupe with the roof cut off, but then I realized it is indeed a roadster. It’s not a style I would usually go for. Yet, in this case, it works.
Best of all, this car was a driver. Don road-tripped it from Kentucky to Bonneville and back in the early-’50s. It doesn’t get any better than that. Does it?
Photos by Spencer Murray, Rod & Custom, April 1955