This is the City Part III: A Mother’s Day Story

This is the City Part III: A Mother’s Day Story

Last Wednesday, I was sitting in a padded armchair at the Presidio Surgery Center. I had already checked in, filled out all my paperwork, and answered a long list of questions about allergies, medical history, and emergency contacts. I wore a light blue hair net and a pair of hospital gowns—one forwards, one backwards—and I was curled up beneath a warming blanket. It was still cold. High-definition videos of birds played on a nearby T.V. I sat behind the curtain, waiting for my turn.

I felt alone in that chair. I was in line for knee surgery, but I wanted to be just about anywhere else. I picked up my phone and stared blankly at the screen. “Just let this be over,” I said to myself. All of a sudden, the curtain burst open. It was my mom. “Joey!” she said with the biggest smile. “Mom!” I’ve never been so happy to see her in my entire life.

I wasn’t worried anymore. Instead, we talked projects and plans. I pulled the newest Rodder’s Journal out of my bag, and we went through it cover to cover. It felt like old times as I showed her my article about Jake’s Model A, and we laughed and joked until they finally wheeled me out of the picture.


A few weeks before my surgery, my mom offered to fly to San Francisco to help with the recovery process. Having already been through two of my operations, she knew exactly what she was getting herself into. Nonetheless, she was excited to go. The flights were set and, on April 30th, she made her way across the country.

Upon arrival, there was one condition: we had to take out my roadster that night. No problem. We went straight from the airport to the garage, warming up the engine on Clement Street as we headed west. Richmond to Cliff House to Ocean Beach, we clipped along the Great Highway as the waves crashed off in the distance.


As some of you may know, being laid up after surgery isn’t the best thing in the world—even when you’re in a comfortable space with excellent internet access. In between sessions of icing, elevating, medicating, and resting, my mom made sure that we made some room for fun.

For as long as I can remember, she has been the master of having fun. From motorcycle rides and Detroit estate sales to her driving my roadster in the Presidio, she has an innate ability to keep things interesting. Last week was no exception.

I can’t say for sure, but I believe it was the day after the operation that we decided that we needed to keep moving on my A-V8 build. Being confined to my house made that especially difficult. “Hey,” I said. “How about we paint the dash?” “Let’s do it!” she said.

Like so many other pieces of my car, I had a pretty clear vision for this portion of the project. Now that we’re relocating the tank to the trunk, I’m able to implement a 1932 Ford roadster dash.

There aren’t many reproduction parts on this car, but the dash is definitely one of them. Seeing it all fresh and silvery inspired me to do something completely different with it—something to make it fit in with the rest of the build. My mom is always in for an art project, so this was the perfect time to make it happen.

Step 1: self-etching primer. Step 2: $0.99 white spray paint from Lowe’s. Taking the car’s accent colors into account, I worked with my mom to put together a paint list. The green (officially known as “Campground”) matches the 1954 Hudson steering wheel, while the copper matches the inside of the bologna slicer stacks. The khaki will work perfectly with the white driveline and suspension after a few miles out on the open road.

With my leg propped up on a kitchen chair and an ice pack filled with ice complements of San Francisco’s Seal Rock Inn, I began painting. First the copper. Right away, I didn’t love it. “We never like the first coat,” my mom reminded me. I moved through the colors, feeling better as more paint made its way onto the dash.


For the next few days, I added to the dash whenever I felt up for it. Whether it was in the backyard, on the kitchen table, or on the couch, my mom was happy to bring over the paint, brushes, and tape for me to take the next step forward. And as I worked on it, I found it easier to move. Those two wooden steps down to the backyard all of a sudden became worth the pain if it meant adding another layer to the project.

When it was time to address the Stewart-Warner instrument cluster, I knew that we needed VHT wrinkle paint. As I rested, my mom took a trip to the auto parts store and secured two cans. After talking with friends about best practices, we warmed the panel using barbecue tongs over the stove and brought it outside for painting.

Coat one: horizontal. Five-minute interlude.
Coat two: vertical. Five-minute interlude.
Coat three: diagonal. Fin.

We waited and waited. Then, when we went to check on the panel, we were disappointed. Not one wrinkle could be seen. At that point, the sun had started to set. I decided to take it inside to see what was going on.

With the panel on the kitchen table, we noticed something happening. A small wrinkle started to form. Then another. And another. Next thing we knew, the entire panel had a wrinkle finish. Like magic! We both laughed, watching the paint come to life.


By the time you read this, my mom will have made her way home to Michigan. I’m back to work, and physical therapy starts next week. When I look back on the past seven days, I can’t help but be a little bit sad. Not because of the pain. It’s because my week with my mom has come to close.

I’m so grateful for her patience, understanding, and artistic talent. Her positivity is inspiring, and I love how she will never back down. She’s my mom, and I’m proud of her.

I’d like to wish an early happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Thanks for putting up with us.

Joey Ukrop

A quick note about the dash:

This dashboard isn’t just mine. It’s the work of two J.U.s—me and my mom, Jacqueline Ukrop. Years ago, I painted a canvas for my roommate, titled “This is the City Part II.” The name is a play off of Von Dutch’s striping on the Hirohata Merc’s glovebox, which is dubbed “This is the City.” As far as my projects are concerned, “The City” is referring to San Francisco.

In all my research, I can only find one concrete example of abstract expressionist painting on the dashboard of a hot rod or custom car, and that would be on Ed Roth’s F-100 shop truck, which is pictured above. Others exist. I know it.

Once I’m feeling up for it, I’ll be cutting the dash to make way for the instrument panel. A box of 100 brass rivets showed up yesterday, so I’ll also be able to add my Alliance tag to the mix too.

Even though this isn’t necessarily a normal thing to do to your dashboard, it’s definitely traditional. Say this were actually painted in the 1950s and ended up at a swap meet, I would do whatever I could to buy it and hunt down its story. It’s not for everybody, and that’s the fun of all this. I can’t wait to see it in the car later this summer. —J.U.

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