Photos by Ben Carscallen, Words by Jake Steele
Who knows what “normal” people day dream about. Maybe catching a big fish, or shaving a stroke or two off their golf game? Who knows and honestly, who cares... For car guys, or more specifically, hot rod guys, almost every one of us has the same fantasy: Finding an old hot rod stuffed away, hidden and forgotten. Yes, being the guy that gets to drag a dusty relic from it's resting place after spending decades unseen is our equivalent to catching “the big one.” Unlike some smelly old fish though, the fruits of our tireless labor won't be capped off by unceremoniously tossing it back where we found it, we're hauling that sucker home. Or, if you're as lucky as Eric Wolf, driving it home.
Eric was a wild-child. He grew up in Portland, Oregon in the 1970's and 1980's and by the time he was 17, he had purchased his first chopper, a 1972 Shovelhead. This started him down the path of a long love affair with Harley Davidson motorcycles. His obsession didn't stop with bikes though. As it often does, his two-wheeled interests crossed over to and intertwined with hot rods as well. It didn't hurt that hot rods and bikes seemed to run in the family. It turns out that Eric's uncle is a man by the name of Bill Hoffman, who in 1957 built a heavily customized 1953 Chevrolet that graced the cover of Rod & Custom Magazine in 1958. It was featured there in it's original configuration, before it received the radical flamed paint job we associate it with today. Uncle Bill was also interested in motorcycles and began his hell-raising career in his teenage years by doing things like riding his Triumph motorcycle up the stairs, down the main hallway and out the back door at his high school, a stunt that landed him a lengthy suspension. With influences like this, Eric was destined to spend his young life seeking cheap thrills in any number of fast cars and big-cube Harley's.
Fast forward to 2014 and Eric is now a father to two teenagers, Sadie and Jack. He is also running his company, Wolf and Son Cabinetmakers, a well established wood working shop that has specialized in high end cabinetry for Portland's most distinguished home owners for more than twenty years. Although wood working had taken the front seat, his love of motorcycles and hot rods never went away. By this time, his son, Jack was just about driving-age and shared his dad's passion for traditional hot rods. Eric found himself looking to build or buy a hot rod roadster to enjoy with his son. With a budget in mind, the two began hunting for a suitable project to take on.
Somewhere along the way, a family friend called to ask if Eric was still looking for a hot rod. He said that he was and then listened as his buddy went on to explain. It seemed the friend had heard of an old hot rod in town that had been built in the early 1960's and stashed away shortly afterward. It all sounded great. The only problem was that this particular buddy had moved out of Portland some time before. He was calling from Indiana and the car in question was more than two thousand miles away. Still, Eric was intrigued. Before long, he had the gentleman on the phone and asking questions about the car he might have available for sale. As the man on the other end went on to explain, it was a 1930 Model A Roadster. It was heavily channelled with a 348 backed by a Muncie and sporting a story that any hot rodder would kill for. The man's tale went something like this:
“The car was originally built by a high school kid here in Indiana. I don't remember his name, but he was a very talented young man-you can tell when you look at the crafstmanship on the thing. It doesn't look like some thrown together, home built clunker, it looks like it was built by a professional. He built it in 1964 and in 1965 it won Best Street Roadster in the Indy Autorama. He drove the thing to school every day and from what he told me, he put more than 30k miles on it in less than two years. Well, when I saw it, I just had to have it. He didn't want to sell it, but I had money and I made him an offer he couldn't refuse.”
From there, the story takes a funny turn. It seems as though this guy may have had a little more money than common sense. You see, he went on to explain that he was 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Simply put, there was no way he could fit in the car with that heavy channel job. “I never drove it..” the man on the other end explained. “I bought this car in 1966 and it has literally sat in my garage since. It looks like it did the day I bought it off the kid.”
Blown away by what he was hearing, Eric immediately made arrangements for he and Jack to fly out and see the car. Eric's last question was a simple, but shocking one: “Do you think the car would make the drive back to Oregon?” A perplexed voice on the other end responded that he bet it would and agreed to change the fluids and put a new battery in it for him if that's what he thought he was going to do. And just like that, Eric and his son, Jack were on their way to Anderson, Indiana.
Once there, the two wasted no time. They made their way to the man's house, checked out the roadster and found it to be just as the gentleman had described. It was amazingly well kept. After walking around it, a quick trip around the block and a handshake, the deal was done. And just as soon as they had gotten there, the two set out to make their journey back home to Portland-with open headers and no top!
When asked about the trip back, Eric describes just two small hiccups. The first was that the foam in the seat had basically disintegrated after years and years of sitting. After an hour, it felt like the two were sitting directly on the seat springs. This made for a torturous driving experience, no matter the amount of jackets, hoodies, pillows and whatever else they could find to stuff under themselves. The only other “bad” thing that happened along the way actually ended up being little more than just a funny story in the end. It's one that Eric smirks his way through when he tells it and it goes like this:
“Well, it was late one night and I was hammering along pretty good. Jack was asleep (somehow, even with the open headers) and I was doing I think between 90 and 95 on this open stretch of highway. Out of nowhere I see the blue lights behind me, so I pulled over. Jack wakes up and I tell him our journey may be about to take a little detour. The cop walks up and asks if I knew how fast we were going and of course I play dumb. I told him that the speedo needle jumps around quite a bit, but admitted that I was probably speeding. He informed me that he had clocked us at nearly 100mph.. I was very polite to him and he seemed to be a pretty decent guy, but definitely irritated with me. He asked where we were headed in such a hurry. I told him we were on our way to Portland. Well then he got even more agitated and told me that we were heading the wrong way to be going to Maine! I explained that we were actually on our way to Portland, Oregon. He just stared at me for a while. Then he walked around the car, came back and said 'Have a safe trip. And slow the F*CK DOWN.' He tossed my license back to me and sped away!”
Three days and approximately 2200 miles later, the two were back in Portland. They had managed to make it with no mechanical issues, no tows, no repairs or tickets. Just a couple of sore backsides from the worn out seat and a great story to tell. This would be just the first of what would be many, many adventures in the high school hot rod. The only real change was some updated upholstery, complete with new foam to make it more comfortable to drive. Other than that, the car is essentially the way it was built in 1964. Eric and his son, Jack have spent the last few years driving, enjoying and maintaining the roadster and have no plans to make any changes. “Really, we are just the caretakers of this car, it's as simple as that.”
The only thing Eric and Jack would like to change is the fact that there is very little history known about the car and it's original builder. The gentleman they purchased it from did not recall his name and never saw him again. It is pretty likely that someone has photos of this very unique hot rod from the two year period between '64 and '66 when it was driven and shown regularly. If anyone recognizes this car from the Anderson, Indiana area in the mid 1960's, or knows anything about it, please make contact through this site and let's put the rest of the puzzle together!