*This story was sent in to me by Ryan Gilmore, AKA, COUPED_UP31 on Instagram. Thank you, Ryan!*
"Here’s a story for your website and podcast about a road trip my friend and I recently did where we traveled about 5200 miles round trip and picked up a bunch of old cars & parts. I hope you enjoy it."
I recently purchased some new equipment for my powder coating business and needed to make a trip from Florida to Wisconsin to pickup our new batch oven & spray booth. I also needed to pick up a 1951 Ford F1 pickup in Norman, OK that I had purchased from him a couple months prior. So with the help of my good friend Chris Bumpus, @TIDEWATERFAB on Instagram, and my 36 ft gooseneck in tow, we set out on what would end up being a 5200 mile roundtrip over 6 days and over 80 hours of driving. Since both Chris and I are both traditional hot rod junkies, we decided to take advantage of this trip thru the Midwest to look for good deals on Model A’s and hot rod parts. We scoured the Facebook Marketplace & Craigslist ads along our route and came up with about 7 or 8 stops to check out different cars or collections of parts. We were also presented with the opportunity to transport a very rare car to a museum in Wisconsin which would cover our fuel money for the trip – score!
First, a little background on my friend Chris. I feel like I could write a whole other story just about him and what he’s accomplished, but I’ll try to make it brief for now. Chris is the Shop Foreman at Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, FL. He’s in his 20th year at the museum and has built a multitude of drag cars and hot rods for Garlits. He started at the museum as the Shop Sweep when he was just 19 years old, and learned on the job everything he knows – which at just 39 years old, is quite astonishing to me. He’s a mechanic, engine builder, fabricator, chassis builder – all wrapped up in one guy. He’s also a wealth of knowledge about traditional hot rods, early Fords, and flathead motors. I met him a few years ago when I had him build the chassis for my ’30 Model A Coupe, which then snowballed into him building the entire car – which he did in just 4 short months! We’ve since resurrected an old traditional hot rod club, the Central Florida Timing Association, and our club will host our 3rd year of the Moonshine Reliability Run this September. Needless to say, he’s become one of my closest friends since we met.
A few weeks prior, the FWD Museum in Clintonville, WI reached out to Chris to have a car they purchased picked up in Sarasota, FL. Chris retrieved the car and brought it back to the Garlits Museum for storage until they can get it transported. This car is a 1960 Seagrave Floridian, one of 3 prototype cars built by the Seagrave Corporation, a fire truck/emergency vehicle manufacturer out of Michigan, later acquired by the FWD Corporation (Four Wheel Drive Corporation). The owner wanted to develop a passenger car so they designed and built three of these prototypes, but the car never took off due to it’s price point and the cars went into storage. Years later they were sold off and their whereabouts were unknown. Since FWD opened their Museum they were able to acquire all 3 of the cars, and Chris was tasked with transporting the 3rd car to complete their collection.
At 4am on a Friday, with the Seagrave strapped to my gooseneck, we hit the road and headed to Norman, OK where the ’51 F1 was located. After 20 straight hours of driving, we arrived at our hotel at 11pm and got some shut eye before getting up and meeting Zac to load up the F1. Zac’s better know as @THEOLDTRUCKGUY on Instagram, he buys and sells old trucks and has a collection of parts also. We picked thru his stuff and Chris found a door for his ’51 Chevy pickup and I found a pair of ’40 Ford wheels. After getting everything loaded up, we hit the road again, heading towards Wisconsin with a few scheduled stops along the way. That afternoon we arrived in southern Missouri and met a guy who had a ’31 Ford Roadster body and parts he was looking to sell.
We met Ben at his storage unit and picked thru his stash and found some real gems. We got the roadster body, a pair of windshield stanchions, some A springs, and a few other miscellaneous parts, and exchanged contact info in case anything else came up for sale later. As it turned out, we were already following each other on Instagram, which ended up being a common theme for the people we met along the way on this trip. That was one of the best parts about this trip - meeting like-minded people who have a passion for traditional hot rods. Guys that were very knowledgeable about the hobby and liked to see their collections go to a couple guys that were going to build something with it the way they would have, not some rat rod abomination. After loading up we headed north and found a hotel in Northern Iowa close to our next stop. Side note: this was my first overnight trip hauling a trailer of this size, and let me just say – what a frickin’ nightmare it is to find hotels and food stops with ample parking for a crew cab dually towing a 36 ft trailer.
On Sunday morning, we got up early and headed to meet a guy who had a 28/29 Ford pickup cab & bed for sale. We arrived and met Joe in his front yard where the cab was located and started checking it out. After deciding to pass on the truck, we asked if he had anything else he’d like to sell – body panels, speed parts, wheels, etc. At this point, I felt like I was in a real-life episode of American Pickers (one that wasn’t staged). We came here to look at one thing, we didn’t want it, but wanted to see if he had anything else worth buying. He begrudgingly agreed to show us some wheels he had and was willing to sell. After this, he started to warm-up to us, and I made a deal to purchase 3 sets of wheels from him – including a set of 16” Ford “artillery-style” accessory wheels with chrome centers. I’d never seen any before so I figured they were fairly rare and jumped on the opportunity to buy them. Chris got him to sell an old Mallory distributor to him and he started walking us from building to building showing us what all he had, including his personal ’32 Ford 5w Coupe hot rod originally built in the late 50’s in CA. We left out of there with a load of parts and an experience we’ll never forget. It really felt like we were on a TV show.
After leaving Iowa that morning, we drove to Battle Lake, MN to take a look at a ’29 Ford RPU that I found on Facebook Marketplace. There we met Pat in his commercial building where he tinkered on Model A’s. I bought the RPU body, but not the chassis due to space constraints on the trailer (I still had to load a bunch of equipment on it), and he let us look thru the rest of his collection where we found some front Model A axles that we’re going to have dropped. Next stop was Hudson, WI to meet James and take a look at some Model A subrails that he had and that I needed. James is currently building an H&H Flathead powered traditional Model A roadster in his 2-car garage, using the Tardel book as his reference – can’t wait to see it when it’s done.
On Monday morning, we headed to the FWD Museum in Clintonville, WI to deliver the Seagrave. Upon arrival we were given a tour of the museum and were able to see the other two Seagrave Floridian’s in their possession, as well as the history of the Four Wheel Drive fire apparatus they had in their collection. While the museum employees unloaded the Seagrave, we had some free time to pick up some Wisconsin beer & cheese to bring back to our wives. After a trip to a dairy farm and the local grocery, store we headed back to the museum to get back in our rig and head to the Global Finishing Solutions facility in Osseo, WI to load up the new equipment.
Once we were finished at GFS, we turned south towards St. Louis, MO to make a couple more stops to visit with more like-minded people. At the first stop, I picked up a nice grille for my ’36 Coupe, a Model A frame, some unsplit Model A bones, an A windshield, roadster dash rails, and a slew of other miscellaneous parts. At the second stop, we acquired a 30/31 Model A Roadster cowl with new repop cowl panels to fix the rust in the sides. When we got back on the road we headed south and made the long trek home - 5,000+ miles and twenty or so states later. We were exhausted, Chris was a zombie from driving all but about 30 miles of the trip. (He insisted on driving – I’m really not that big of a dickhead)
All in all, it was an amazing experience. One that I’ve always dreamed of really. I’ve known other guys to stumble across a hoard or two in their lifetime, and we were fortunate enough to do that on multiple occasions on this one trip. Meeting so many great people with similar interests was truly the best part of that week. All of this on top of the time I had in the truck with Chris, getting to hear his stories about cars he’s built, and things he’s experienced while working at the Museum. Our goal now is to make trips like this on an annual basis. Pick out a major swap meet like Hershey or Iola, and make a week out of it and see who or what we can find along with way. Best of all, meet new people who love this hobby as much as we do.