This is the story of how a busted hunk of hot rod hopes spurred one man to honor another man's dying wish.
The Hot Rod
One of a handful built, the 1933 Hupmobile sedan had been the target of previous rodders looking for something different than old Fords and Chevys. Sitting on a Seattle street in various states of disrepair, the Hup caught the attention of Jerry Dahl.
The Dying Man
Dahl bought the '33 Hup in April 2009 because he'd gotten his future back. Fresh off surgery for kidney cancer a month earlier, Dahl wanted a project to put his hands to use. He found the clattered Hup and took it home, planning a purple-and-cream hot rod similar to a Ford he'd seen in a show.
Dahl's future had other plans.
By October, the cancer had come back, this time hopscotching to his lungs. Dahl soon had to spend his limited energy on medicines instead of sheetmetal. Earlier this year, he took the barely running, primer-coated sedan to Dreamers Rods & Pickups Northwest in Everett, Wash., and asked owner Jamey Leckner to do the work he couldn't.
Last month, doctors told Dahl that their work was done as well, and put the portion of life left in his tank at a matter of weeks.
Leckner, 33, opened his own shop a decade ago after doing hot rod work for most of his adult life. Dahl's daughter Kerry called Leckner after the final word from his doctors with a request: Could the Hupmobile be finished before Dahl died?
Leckner said he'd try.
Working about 90 hours over seven days, Leckner and his nine-man crew put other projects aside and focused on Dahl's car. Leckner checked with Dahl to ensure the colors were as he remembered them, and was up until 2 a.m. the morning of the deadline.
About 3 o'clock that afternoon, the rumbling of old engines came to a stop outside Dahl's house in Lynwood, Wash.
To usher the Hupmobile, Leckner had enlisted 16 members of a nearby car club, the Thursday Night Garage Association. They came with their own rides, among them ‘58 Chevy Impala, a '65 Ford Mustang, a ‘47 Lincoln and a 1926 Model T.
Dahl couldn't walk, so four men lifted his wheelchair outside, where he could touch the Hupmobile's deep-purple fenders and take in the other rods. Jerry Dahl spent more than an hour of his dwindling time enjoying his own private auto show.
"I felt honored I had the opportunity to do it for him and his family," Leckner told Jalopnik.
Jerry Dahl died Thursday, at peace.
(Photos courtesy of Kerry Dahl)