Every car guy is a parts collector. The hard part is figuring out what to do with all those parts. You could do what Bob Leanzo and his son Chris did. Build a car out of whatever is lying around.
"It all started as a dare," Bob told me at the 2nd annual Dover Nostalgia Drag Races at Island Dragway in New Jersey. "A friend showed me a picture of this crappy 1927 Dodge sedan and dared me to make something out of it," Bob says. Never one to back down from a challenge, Bob bought the sedan without any clear plan in mind. He did, however, have a whole garage full of car parts from various automobiles spanning almost a century. Turns out Bob, who is now 59, has been building dragsters, race cars, and hot rods since he was 17.
"I bought a 1923 T-body dragster that needed an engine. I found an engine, fixed it up, and had a lot of fun with that little car." That led him to a career of building drag and circle race cars, and soon enough his son Chris came of age. Then the dare and '27 Dodge sedan came along, and father and son put their minds together to come up with a truly twisted ride.
We all know building a hot rod is expensive, though originally hot rods were built with whatever parts happened to be lying around. In this way, Bob was true to spirit of original hot rodders. As much of the Dodge sedan was unusable, Bob had to build his own chassis out of scrap metal he had in his shop. While he was at it, he created a couple of custom parts like the spider web grill and hinges for the suicide doors. Bob's a pretty talented guy when it comes to customization. He also knows how to cram a big engine into a tight space, so when it came to figuring out how to propel his contraption down the track, he knew there was only one option.
"It had to have a Hemi," says Bob.
Turns out Bob had one of the last "big" Hemi engines sitting around his garage. It was a '57 Hemi 392, originally found in Chrysler's fleet of big sedans like the '57 Imperial, New Yorker, and 300C. Seeing as how Chrysler is bringing back the 392 moniker for the new SRT-8 Challenger, I thought this would be quite the timely piece. After all, who doesn't love a big-block Hemi? These engines were commonly hijacked by drag racers from the luxo-barges and dropped into dragsters for a competitive edge. While the 426 Hemi is the most commonly known big-block Hemi, Chrysler had been making the "Firepower" Hemi's for almost 15 years before the 426 came out.
Where to go from there? Bob had a chassis, body, and engine, but he still needed a tough rear end to handle all that power. Bob just happened to have a Ford 9-inch rear end lying around the shop, and that fit in quite well. That wasn't the only Ford part to find its way on to the sedan. A Mustang II front end (which my father pointed out) was rigged up to the body, giving the sedan something resembling handling. There isn't much in the way of an interior, though just about everything, even the "Bad Year" tires, have that special Bob "twist". Make no mistake though; this is a pure drag car, through and through (though that parachute is just for looks).
Yet it isn't the huge engine (topped by an 8-71 blower), the odd body style, or the hodgepodge of parts that sets this car apart. It's all about the styling. When I asked Bob where he got his influence, he sort of shrugged and said with a laugh "My son and I both like pirates. A lot." That explains the pirate flag and double-cutlass attached to the roof. When I told him I was a ninja fan myself, we almost came to blows before laughing it off…albeit with a wary eye on each other.
"I also really liked the Munsters," Bob admits, referring to the classic television show and not the cheese. While the Munsters definitely had an original automobile, the "Munster Koach" (built by none other than George Barris out of three Model T bodies), Bob's Dodge is no show piece. It's a race car, through and through, and when driven by his son Chris, it screamed down the drag strip, running 10's all day.
So readers, if you've made it this far through my piece, kudos. I've got one question for you though.
On a scale of 1-10, how Jalopnik is Bob's Dodge?
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