Dave Hawkins: Hotrodding Back to the ‘50s

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 12/2009
  • posted in: Great Garages

How’s this for an automotive starter?

“Our family moved to Arizona during the summer of 1956, and I found a 1934 Ford five-window coupe with a full-house flathead, which I purchased for $400,” says Scottsdale businessman Dave Hawkins. “I owned the car for less then 30 minutes, when a drunk ran into the gas station where I was putting gas in the coupe and tore off the driver-side fenders, running board and bent the front axle.”

The Montana native, who had first purchased a 1926 Model T in his junior year of high school in the 1950s, took $150 of insurance money and, with the help of a Scottsdale body man, removed the remaining fenders and channeled the body over the frame, later replacing the flathead with a DeSoto hemi. By the time he purchased a ‘51 Mercury, in which he dropped a Chrysler Hemi, and a ‘57 Olds Holiday Coupe with the performance J2 engine and standard transmission, Dave was a lifelong lover of cars — especially hot-rod customization.

“I particularly like hot rods as it allows an individual to build or create something that is unique and a part of you, sort of like artwork.” Dave says. You have the opportunity to create something special or screw it up, and I think a hot rod says a lot about who you are and is an expression of yourself. I often use the quote, ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.’”

His 3,100-square-foot garage includes a workshop, lift, overhead hoist and an office. He decorated it in a 1950’s gas station theme — Mobil Oil, in particular, as he had once worked in a Mobile station. Items include gas pumps, signage, original Mobil porcelain lettering, oil pumps and tire-balancing equipment. “One of the main features of the garage is a life-size mural depicting James Dean and his Mercury airbrushed by local artist Danny Livingston,” he notes.

Dave takes you cruisin’ in five of his rides:

•1962 Fuel-injected Corvette – “I purchased this car in February of 1977. The car had received a frame-on restoration in the early 1970s by a local Corvette restorer, Tony Vaitkus, using mostly NOS parts that were still available from the dealers at that time. The lacquer paint, Honduras Maroon, is now nearly 40 years old and shows signs of checking and cracking in some areas. Total production for 1962 was 14,531. Only 1,981 were fuel injected. This was the last year for the solid-axle Corvette, and the first year of the 327 cubic-inch engine.”

•1932 Ford Hiboy Roadster – “After attending a World of Wheels car show in 1990, I got the hot rod bug again and embarked on a two-year project building the roadster.  It has a fuel-injected Chevy motor, 350 transmission and quick-change differential. The car was featured on the covers of Street Rodder and American Rodder magazines in the spring of 1993. I worked with a local car builder, Kurt Scheider, two nights a week and on Saturdays fabricating the chassis and mounting the body in his shop before bringing the car to my shop for completion.”

•1940 Mercury Coupe – “As a teenager in Montana, I wanted to purchase a 1940 Mercury Coupe from a local fellow for $400, but my father would not allow it since it had dual pipes, and therefore was a hot rod, and he was afraid I would get in trouble. I ended up with a 1926 Model T instead. It took nearly 40 years, but I finally acquired this Mercury from an ad in Hemmings out of Amarillo, Texas.

The Merc took nearly three and a half years to finish. I wanted to build a car that would be a driver and have all the luxury amenities of a new car with respect to ride, comforts such as air conditioning, cruise control and stereo radio. Power is from a 502-cubic-inch fuel-injected Chevy. Car has more than 22 body modifications including a chopped top, modified running boards, custom molded tail lights and a one-piece windshield. A 4L80E electronic transmission and a nine-inch nodular differential are among the chassis components.” 

•1940 Mercury Convertible – “This Merc has had numerous owners in the past 20 years and has traveled from coast to coast with each owner adding his own touches to the car. I am fortunate to finally have acquired the car and hopefully it will remain in my possession for a long time.

I first saw this car at a Prescott Auto Show in 1991 or 1992. At the time, the car was painted red, had a solid front axle, Chevy differential and a new Chevy 350 crate motor and 350 transmission.

After I acquired the car in November 1999, I installed a Corvette LS1 motor and 4L60 transmission and began redoing the car. A new Vintage Air conditioning unit was installed, along with a new CD stereo. Lance Troupe of Lance Troupe Interiors redid the interior in all leather. An all new exhaust system completed the rebuild.” 

•1964 Rambler American 440 – “I bought the car at the Scottsdale Kruse Auction in January of 2000.  Car was represented as a one-owner, 22,000-mile car that was stored in the early ‘70s and then in late ‘90s had a restoration done including paint, upholstery, and many NOS parts. Sales receipts for parts and other records seem to document this history.

I purchased the car with the intent of changing only the drive train and leaving the rest of the car totally stock. Dual-exhaust tips are the only clue that the car is not stock and original.  

The engine is a rare ZZ430 small-block Chevrolet crate motor of which only 430 were made as a promotional motor. The engines are all numbered; this is 409. The engine puts out 430 horsepower and 430 foot pounds of torque. Motor uses roller lifters and rockers, fast-burn heads with 9.6:1 compression and a Holly 750 carburetor.”

For every day, Dave has a supercharged Ford SVT Lightning and a Chevy Suburban with a supercharged big block for towing his boat.

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