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Friday, June 12, 2015

This 1934 Chevy is Hot Rodding at its Finest



Last weekend I stopped over at the HRE Performance Wheels Open House in Vista, California. It’s a sort of car/wheel/small trade show that opened the HRE doors up to the public to check out their rims and some really awesome cars. Everyone was having a fantastic time. And then it was then promptly invaded by the oddly human-esque beings that make up the Gold Rush Rally.
They came into the lot like a group of Prada and Gucci hungry piranhas, with their sticker-covered Aventadors and Pagani Huayras. Thankfully the visit was short-lived, and the trust-fund man-children left in a wake of misogynistic self-importance. One car, though, was the ticket to this bro salvation. Something so outside the realm of that entire automotive bro culture that it reminded me why I love cars. This 1934 Chevy.


As a few others and I pushed past the supercars and got to the fringes of the show, this Chevy caught my eye. It looked like just a cool Ford at first. As I moved closer, though, I saw that it was something much more rare— a ’34 Chevy. It was raw, it was unpainted, the 350 small block was exposed, it had racing seats and a roll cage. It was unlike anything else at the show. And it was a rare sight indeed— no one, and I mean no one, builds these cars.
 If you search ’34 hot rods, I’d wager to say 95% of them are Fords.
After snooping around the car for a few minutes, the owner — a young guy named Keenan — came up and asked if I’d like to sit in it, since I was taking so many pictures. Of course I said yes, and while I inspected the car’s interior, we struck up a conversation about his pride and joy.


The car’s name is Penny, which kind of fits. Keenan has gone even so far as to place a penny into the center of the steering wheel. Everyone talks about how finding a penny will bring you luck, and this car is definitely lucky. Throughout the years, these cars are getting rarer and rarer. The fact this one was in such good nick when Keenan and his dad found it was extremely lucky. (Keenan actually named the car after The Big Bang Theory’s character.)

He and his father bought the car in 2005 on Christmas Eve and paid $3,500 for it. According to Keenan, it was a big mess, but definitely salvageable. After getting it to a storage facility, the car sat for about a year until they could get someone to haul it to California… where it sat in the garage again until Keenan and his dad finished their Factory Five Cobra. “We like our projects,” said Keenan, but finally, the time had come to begin fixing up the old gal and making her into something beautiful.


Keenan and his dad began with tearing “everything off, down to the bare frame, boxed in the rear end to add support. Most of the wood under the floor panels and the floor panels themselves were shot, so we ended up replacing all three floor panels and the wood under the rear floor panel completely. Other than replacing the wood in the back, the remaining wood was still intact and in good condition.” (The original wood around the roof was one of my favorite little nuances from this car.)

After fixing the frame, and body, his mom decided to weigh in, like all good mothers do. She told them her one condition was they make it safe. Now, as you can imagine, a ’34 Chevy is as close to a death trap on wheels as they come. It’s a bit hard to make safe without drastically changing many, many things. Thankfully, they figured out that if they took sections of roll cage from both a Chevy S10 and a Chevy Nova, they could fabricate a new cage together. That, in addition to some racing seats and racing harnesses, makes the ’34 Chevy at least a bit safer than the certain imminent death that it originally imposed on its passengers.


When it came time to powering Penny, Keenan and his father knew there was really only one route to go: small block Chevy. The 350 small block Keenan has in the car will live forever. And that’s really what Keenan wanted. Plus it’s dirt cheap to buy and fix. After that, the wheels and tires they found at the Pomona Swap Meet for $300. And the front suspension is from the Mustang Two that the last owner had swapped out, and since it was fairly dialed in, they left it.

This ’34 Chevy was one of my favorite cars at the HRE Open House. Just the old school hot rodding craftsmanship blew me away. Nobody builds cars like this anymore, they’re either trailer queens that will never get dirty, or they’re built to such a high degree of execution that they lose part of their hot rod soul. This car, Keenan’s car, however, bucks that trend in the best way possible. Plus, they’re leaving the bare metal exposed and just doing a clear coat to inhibit rusting.