(The following comes from an interview with Ralph Arias)
In 1973 my wife and I decided to take our kids to Disneyland, to have some family time away from the car stuff that dominated our time in 1971 & 72. When we got to Disneyland, I ran into a friend of mine who knew I was looking for a roadster and he asked if I had found one yet. I said "no", and he said he knew where I could get one, over in Whittier. I called another friend of mine, Tom Burden, and he met me at the park. It was just before opening time, so I left my wife and kids at Disneyland for the day and we went to Whittier.
I met the owner of the roadster, Bruce Geisler, and the first thing he said was that a lot of people had wanted to buy the roadster, but he didn't want to sell it. He wanted to trade it for a '29 roadster pickup with chrome stanchions, windshield posts, white top, tinted windows, painted Riverside Red, bucket seats, console that opened a certain way, ... just a bunch of stuff. I said "I got one just like that". He said, "Painted Riverside Red?" I said, "yeah, but I think my console opens different...". He said he wanted to see it and I explained that I didn't live around there, but further north in Redwood City. I thought this would surely give me a few months to come up with the roadster pickup he wanted. He said, "We're going to Bonneville next week, so we'll swing by Redwood City on the way back." So, I had to get the roadster pickup done in three weeks, and I didn't even have one yet! So Tom and I looked in the L.A. Times and found a roadster pickup for sale. We went over and looked at it...it had been hit in the front end, totalled in the front, but the back was pretty good, from the cowl back it was all right. So, I bought it and rented a U-Haul trailer, tore it apart, put it in the trailer, and got back to Disneyland before my family got out of the park at closing time. So, we towed the pickup home - a longer trip returning home as my family was not too impressed with my adventure.
When I got home I started working on the pickup. Found some parts, traded for others, and got everything I needed to get the car done. Mind you, it wasn't a running vehicle, just a rolling chassis with my front axle and front end. Geisler was planning to put a blown motor in it, so I had to put the motor mounts low enough that he could have a blown motor and close the hood. My friend Dennis D'Amico researched the paint, Riverside Red, and found out that it was a discontinued color. He found the right colors thru San Carlos paint; they made up the paint and we painted it in one day, with enamel so it would dry right away and we wouldn't have to rub it out. Got it home. Then I got a guy to come over and do a quick upholstery job on the seats. I made the console, and got it all done. Bruce drives up with his wife and all his friends, coming back from Bonneville. I had the pickup parked in the garage and when I rolled up the door he said "That's it!" I said, "I told you I had it." So, we made a deal. He was a bit nervous because this pickup looked pretty good and his '32 roadster had definitely seen better days. He was afraid I might change my mind. In fact, the pickup really was nice, and made it on the cover of Street Rodder a couple of years later!
We made the swap in Kettleman City, at the forestry station there. When the guys there saw what I was getting and what I was trading for it, they thought I had either been cheated or I was just crazy.
Bruce Geisler ended up driving that
'29 roadster pickup 180,000 miles. In fact, he still has it (2003) and is rebuilding
I had rebuilt cars before, but this was the fastest one I had ever done. Lots of people pulled together to help me get the ’29 roadster pickup done - my neighbor, my babysitter, friends.
So, there I was in 1973, having rebuilt a roadster pickup in 3 weeks, I could now start the real fun, rebuilding my '32 Ford Hi-Boy Roadster.
Little did I know then that it would take me 30 years to finish it.
When I got the roadster home, I started on it, but didn't really do much on the chassis. I did have an engine, transmission, and rear end set up. I was going to put a Corvette independent rear end in it and a turbo 400 and a supercharged motor. So I had that much done, but then I got sick in 1975 and had to put it on hold.
I had a serious illness that forced me to reprioritize many things.
Rebuilding the roadster became about number 18 on the top 25 things I wanted to do if I lived. As my health got better, I moved to Bonny Doon, built my house, and put the roadster in the corner of my garage where I could be reminded of my dream. It sat there from 1979 until 1997. Next (Engineering and Concept) ==>
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