The indispensable HAMB message board (operated by our buddy Ryan Cochran) is a treasure trove of cool hot rod lore, and it doesn't get any cooler than this: the 60 year saga of a Memphis area Deuce roadster hot rod, from 7 B.E. (before Elvis) to its recent resurrection. When we saw the story on the HAMB we tracked down owner Tim P (a/k/a 3dnsouth) and asked permission to post his amazing pictures and narration. Thanks Tim, and please enjoy.
Just thought I might try to post some pictures of the ‘32 roadster that’s been in the family since 1960. The ‘32 originally came from California, purchased in Memphis by Marshall Robillio sometime in the 50's. The story from Marshall on the ‘32:
A sailor had driven it from California to Memphis in 1948. At the time, there was (according to the big sign in our hometown) ’The Nation’s Largest Inland Naval Training Base’ the ‘Memphis Naval Air Station’ in Millington, where I grew up, just north of Memphis. Marshall saw the car and kept after the sailor to sell it to him, but the guy didn’t want to let it go. Then, lo and behold, the sailor gets his papers to ship out. The car was down at White’s garage in Memphis, with the engine and transmission out of it. The sailor and the garage were at a standoff about the money on the repairs. They had it apart and were kind of holding it hostage. The sailor called Marshall and told him he would sell him the car, but Marshall had to go pick it up at the garage. Well, not his first time ‘round the block, Marshall says he’ll take it, but the sailor had to go with him to the garage to get everything ironed out. They had the pow wow at the garage, with money getting split between the garage folks and the sailor, with Marshall coming away with the car. He and his buddies had to put all the parts in baskets and haul the whole shootin’ match home. Marshall got it back together and got this shot of it. It was black metallic with red leather interior, Kelsey Hayes wire wheels, Harley fenders on the front, channeled, radiator set forward and the hood lengthened 3 inches. If you notice, there was a stud put in the center of the spindles for the fender supports, mounting them just like a motorcycle. This was about 1948, Marshall in his finest Sunday-go-ta-meetin’ outfit.
Another picture of it in front of the Robilio’s produce store.
Here’s some pictures from 1952 (on the license plates), outside a service station in Memphis. That’s Marshall and a kid that hung around the station.
As hot rodder’s will do, off with the fenders, hood, side panels, and top. On with some cool decals like the ‘Wynn’s Friction Proofing’. I still have the Stewart Warner gauge panel. As you can see, the eye brows around the rear wheels have been removed and it’s running split bones, which are still on it today. It has aluminum finned heads on a ‘48 Merc’ motor. The ol’ sailor had come to town with a pretty nicely modified roadster. I can see why he hated to sell it. This was in the early ‘50s.
He briefly sold the car to a Mr E.J.(or BJ, Budgey) Haley, in Memphis, with the stipulation that if the car was ever up for sale, Marshall would get first shot at it. Mr. Haley decided to sell and Marshall promptly bought it back. Mr. Haley still lives in Memphis also. Marshall talked to him while I was there.
Here’s some pictures from the mid ‘50s at a car show in the Merchant’s
Building in downtown Memphis. (pre-convention center days...) It was
painted a 1946 Frazer color. A kind of a sky blue, cerulean blue as
Marshall remembers. The placard on the cowl says:
1932 Ford Roadster
Full Race 1948 Mercury Eng.
Regional Drag Champion
104.8 MPH in 1/4 Mile On Gas
At another show, it has a Chrysler hemi in it. Roland Raffanti had built the motor and wanted it to be in the show, in the roadster. Nothing doing but pull the flathead and in with a decked out hemi. It would have been hard to let that thing come back outta there. But, it could have been part of ol’ Roland’s sales plan. You know, like the ol’ ‘Take the puppy home and play with him and pet on him. If you don’t like him, bring him back......" Yeah, right! The info on the sign with the car reads: (trophy is 4th from rt.)
Now this racing thing starts to get a little more serious, in goes a small block chevy. He made his own adapter to hook it up to the Ford transmission. I believe it still has the banjo rearend at this time, but I’m not sure. Here it is at Halls Drag Strip gettin’ a check out run. Nothin’ like ‘the boys’ hangin’ at the drag strip. Halls was north of Memphis, actually a spare runway at The Dyersburg Air Base. Note the nice concrete everywhere. Gotta love them tax dollars at work. He had the original louvered hood back it, but not painted yet. I still have the hood.
Got the car lookin’ nice by now and turning some pretty good times. There is also a shot of the roadster at the starting line in the March 1959 Hot Rod magazine, an article on drag racing.
Notice the number on the car, B/R 43. That came from when it ran at the NHRA Nationals in 1957 and/or ‘58. If you look at the post that Hemi32 put up about his 5-window, the entry number went on as the car number. On the first page of entries, in the program, entry number 43 is Harass (the roadster’s name), with Bill Williams (friend of Marshall’s) driving, from Memphis. In the film clip that Norm Jones shot at the 1957 Nationals, that Ryan posted on the JJ, you can see the car in living color at the 2:24 time mark on the film. It is coming back on the return road with the old Dodge panel push truck right behind it. You can see the ol’ Dodge in some of the other shots at Halls. Do some stop action on the film and check it out.
Marshall sold the car, sometime about 1959, to Howard Hughes of Memphis. He changed the color to a metallic copper. I talked to Howard about the car, but he couldn’t remember a whole lot about it. Come to find out we had some really good friends in common(good ol’ team ropers!) Here’s a couple of shots during Howard’s time with the car.
Dad traded his ‘55 T-bird for it in 1960. The car finally got into drag race trim in the late 60's. Stan Summerfield, a guy who worked with dad, talked him into racing it. Stan kinda took the lead on the deal, since we were getting into race horses at the time, just not enough hours or money to go around. Mom and Dad both worked at Kimberly-Clark, Dad a mechanic and Mom in the payroll department, just a working class family.(the ‘play when your hurt, work when your tired’ living ethic) Having a drag car around was really something special. The earliest picture I have of it is Dad (in the hat) and Stan standing beside it at Stan’s mom or grandmother’s house in Memphis, 1968 or ‘69.
These pictures are just inside the staging lanes at Lakeland Dragstrip, out east of Memphis. A short story on the name the car got (a name we’ve called it forever), Zot. It came from the B.C. comic strip. It was the sound the anteater made when attacking its prey. It was such a popular thing in the 60's that the University of California Irvine named the anteater as its mascot.
So ‘Zot’ just seemed to stick. The car was pretty quick in the 1/4mi., so the name was also appropriate. The best time that I remember written in shoe polish on the cowl of the car was a 9.27. The last time written on the car, still legible before I got it dipped, was a 10.60. I talked to Stan not too long ago and he said that it had ran better than the 9.27. From what Stan could remember on the motor: It was 427 chevy, .015 over, open chamber chevy race heads, LS-7 factory cam(about a .610 lift or so), and about 13.5 compression. Pete Jackson fuel injection, 4-speed at first, then a turbo 400 from TCI, dual point Mallory, roller rockers, 4.56 Pontiac big car rear. He says the best speed in the quarter, that he could remember, was 134.86mph (this was in the late 60's). These are out behind the house. August 1969 Me (on the driver’s side) and brother Dave. I was 9 at the time.
Dad gettin’ home from work
A little track tunin’.
Then it got a new paint job and new name, ‘Outtasight’. You can still see the name Outtasight on the doors today. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t put any paint on it. It just brings back good memories to actually see it there, it makes the memories real. It was painted silver to match Stan’s ‘68 corvette (w/427) tow vehicle. Can you just see if that pulled up today: 427 ‘68 vette towing an A/SR hot rod on a two wheeled trailer??!! What a pair! It even had the lace paint job on the doors. The trim and pinstriping were metallic blue. The blue that’s on the grill shell today is the blue from the Zot days. The silver just faded and peeled away over the years. The car ran at the tracks in the Midsouth, around Memphis; Lakeland, Halls, Carlisle, and more I don’t remember. You might remember Lakeland from the movie ‘Two-lane Blacktop’. It was the dragstrp they stopped at on their cross-country ride. I remember seeing some of the cars that showed up in those scenes at the track. Notice the wing at the starting line in the movie. It’s right beside Zot leaving the line in the black and white photo here(pullin’ the front wheels no less!!).
A few years ago I decided to put it back on the road. I found evidence of the light blue in the door jams when I was cleaning it before getting it dipped. Another remnant from California was found when I was cleaning the insides of the doors out (leaves and the old tar paper material). In the bottom of the driver’s door, I found the remnants of a Los Angeles Times newspaper. It was badly deteriorated, but I could read enough of it to find that it was from January 6, 1948. I couldn’t believe it lasted that long, after all of the years of being in the weather, two or three paint jobs, and wet leaves laying on it. Dad said that people used to roll newspaper up and put them in the doors to keep the windows and stuff from rattling.
Here it is going back together with the flathead, kinda back to it’s roots. Some may disagree with this direction, but I’m having a blast being able to drive it around more. It may change again, some day in the future, who knows. One thing is for certain, it’s part of the family. There are memories of it just like any other person in the family. It’s the part of the HAMB that I enjoy, the people that have a history and fond memories to share about their cars they still have today. How the cars kind of aimed their life in different directions at different times, like the people we meet because of them. I’m definitely not a’buy and sell’ kinda guy. It’s a comfortable feeling riding around with an old friend.
First trip out, and we rode in the rain for about 3hrs
At the Round Up last year, next to Jack Marinelli’s roadster. Thanks Jack, for lettin’ the Georgia boy hang out with y’all! Nice folks, Jack and the Steves (Zaring and Dale) I’m headin’ to the Round Up again this year, can’t wait!
A shot of ‘er doin’ some dirt draggin’ last year. What a blast!!!
A couple of weeks ago, I took the car up to Memphis to have Marshall check it out and take it for a spin. Here’s a few shots at Marshall’s house. He said he had often wondered what had ever happened to it. He was happy to see it and really had the smiles goin’ when he took it for a drive. Note the grins all around.
Marshall actually gave me one of the trophies from his collection. It is the Regional Champion trophy, 1955, NHRA sanctioned. You can see it beside the car in some of the show pictures. Unbelievable. Super nice guy.
He even still had, and gave me, a car show display arrow (see above) pointing out the features of the car.
Marshall had just had his 80th birthday a week or two before this. Weather permitting, he rides one of his motorcycles (8 or 10 BMWs, all different vintages) to work everyday. (that’s right, he still works). He makes it to bike night every week and works on motorcycles in the shop behind his house. He is definitely an inspiration and an example to us younger folks. The hot rod world could use more ‘Marshalls’.
Well, that’s the story on my ol’ ‘32 (including the other post). I feel like I’m not doing it justice not having paint and an interior in it now. I do like being able to look at it see something from all of the different stages of its life. It’s hard to have it both ways, I don’t know. Thanks for reading and thanks to the HAMB. I hope you enjoyed the old pictures, I never get tired of any of them. Sorry if I got long winded, you know how it is when you get to talkin’ ‘bout these ol’ rides! TP