HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Every Saturday morning for the last 27 years, at a tiny donut shop in a strip mall on the corner of Magnolia and Adams streets, hot rodders have met to grab a donut, drink coffee and show off their cars. What began with four friends has blossomed into as many as 75 cars on display on any Saturday.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Luminaries of the hot-rod hobby – people such as Chip Foose, Art Chrisman and Little John Butera – have dropped in over the years.
I showed up with a high-school friend and his brother on a drizzly morning on Jan. 26, and much to our dismay the parking lot was almost empty. Street rods and rain don’t play well together.
A dozen or so guys, mostly with gray hair, gathered under the shop’s overhang, warming their hands with paper cups of coffee. The rumble of a V-8 exhaust caught everyone’s attention and in drove Larry Urey with his homemade track roadster. Like bees to honey, folks quickly gathered around Urey’s car. Despite being a little wet he was enjoying the moment. His rapid-fire conversation was constantly punctuated by an infectious laugh. Here was a guy who was in love with life and his car. His philosophy: “Live life while you still have your health.”
“I’m 70 years old,” he quipped as he stepped out of the car, “and this is an amazing car. It always puts a smile on my face. I’ve never had so much fun in my life.” Strangers constantly stop him and ask for rides, he said. With that, he offered a DVD about the car. He has given out hundreds.
Urey, from nearby Costa Mesa, has built three of these track roadsters from scratch. He sketched the frame for his first one on the floor of his garage. “I built the body and frame for $1,000,” he said, beaming. The rounded tail section is made from welding together two rear fenders from a 1950 Chevy pickup.
Urey’s car is stylistically similar to Indy racers from the early 1930s, including the red and white paint job with the Ford V-8 symbol down the side. It weighs about 2,300 pounds. The grille shell looks as if it was made from a ’32 Ford. The engine is a 302-cubic-inch Ford with 300 horsepower and the transmission is a five-speed.
“I built hot rods all my life,” Urey said, “but nothing attracts attention like this car.” He has driven it all over the country, from California’s El Mirage dry lake to Pennsylvania. He once drove 974 miles to Oregon in 18 hours. He’s even had a couple of minor crashes.
“This car seems to attract females,” he said with a mischievous grin. “You got to have scruples to drive this car.”
“This car gets you the most immediate friends you’ve ever had in your life,” he said. “I’m blessed.”
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is email@example.com. To read other Gallery stories, go to tomstrongman.com.