What additional words could be used to describe a gentleman that has been featured in (last count) fourteen different custom car and street rod publications going back to 1970. That’s when he put Portland, Oregon on the map and won his first AMBR award for his delicious full fender 1923 Ford “T” Roadster Bucket. This completely street legal rod also features a set of usable running boards and a handmade hood creating a unique master piece of automobile wonder and design for “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” 1971.
The gentleman’s name is none other than Mr. Lonnie L. Gilbertson, Portland’s own Mr. Master Car Designer and Builder. Lonnie came into this World way back in 1945 about the time the second World War was winding down and that makes him a cool seventy years young this year. He attended St Peters Parochial School and then on to Benson Tech High, where he took a few Machine shop courses but didn’t sign up for auto shop classes. He was already bitten by the car bug as his father owned and operated Gilbertson Machine shop and Lonnie learned all about automobiles from his favorite teacher his Dad. Lonnie will be the first to admit his life really came alive back in 1966 when he met a young lady at Scotty’s Drive-In. Her name was Candy and she was the sweetest thing Lonnie ever met. She just happened to be an employ at Scotty’s the same time our old buddy Vern Farris (Mr. Chevy Guy) was the manager there. Now both Lonnie and Vern were both super car guys back then and not all the hot rods and Custom Cars ended up at the infamous Tick-Tock Drive–In, quite a few ended up at Scotty’s for their 15 cent french fries and 21 cent cheeseburgers. Now it took Lonnie a few years and quite a few orders of French fries but he finally convinced Candy that he already new how to build a World class award winning car and the only thing missing in his life was her. So they were married over 41 years ago and together raised a super son Brian and they are now blessed with three grandchildren and one great grandchild.
We at R&R NW Publications are honored to bring you several of Lonnie and Candy’s fantastic automobile artistic works of creative wonderment.
1923 Ford Model “T” Track Roadster running a later model Flathead for Power, Four on the floor tranny, 8” ford rear-end “Lonnie’s Speed Shop #5” Yellow in color only. This track “T” ran fast and fearless and won a lot more than she lost on the oval and sprint car tracks. This car was a special feature at the 2001 Portland Roaster Show where Lonnie and crew completely reassembled the car from ground –up at the three day show and drove it off from the show floor at the end. Lonnie was the builder and driver of this vintage ride for a good many years.
1923 Ford Model “T” Roadster Bucket featuring a 327 Chevy updated with Moon Intake Manifold and four Weber 48 IDA carbs, Gilbertson fabricated set of headers that terminate just in front of the rear wheels. Handmade rectangular tube frame with PSI dropped tube front axle on transverse leaf springs and homemade hubs and discs gripped H&H calipers. A ’66 Jaguar XK-E rear set-up. To keep those Englewood-shod custom wheels under the stock-looking fenders, they had to lengthen the stub axle5/8”. Lonnie credits his brother Gary, with putting in many, many hours on this, the 22nd car to carry the title of “The World’s Most Beautiful Roadster” in 1971.
1932 Ford “Tudor.” This award winning two-tone gray beauty with gorgeous multi-colored graphics and a super sun-roof is one cool ride. She runs a 350 for power and a 350 turbo tranny with a 9” Ford rear end. Super wire wheels with mini baby moons on all four corners. A delicious all leather rolled and pleated interior, super custom digital gauges and vintage air for total comfort. She won first place trouphy’s all over the west coast from the PRS to Boise, Seattle, Spokane, Sacramento and the LA Roadster Show. This one also got Candy and Lonnie inducted into the Portland Roadster Show Hall of Fame in 1990.
1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe 427 Chevy small block built to maximize performance and reliability, starting with the highly developed induction system fined tuned through the wizardry of the late Rick Steele. 711 HP and 607 lb-ft of torque tractable power delivery. C5 Corvette suspension requiring Gilbertson to create a special platform capable of handling the torsional loads generated. A centralized, stand-alone rear cradle or pod to support the rear suspension including anti-rollbars and a six-speed transaxle. Transverse QA1 coilover shock absorbers.
This baby is built for speed while she sports a traditional look and providing all the latest high tech engineering performance. She’s both fast and agile on the highway or at a car show. She wears a flawless pearlized deep metallic blue paint and is modernized with a fantastic high tech interior, starting with a custom dash, Vintage Air Breezes, high-powered tunes and supreme comfort and every moment behind the Momo steering wheel is a memorable event. The sweet aroma of the all-leather two-tone blue and grey-silver upholstery makes this ride come alive on the large Billet Specialty rims on all four corners. This is one fine award winning world class custom built 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe that won her way into the Portland Roadster Show Hall of Fame for 2007.
1923 Ford Model “T” same as the 1971 Red “T” Roadster bucket covered above with brand new updated landscape mural paint job, beautiful new multi-colored leather interior and add on independent chrome suspension and Zenith wire wheels all the way around. What you get is a brand new build that once again is good enough to win the AMBR award for 1975. The new paint just shouts Oregon all the way. The “T” was so popular, winning the coveted AMBR Award twice. It now has a permanent place in the Peterson Hot Rod Museum in downtown L.A. Before heading south she won The Portland Roadster Show and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for 1999.
1932 Ford Model “B” Roadster sporting a 475 HP Chevy for power, 400 turbo tranny and an 8” Ford rear-end. Featuring a Buttercup Yellow exterior and a delicious black leather interior. She wears 850×15 on the rear and 550 x 15 up front with super red artillery wheels and baby moons on all four corners. This is Candy’s pride and joy ride and she’s a winner.
1975 VW Bug — She sports a 2332 cc mill with super heads and carbs. Producing 220 HP with a 091 6-rib bus tranny. Updated it with a new nosecone and lowered the shift shaft to make it more Bug friendly. They installed stiffer Sway-A-Way torsion bars to handle the drag race starts. A NHRA special custom rollbar was installed and the House of Kolor suggested a traditional black color with super flames on this ‘75 VW turned Volksrod. With a nickname like “The Fire Bug” the color scheme should fit perfectly. Dan Leisy was selected to handle the upholstery with one request— something in red and black leather. The painting of the Fire Bug was a group effort with Mitch Kim, Portland’s own world class pinstriper, Dick Pruitt teaming up to lay down the flame job and Duane Olofson and Rob Benko worked on the body and layed down the House of Kolor finish coats. This is one super fantastic creative work of art with the chopped cherry straight black body on this fender-less VW Bug. The chrome 18 & 20-inch Budnik wheels on all four corners really make this a one of a kind flamed out “Fire Bug” Rod come alive. She has won her share of trophies and is a real crowd pleaser wherever she goes.
Mr. Gilbertson has a work in progress that is called the “HIT and MISS” and the current plans on the books are to run this 1 ½ HP tractor engine powered pond-tune styled racing pod down at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He’s going for a special best of class time and speed record. Jamie Fox is scheduled to handle the helm of this experimental creation. Lonnie has another two or three finished and another work in progress that we are scheduling stories on for a follow up in a near future issue. We at R&R NW Publications would like to thank Lonnie and Candy for sharing their fantastic story with us and our thousands of readers. “All for the Love of Street Rods and Custom Classic Cars.”