Let me introduce you to a man that loves fast and fancy cars so much that he belongs to the Cascade Plymouth Car Club locally, The National Desoto Car Club and the Walter P. Chrysler International Automobile Club of America and beyond. Now one would think this dude loves nothing but Mopar cars? WRONG! He actually loves all flavors of autos that are fast, fancy and long—the longer the better. Did I mention that he also belongs to the local Rose City Thunderbird car club, The Cadillac LaSalle car club and is an active member in good standing with the Pharaohs Street Rodders Car Club here in Portland, Oregon? We at R & R NW Publications are proud to introduce you to a few of Mr. Brad Groff’s automobile artistic creations “All for the Love of Classic Custom Cars “ for December 2015.
Mr. Groff is a true Oregonian, born a mere 55 years ago right here in beautiful Portland, where he attended Grant High School and had fun for a few years in the auto shop classes. At 15 years of age, the story goes that he purchased his first ride, a ’66 Chevrolet Malibu 2 Dr H/T. Now he is a self-taught automobile operator, teaching himself how to drive. He swears he practiced for a full year in the family driveway, forwards and backwards, never once wandering out into real traffic in preparation for his 16th “B”day. Then it was off to the Oregon DMV in that ’66 Chevy Malibu, all shined up, where he promptly flunked the driving test.
Not to worry, Brad has a flawless driving record today, and makes his home in the Alameda area of Portland and his fantastic family of friends, include a nine year old Boxer dog named Dash and a wonderful 17 year old kitty cat named Waffle. Of the 20 plus cars Brad has shown over the years around the Pacific Northwest, I can’t ever remember one of them that wasn’t fast, fancy and fantastically flawless in their true creative wonder. From his delicious Rolls-Royce, His Ford “T” Bird and his Corvette Stingray along, with a host of others, Brad is truly a car kind of guy. We at R&R NW Publication would like to thank you for sharing your story with us and our thousands of readers all over the Pacific Northwest “All for the Love of Classic Custom Cars.”
1960 De Soto Adventurer 2 dr H/T
Featuring for power a ’63 413 ci Chrysler Imperial V8 with stock tranny and rear-end. The deep Adventurer Desoto Red color really makes the lines on this beauty come alive. She sports w/w on all four corners, showing off a full set of Desoto wire wheels to finish this ride off in style. For the interior, a quality black and grey leather add a nice touch. This is truly another Brad Groff super cherry flawless winning ride, as featured at the 2015 Portland Roadster show, a real winner where ever she shows.
1958 Plymouth Belvedere Convertible
For power she sports a 350 ci Golden Commando power plant with a high cam and dual quad intake with a three speed torque flight tranny. She features all electronic ignition plus disc brakes on all four. The w/w with deep polished chrome wire wheels and the Fury Bright Red color and trim really do a number on this gorgeous Plymouth Belvedere. She wears a delicious red and white interior with a touch of class. Nice ride and another winning featured car at the Portland, Salem and Eugene Car Shows.
1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible
Very limited edition. Powered with a stock 390 ci mean and lean all-Caddy, she’s all stock from the tip of the nose to the tip of those wild tail fin taillights out back, a mere 19’4 ½” long. The official color on this beautiful Cadillac is Sierre-Rose, with Eldorado trim and a gorgeous interior in lilac and white deep tucked leather. She sports W/W on those super Caddy wire wheels on all four corners. This is a fairly new ride for Brad and we look forward for you to see it in person at the 60th Portland Roadster show come March 18-20, 2016 at the Portland Expo Center.
SEMA2015 has outdone itself again. The SEMA Show has grown throughout the years—along with it, the Convention Center down in Las Vegas has expanded as well, out of necessity. Because, this year’s show utilized every square inch available. Additional displays filled the Sands Convention Center and areas of the Westmark Hotel. This show is one of the largest in Vegas. Many were complaining of walking the over thirty miles of aisles – but, not yours truly!
We heard Linda Vaughn was in the house but never found her. Her good friend George Barris, builder of who knows how many way out, Hollywood hot rods, died before the show ended. Godspeed—He will be missed by many.
Every year this show set the pace for what we will be seeing in the coming years in the Hot Rod world. There is plenty to talk about but for now, we have a few observations. As usual the number of bitchin’, badass, brand new hot rods was in the thousands. Nowhere on earth will you see this many brand new builds. We were covering them as fast as we could for #GearHeadsWorld. Check it out online in the coming weeks to view the most extensive video collection of the event.
To start off, one thing we were not seeing was a proliferation of roots style superchargers, along with the muscle car style pro Streeters’ we used to see. Now, the Pro Touring style is more the order of the day. The Prochargers’ and the turbos are more hidden down in the engine compartment.
Something we are seeing a lot of is carbon fiber all over some of the cars. Some cars are completely made of carbon fiber. Some of the builders are getting into making molds for this. There were many custom, carbon touches made for good eyeball candy.
Continuing on that subject was the proliferation of body wraps. Dozens and dozens of companies have sprung up that can wrap your car from head to toe with a brand new paint job, without painting it. It’s all decals GearHeads!
But when it comes to actually painting your hot rod, this is what we found: Flatz paint is in. Make no mistake about it. These kinds of paint jobs are tough to do but it looks like they are here to stay for a good, long time. We were seeing them on all kinds of vehicles. And the color selection was nothing short of amazing. All kinds of bright colorful variations of flat paint. Be ready – it is coming to your neighborhood soon.
One final observation would have to include the wheels. With all of the new cad/cam and billet machining capabilities that are available nowadays, wheel styles have exploded. Be ready for the largest selection of wheels ever! ‘Nuff said.
Photos by John Jackson of NotStockPhotography
The beauty you see gracing these pages was built by MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon as their personal “shop car.” Not a bad shop vehicle huh? Before shop owner Jon Mannila and the talented crew at MetalWorks got their hands on the 68, it was an illegal daily driver… ha ha, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
The first recorded history of the GTO dates back to the early 80s when Rick, a customer of MetalWorks, purchased it for $2500. After about 3 years of ownership Rick had a blue velour interior installed in the Pontiac, as at the time blue velour was extremely cool, and it matched the GTO’s blue and white exterior. Rick’s wife became the primary driver of the 68 and would take their two children to visit Rick at the video arcade that he owned and operated (note video arcades were also very popular at the same time that blue velour was considered cool). The only problem with Rick’s wife driving herself and their children the 7 miles from Canyonville to Riddle, Oregon was that she has never gotten a driver’s license. Oh well, that’s what back roads are for.
The GTO was sold to a guy, then to another guy, until Rick lost contact with it. Then one day, Rick heard of a GTO for sale in the area, so he went and checked it out. Rick positively identified the 68 as being his old car by, you guessed it, the blue velour interior. As fate would have it with the GTO back in Rick’s posession, very little happened with it. After some time of collecting dust, Rick convinced Jon Manilla that he needed another GTO, as he knew Jon had one GTO already, and as we all know, cars are like potato chips—you can’t have just one. So a deal was struck and Jon became the owner of a 2nd GTO. Jon had just finished the restoration of his first GTO in a stock manner, and was discovering that stock was just not his style. So, with a blank canvas in front of him Jon decided to build his new 68 in more of a hot rod /pro-touring fashion with the thought that the GTO would become a promo piece for the shop. This new direction would also allow MetalWorks to build a car the way they wanted to build one, and to show people what is possible.
An Art Morrison chassis and a new GM Performance LS1 were ordered through MetalWorks’ own “in house” Speed Shop, but soon the build began to snowball as many builds tend to. The LS1 was used as a mock up engine, but a custom build LS3 by Wegner Motorsports had already been ordered running a stage 2 cam, and pushing nearly 600 hp. Then, before the LS3 was nestled inside the rails of the Morrison chassis it was topped with an MSD Atomic LS fuel injection system and coils. Initial thoughts of an automatic were replaced with a TREMEC 6 speed manual that is linked to a Ford 9” with a 4.10 Trutrac posi rear end hosting 31 spline axles. With all “go” the GTO needed some serious “whoa,” so 14” Wilwood vented rotors with 6 & 4 piston calipers were ordered. A couple wheel and tire combinations were scratched until Jon found the perfect combo in a set of Budnik “Platnium” series. Thoughts of autocross racing resulted in a Ridetech TIGER cage for an A-body being ordered, then, modifications were performed to work with the Art Morrison chassis. Ridetech 5 point harness seatbelts were also installed to keep driver and passenger secure in the corners.
While the crew was hard at work on the chassis and drive line, the body was striped, then sent to MetalWorks acid dipping facility. Once the body was at ground zero in bare metal the guys in the body shop got busy massaging the body to perfection, then they applied several coats of “MetalWorks Red” paint. The final step was to wet sand and buff the body to mirrored perfection. Once the body was ready it was sat on the chassis, and the assembly process began. The hidden headlights were converted from vacuum to electric to do anyway with any more “lazy eyed” driving. The factory gauges were replaced with OEM styled Dakota Digital replacements, as well as an electronic climate controller from DD. An Alpine head unit controls 2000 watts worth of stereo that are masterfully hidden throughout the GTO’s interior. Speaking of interiors, sadly the blue velour was past its prime and had to be replaced with a custom OEM styled leather interior that was stitched together by Jon Lind Interiors.
When all the dust had settled the crew at MetalWorks had created one wild pro-touring GTO. A comment often heard by admirers is that they have never seen a GTO taken to this level. Another common statement is that it is nice to see a less common GM model get the royal treatment, instead of yet another camaro. The GTO is definitely not just for customers to admire from a distance at the shop. If a customer is looking to have a high end pro-touring car built, or is curious about an LS conversion, Jon will take them out for a white knuckle rip in the 68, which tends to leave customers in a state of perma-grin and reaching for their wallets with still shaking hands.
Above and beyond being an excellent promotion and sales tool, the GTO is a point of pride for the talented crew at MetalWorks who built it. If you spot this red hot 68 cruising the streets of the Pacific Northwest, don’t be afraid to flag them down as you will meet some of the most down to earth and talented builders in the industry…but if you’re looking to race, you may find yourself admiring the GTO’s freshly restored taillights!!!
There is no bitter of a rivalry between auto enthusiasts than that of Ford vs Chevy… both sides have dug in their heels and rarely allow the other an ounce of give or take. When the team at MetalWorks finished the fastback you see before you they had several of their most hardcore Chevy clients stop by, bow their heads and admit that it was one amazing looking Mustang. Ha ha, yes, hard words to speak I’m sure for guys who bleed Chevrolet, but true words none-the-less… and what better assurance that MetalWorks had accomplished a great build than to have a Chevy guy compliment a Ford.
Unlike most vehicles that come into MetalWorks for restoration, Bob Austin’s 65 was a really nice looking car, but Bob was not thrilled with its paint work. So he decided to start at ground zero and acid dip the body. When the body shell came out of the tanks it was virtually rust free. Now, knowing exactly what he was starting with, Bob gave the crew at MetalWorks the green light to work their magic.
Although the body was rust free, and overall in great condition, the rear quarter panels had some old damage, so it was decided to replace them. Though not necessary, the decision to replace the rear quarters worked out nicely as it was decided to run a set of Detroit Speed mini-tubs, along with a custom gas tank that essentially replaced the truck floor. Other Detroit Speed components included their front alloy cradle and suspension, along with a four link set-up out back, with frame connectors tying it all together.
With the extra room from the mini-tubs, massive Bridgestone 305/30ZR19 tires was utilized out back with a 225/40ZR18 up front. BOZE “Autocross” series rims were a perfect choice and are accented by the 14” Wilwood vented rotors and 4 piston calipers. A 408 stroker was supplied by Performance Unlimited which MetalWorks topped off with a MSD Atomic EFI. Linked to the nasty mill is a Tremec TKO600 tranny mated to a Ford 9” with a Detroit Tru-Trac posi unit.
Moving inside the Mustang we find a very unique dash layout. The dash padding was removed leaving the bare metal components exposed. MetalWorks molded and shaped the dash to resemble a stock padded dash, then frenched in functional components. The rest of the Mustang’s amazing interior was tackled by Jon Lind Interiors and includes red french stitched seams and a fully wrapped roll cage.
In the end MetalWorks accomplished exactly what Bob wanted: a Mustang that still looks like it should but with all the modern performance built into it that will allow him to drive fast, all day and anywhere he wants to go. Sounds like a Ford a Chevy guy could love… ha ha.
Recently I was talking with Cliff at Cliff’s Classic Chevys and he mentioned a recent rash of thefts and burglaries that have been happening all over rural Clackamas County here in Oregon. It’s not known if they are related but it seems that many home shops have been broken into under cover of darkness and a myriad of specialty car parts have been stolen. Additionally some cars have been stolen as well as tools, equipment and trailers. I decided I needed to write a little story about this to send out a warning, so I called a half dozen victims of these crimes to learn more.
Apparently these thieves have “cased” their targets seeking the parts, tools and cars etc. One victim told me that they must be very proficient at it and therefore very practiced because he didn’t hear a thing. They may be slipping a thin piece of metal between the door and the jamb to trip the knob lock in some cases. To load out all of what has been taken must take a considerable amount of time too.
It’s unfortunate that others think it’s ok to take things that don’t belong to them.
The 57 Chevrolet seen elsewhere in R&R NW for some time now, has not been recovered or seen since the day it disappeared. The Camaro pictured here was stolen in August. I’m not certain whether this one has been recovered or not, but it wouldn’t hurt to call the police if you see it. Better to be safe than sorry.
Speaking of being safe, some of the thefts took place where no alarms were present… or sorry, years ago I put in an alarm right AFTER a break in. It’s safe to say that getting a monitored alarm BEFORE a break in is much better idea. Security cameras are a good idea too. In some of these thefts these thieves had to have a truck and it had to be close because carrying the stolen items very far would have been extremely difficult. Security cameras with recording devices could have captured a vehicle allow for a description or an identifying number.
I’m trying to encourage you to keep your eyes open for potentially stolen property and for your own security. Look over what you have done to secure your stuff. If locks need to be update, do it. If alarms systems, video security cameras need updating, do yourself a favor and update everything before you’re stuff gets stolen. Also, review your insurance coverage. One victim told me that he thought he was covered only find out his insurance didn’t cover “car parts” “that weren’t attached to a car?” Are you kidding? I’ll do my best to be kind but, some insurance coverage “fine print,” just ain’t right. Check with your agent to make certain your coverage is what you think it should be and correct it if it isn’t. He lost years’ worth of parts he had collected for his projects, that probably totaled $20,000 worth, all uninsured because of one clause in his policy he didn’t realize was there. If your insurance doesn’t give you the coverage you want, go shopping! He did and found Haggerty was just what he wanted. They may be one of only a few companies to offer the right coverage for our hobby.
I heard an unconfirmed rumor that the police had arrested some people and recovered a cache of potentially stolen property in Clackamas County. If you have been a victim of a theft described above, call your county sheriff if you live in a rural area, or your city police department to check the recovered stolen property that they might not be able to identify as yours, but you could if you saw it. You could get some of your stuff back.
As violated as a break-in makes you feel, you can help prevent it by being vigilant about your security. I don’t think thieves ever take a day off.
The GoodGuys Rod & Custom Association show schedule kicked off in mid-March 2015 at WestWorld in Scottsdale Arizona, the first of 22 shows held all over the country, culminating with a final show for the year, back at WestWorld the weekend before Thanksgiving, November 20-22 2015. Many of these events have titles that include in their description things like the “14th Annual” and the “28th Annual,” with some as old as 33rd and new as the 1st.
Many of these shows attract literally thousands of Rods, Customs and others, not to mention many thousands more spectators who come out just to see the spectacularly built machines that are in attendance.
This year I made it, to cover at least, the 28th Annual WESCO Autobody Supply, Pacific Northwest Nationals at the fairgrounds in Puyallup Washington and the 14th Annual Great Northwest Nationals held at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center in, where else, Spokane.
In both shows I have to give a hat tip to our brethren from north of the border, Canada. Those guys build some absolutely fantastic cars and trucks. In mentioning that fact in conversations with some of them and other friends, I heard several reasons for the high quality builds, one in particular that came up many times was, “Long Lonely Winters.” That might be true but truly, they build very high quality, innovative cars and trucks, for sure. Check out some of the pictures detailing a few.
Chadly Johnson was fortunate to be able to make it to some of the GoodGuy events in California this year. Like I said, there were 22 events from corner to corner all across the US. He shared his pictures with R&R NW and some of those are represented here too. No matter where you live in this great country of ours, if you’re a car guy or gal you can travel a little or a lot visiting new destinations and taking in a premier event like the ones the GoodGuys’ put together
Look for the GoodGuys 2016 Schedule in a future issue of Roddin’ & Racin’ NorthWest. These cars are fun to build and to drive. Enjoy!
Rarely did I receive Gregory’s undivided attention. He was four years my senior and in all honesty, a closer friend to my older siblings. From birth until I was ten or so, he lived right next door to us. Gregory was smart, creative and extremely motivated. And he could build stuff. I mean; he could build anything it seemed to me when I was a kid, from robots to rocket ships. His parents forbad him from removing the engine from their lawnmower so he simply incorporated the whole mower in his design! He was building crazy bicycles by the time we moved away but customizing cars was in his future.
I think Mark Brislawn had to have been a kid like Gregory. He bought his first vehicle when he was fifteen—a 1930 Model A pick-up. Fifty years later, he’s still at it. Smart, creative and also extremely motived, I doubt that there is a project or build that Brislawn would shy away from. Everything is “do-able.”
The Vancouver, WA native was able to parlay his knowledge of all things mechanical into a career with a company called Precision Equipment. Brislawn spent twenty years as an estimator and sales manager for the outfit that specializes in hydraulic and mechanical repair.
But of course the founding of Briz Bumpers in 1985 is what most people identify with Brislawn. “I picked up a set of 1937 DeSoto bumpers at a swap meet in Chehalis (WA),” he relates. “Before I left, I had three guys trying to buy them from me!” So the demand was pre-existing. Next Brislawn took the beveled bumpers to one of his fab shop customers to find out how difficult they would be to duplicate. He was told: “No problem.”
Brislawn decided to have a few sets made up. “Initially, I just wanted to make my investment back,” he explains. But when hot rod guys saw them, they went nuts! Clearly he had a hot commodity on his hands. Brislawn chose a marketing expert as his business partner and they were off and running. They set up a table or booth at all of the relevant swap meets, cruise-ins and car shows throughout the Northwest. They utilized print advertising extensively to reach potential customers outside of their area (Remember that the internet would not be viable for another decade or so). Soon Briz Bumpers were being sold internationally. Over the years other products were introduced but the original DeSoto knock off remains the cornerstone of their business to this day. In 2002 Brislawn sold his share of the company to his partner. In 2015 Briz Bumpers is a one man operation, providing a second income for the ex-partner’s son. Meanwhile, Brislawn has moved on.
In his shop there are several projects at varied states of completion. Brislawn gets to choose what he works on next. “My grandson is really into this show called Forged in Fire,” he tells me. “The other day he turned to me and asked why don’t we make a knife?” Predictably Grandpa didn’t have to be asked twice. Within a few hours Brislawn had roughed out the blade and his grandson was grinding on the wooden handle. Regardless of the outcome, it’s the process that’s important. This is quality time together creating something from an idea. It is an experience that his grandson will probably always remember. Mark Brislawn is his “Gregory.” He’s a lucky kid.
What do you call a guy that was at the Bor-A-Car Company in Portland and worked in the boring, stroking and blue-printing engines department for about 16 years? Add on six more years at Halsey Automotive, plus five more years at Freightliner Corporation and you have a guy who has worked on just about every type of automotive engine known to man. Give this guy a name like Jake Schonneker, who makes his home in Carver, Oregon and you have just found the proud owner of R&R NW Publications Featured Care of the Month for November 2015.
This delicious 1956 Meadow Mist Green and Colonial White Ford Victoria, sports a later model 302 cubic inch engine for power, with an AOD tranny and a stock rear-end. Add on a custom rolled and pleated white leather interior by Darrell’s Upholstery and you’re on your way to a gorgeous custom ‘56 Ford.
Those torque thrust mag wheels on all four corners top this baby off and make her a real winner whereever she shows.
Jake has built and or owned and worked on 25 to 30 custom cars and trucks in his active 72 years, including a ’23 “T” Bucket to a ’54 center post coupe, to a ’41 Ford PU plus, 7 or 8 ’55 & ’56 Ford F100 Pick-ups. He’s had them all. He is still first to admit his three favorite rides of all time are the 1957 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible, (they on built 618 of them in 57), a fuel injected dream ride that had it all. #2, was a 69 Mustang Mach 1 with a 428 Cobra Jet for power and #3, is our R&R NW Feature Car of the Month for November, Jake’s ’56 Ford Victoria.
Mike and Denise Gies make their home in Damascus, Oregon about a ¼ mile from the home shop of the world class Wescott’s Auto Restyling Enterprises. Over the years Mike and the late Dee Wescott became pretty good friends. If Mike needed a part to finish one of his rebuilds and Dee didn’t have it in stock Mr. Wescott just took the time and made it for him.That’s what Mike remembers about the one and only great Dee Wescott. Mike Gies is a fella that’s been known around the street rod and custom car community for quite a number of years here in Portland. From a 1912 Jackson Speedster of a few years back to over 100 custom cars and street rods that he and wife Denise have owned and rebuilt, refinished and redefined to perfection before turning them back out into the world of hot-rodding. We at R&R NW Publications are excited to bring you about seven of their finished rides to market.
1932 FORD FULL FENDER ROADSTER
350 Chev for power/350 Turbo trans/9” Ford rear/creamy tan colored rolled and pleated interior/deep baby blue color with matching blue wheels/chrome beauty rings and baby moons on all four corners really sets this ride off in style. A super clean and neat ’32 roadster complete with Road-Agents Member Plaque.
1964 CHEVY CORVETTE STINGRAY ROADSTER
Pretty much stock. Powered with a totally rebuilt 327 ci 350 hp. Stock body and interior with stock color inside and out. She sports a solid stingray hardtop hangin’ in the garage back at the Gies home along with a couple more automobile projects under construction.
1931 FORD PICKUP
Pretty much stock what you see is what you get. She is sporting a delicious non-stock candy maroon paint job with shiny black fenders. Seen with Mike in center is fellow Road Agents Jim Gravitt and Jim Mannthey.
1931 FORD 5 WINDOW COUPE
With 350 Chev for power and 350 Turbo trans. 9” Ford rear-end. Dropped independent front with polished American Cragars on all four corners. Candy maroon paint w/root beer fenders make this ride come alive.
1912 JACKSON SPEEDSTER
(From 1912 Indy 500) 4 CYL 60 HP, 3 SP Tranny, 26” race tires, 2 Seater/Cordovan leather covered, from the brass headlights to the leather covered tool chest on the rear. She carried 15 gal of petro. Racin-red color body/shiny black fenders w/wood step. Placed 10th in the Indy that year.
1929 FORD MODEL A WODDIE WAGON
A surfin’/haulin’ machine w/350 Chev for power/350 turbo tranny/8” Ford rear set on a ‘32 chassis. Dropped front end and disc brakes all the way around and she’s wearing red painted artillery spoked wheels w/Baby Moons on all four corners. A sweet little one of a kind ride.
1941 FORD BUSINESS COUPE
Built in Portland in the late 60s, this is one fantastic creation of hot rodding history to the Pacific Northwest and beyond. She’s powered with a 1967 Corvette 327 ci 350 hp. V8/Muncie 4 speed trans with Hurst Shifter/Parallel Leaf ’57 Chev rear end/body chopped 4.25 Inches, nosed and decked, frenched headlights, ’59 Cad tail lights, dual “Appleton” style spotlights. Lowered over-all 8 inches with dropped axle. Custom dash with Stewart Warner gauges, A/C and heat, plus a beautiful all leather interior to match this gorgeous built automotive work of art. She sports a full set of skirts on the rear, classic wide whites and three bar Old’s fiesta full caps up front.
The Candy Apple Red paint with the very period flames truly make this a show car that will live on and on in the world of classic custom creations. She has won Best of Show and First Place trophies all over the west coast when-ever and wherever she is shown.
Mike and Denise are soon to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary and enjoy seeing and spending time with their three grandchildren in the big sky country of Montana. Mike spent several years in Montana in the US Air Force back in the sixties at the base in Great Falls. He accepted the assignment to relocate back to the Portland area and worked out of the Oregon Air National Guard recruiting office back in 1992.
After 23 years in the Oregon Air National Guard and the regular Air Force, Mike retired and is enjoying his well earned retirement working on his true commission, and that is building custom cars. Denise is an educator and has worked in the Gresham-Barlow school system for over 15 years. She loves assisting Mike with their car projects. She did comment that sometimes she gets a little more attached to the cars than Mike does and she hates to see them almost finished with the repairs. As on more than one occasion the car was there when she went to school in the a.m. and gone when she returned in the p.m., and she didn’t even have the opportunity to say goodbye. Mike’s true thrill in life is to hang-on to these fantastic automobile creations just long enough to make them a little better than they were, and then say goodbye and let them go off to a new home and the excited new owners.
We at R&R NW Publications like your style Mike and Denise, and we would like to thank you for sharing your story with us and our thousands of readers all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. “All for the Love of Street Rods and Custom Classic Cars.“
I could always tell when Merlin was there. He would park his faded Astro Van directly in front of the entrance, half on the curb, half in the parking lot. I would say my hellos and get started. Merlin would totter over, grinning. He was always dressed the same, baggy shorts and a threadbare t-shirt. His glasses up on the top of his head. We talked about different products we sold, his visits to the doctor, his failing health. The last time I saw him he was lucid and in good spirits.
Pam would run me a stock order but I still took a physical inventory. That was how my predecessor did it and that was what they liked. Generally I was there for a of couple hours, every other Tuesday for the last year they were in business.
Used to be that when you wanted to hot rod your car, you paid a visit to the local speed shop. In the late seventies a national chain called Super Shops sprung from southern California. With 165 locations, they were able to buy Edelbrock by the boxcar, making it difficult for the independents to compete. Next came the mail order catalogs, another old concept but tailored specifically for the performance shopper. Soon guys were carrying their Summit, Jegs or Speedway catalogs with them, right into the speed shop! Everyone knew (about) what things should sell for and anyone could buy for less than retail. Finally, the internet drove the nails into the coffin. Now anyone with rudimentary computer skills had all the information at their fingertips. Everyone became “an expert” and the brick and mortar speed shops were doomed.
Radkes had a humble beginning, starting out as a Gilmore gas station in 1933. Merlin’s father Julius was mechanically inclined and attended tech school to fine tune his skills. Soon a three bay garage was built in which to perform repairs and eventually a parts store was added to further facilitate the expansion. Merlin returned from the Korean War a twenty one year old high on hot rodding. He began to buy performance parts from the manufacturers in multiples, one for sale and two for stock. Initially this was kept a secret from his parents who regarded hot rodding with skepticism, fearing it was a passing fad. Merlin became entrenched in the local racing scene and advertised extensively all over the Pacific Northwest. Soon word got around that Radkes had “the goods” and customers came from as far away as Canada to buy them. The speed shop segment of the business grew to the point where they had to build a larger store right behind their existing one. By the mid-sixties, Radkes employed four men full time just to accommodate their performance customers. Another growing, family owned auto parts chain by the name of Baxter initially bought all of their performance accessories from Radkes. An estimated 6,000 patrons attended their first parking lot sale.
While the performance market was still ascending, Radkes opened additional stores but ultimately these satellite locations failed to get a foothold. The decision was made to pull back and refocus on the original St. John’s location and for many years, business thrived.
Radkes never stopped caring about performance parts or being able to sell them at a competitive price. What changed was the way in which their customers shopped for them.
If there is a Roddin’ and Racin’ Northwest Hall of Fame, Merlin Radke certainly deserves inclusion. Vaya con dios, old friend.