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As mentioned in our magazine story (BACK WHERE IT BELONGS: Volume 11/Iss 3, FEB/MARCH issue) on Jerry Davies and his 1929 Model A Roadster, just before press time his son Brad Davies found a 13-page, hand-written single space letter Jerry wrote in the early 1990s. Jerry wrote the letter shortly after finding out his car had been sold to a gentleman in Georgia and the letter was intended to chronicle the original build history, and a little of Jerry’s history with hot rods mainly from 1949 and into the early 1950s but also including some anecdotes from the late 1950s and early 1960s in London, ON.

So, here’s some excerpts from the letters that either expand on information in the story or introduce anecdotes we weren’t able to fit in the story. Enjoy.

Terry Denomme, Publisher, My Car Publications

By Jerry Davies

By 1950 I had pretty well destroyed by dad’s 1931 Model A Tudor. It had moulded away in our garage since World War II. That was when my uncle Ray helped my dad rebuild the four banger, in our basement. The only problem was he forgot to secure the connecting rod wrist pins, and it only ran long enough to gouge neat furrows in all the cylinder walls. It was just a home for spiders after that until I had succeeded in cajoling my dad into letting me have it.  I had fallen under the spell of Hot Rod magazine in the late 1940s. It had only been published since 1948 and I’m not sure when the first issues found their way into Canada. All my schoolbooks were festooned with coupe and roadster drawings, and so far as I knew I was the only hot rodder in Canada.
A friend of mine and I manhandled the  ’31 out into the sunlight. About the only tool I “owned” was actually my dad’s hacksaw, so naturally the first modification I performed was “bobbing” the rear fenders. That is to say I cut about a foot and a half off the back of both of them.  Flushed with this success, and having cut off the taillight mount, I obtained a pair of ’38 Ford teardrop taillight frames and a very jazzy pair of blue-dot “cat’s eye” lenses for them. I bashed a couple of holes low on the body, one on either side. I bent a little tab of the body metal back to form a lip and with that and a metal screw the cosmetic new look was complete. How electricity wold ever get to these ragged and backless breaches I had no idea. Bulbs would somehow materialize in the misty future.

There was no stopping me now, so I then performed what might arguably have been Canada’s first top-chop ever! After all, how long could a guy quipped only with a hammer (carpenter’s), chisel and hacksaw stand looking at those T-A-L-L window posts? Four inches later it was done. It was done alright! A neighbour had a machine shop, and brought by his oxy set.  He was more of a blacksmith than a body man, but he got the cranium regrafted. The windows worked and everything. The problem was the top half had proven of greater circumference than the bottom half. Neither of us knew enough then to cut a couple of simple gussets, so he heated the bottom bit , from the rear window to the side window, on each side, to a rosy red and then bashed the inside out til the halves were close enough to weld. Much later I tried to lead these gulches. Had I succeeded I probably would have crippled Canada’s entire Korean War effort.

But there was a greater problem. I would settle for nothing less than V8 power so I again sought the assembled wisdom of local motor mechanics. They unanimously assured me that it was impossible to put a V8 engine into a Model A Ford. Well, that must be why so many cars in Hot Rod used ’32 frames, I reasoned. Now at that time it was no problem finding countless Model T, A and B, etc for from $50 (dead) to $150 (running and licensed). I somehow scraped together enough money for a dead Deuce coach. Quite a good one too. I was still in high school, so my income of the time consisted of $4.28 which I earned for 9.5 hours work every Saturday, bagging groceries in a supermarket. The Korean War had skyrocketed scrap metal prices so some friends and I bought up junkers, laneway cripples and cut them up for cash. We took an axe (really!) to some very good cars. This, with whatever monies I could con my mother or older sisters, out of, fed my habit. The ’32 was easily pushed into our backyard, after I had torn down my dad’s picket fend. It was the last time we ever had lawns, flowers or the two fountains my had had made behind our house. Now how do you lift a whole body off a car with no hoist, tools or anything? Simple, roll her over on her side and take the cold chisel to all the chassis bolts. Many skinned knuckles, and not a few curses later, off fell the frame. But it was never to hold my dad’s Tudor. By this time I wanted a roadster.

By this time it was becoming evident that I wasn’t alone with my hot rod interests. The first indication was at a nearby beach. A dead ordinary Model A roadster rumbled by to the unmistakeable beat of a Flathead V8. I remember running about three blocks after it in the hope it would get fouled up in traffic. When I luckily came up on it again it was parked and empty. But through the hood side louvers I could see I was partly right. It wasn’t a four banger but it wasn’t a “real” V8 either. It had one of Henry’s mini V-8 60s in it. Not really a false alarm but still a disappointment. Then two real roadsters burst on our small town scene. A high boy Deuce and high boy ’30 Model A on a  ’32 Ford frame. Both actually running and cruising the local drag. One was owned by a Clare McNorgan and he later channelled it. That was the first channelled car I ever saw. McNorgan, I learned, was president of The London Hot rod Association Piston Pushers. In the mid-1950s I myself, several times, became its president. The club name was later changed to the London Auto Modifiers, which is still going strong today. Under my presidency we formed, with emerging clubs, in surrounding cities, The Ontario Timing Association, which organized and ran the first ever legal drag racing in Ontario, if not all Canada. This was on a unused former airforce base at Cayuga, ON. In 1956, we registered the trademark and name Autorama in Canada and in 1957, still under my presidency, we put on our first annual car show. 1994 will be its 37th year! My roadster was in our club display that first year.

(Editor’s note: As mentioned in the magazine, Davies found his Model A in Hamilton, ON in around 1950/51)

Now, although I may wander about a little in the exact  chronology of this story, bear in mind that much of this actually happened before there was any such thing as a Chevy V8. It was partly even before the birth of the first Blue Flame 6 Corvette. The then hot Chevy setup was a 270-ci GMC straight six and 296 cubes was a whole lot of Flathead for any Ford. But, in 1949 General Motors had come out with OHV V8 Caddys, Olds and Buick. Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge had  ’em too. Here was a way for a kid with little money, and no real speed equipment availability anyway, to go big cubes. And I did, as soon as my mother agreed to borrow some money against one of her life insurance policies and let me buy a Rocket 88 Olds. I actually purchased it from a well known area character name Bob Hayward. He was a chicken farmer from a place in the countryside called Embro. He ran a dead-stock looking ’38 Chev coupe. It was factory plain right down to the hubcaps. But, under the hood he also had a Buick Roadmaster straight eight. In fact, the few people he ever let look under the hood mostly thought he was running the original six with 3 carburetors. What they couldn’t easily see was the two other carbs and the rest of the engine through the firewall and under the dash. He could actually hand choke the back carb from the driver’s seat. We had originally marked out a drag strip on the side road next to his farm. This was long before legal. I mention all this because Hayward later became world famous in the league of unlimited international hydroplane racers. A local oil company was called Supertest and they sponsored a boat. Miss Supertest which was mostly built at Wells Foundry in London.

(Editor’s note…the magazine story has a little more on Hayward and his famous feats and tragic demise behind the wheel of one these boats)

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