‘Shine Haulin’ Survivor

We hear stories about running Moonshine all the time. We’re based in the Southeast and it was a big deal back in the ’40s and ’50s. However, we rarely run across the real deal, but the car that rolled up at the shop is just that. It has tons of history and the current and previous owners were here to tell us all about it.

Larry Ashford is the current owner of the car, and he bought it in the fall of 2008 from Ralph Condra, the man who’d owned the car in the late ’40s. Ralph is 84 years old, and spent lots of time behind the wheel of this ’47 Ford Business Coupe. He’s not proud of being a moonshine runner, and he’s since changed his ways, but all of the neat tricks still remain on the old coupe. Lots of folks used the original Flathead engines in moonshine haulers, and Ralph ran an aluminum-headed Flattie in this coupe up until 1957.

He stopped by Honest Charley Speed Shop and picked up a set of Hurst engine and transmission mount adapters, in order to swap in a brand new Pontiac 347 engine, which was the next best thing to a Cadillac mill. The Pontiac engine made close to 300hp from the factory, while it would take a full race Flathead to make that kind of power in 1957. Rather than making the mounts himself, Ralph wanted the option to put the car back to stock, so he bought the bolt-in mounts and dropped in the new engine. Even though over 50 years have passed since he swapped power plants, the 347ci Pontiac still ride between the frame rails.

The suspension looks to be stock, but it’s not…Lincoln brakes ride up front, and are assisted by a Hydra Vac power unit. Additional leafs were added to the spring packs on the front and rear, and an extra set of shocks were added to the rear of the car to stiffen the suspension and keep the car stable when it has a full load. Normally if you carried a load of ‘shine in a totally stock vehicle, the back end would squat under the weight, but the stiffer springs and additional shocks kept it level at all times. Another ‘shine runner trick is the brake light cutout switch, which is still intact.

This car, with Ralph behind the wheel, made many trips across Suck Creek Mountain in the ’50s, and Larry makes it a point to take Ralph for a drive in his old car from time to time. While Ralph doesn’t brag about his ‘shine running days, he still enjoys hitting the backroads in the old coupe. Ralph says he couldn’t have picked a better guy to end up with this car, and he’s glad to be friends with him. Larry intends to restore the car someday, but said that someday will be a long time from now, as he plans to keep the survivor look for quite some time.

Larry and Ralph have become great friends, and it’s good to know this car, and it’s history, will live on in the hands of a hot rodder that truly appreciates it. The car is a big hit at local car shows, including the Moonshine Festival held each fall in Dawsonville, Georgia. We love it too, and can’t believe that it’s stayed the same all these years!

Mike Goodman Reports from Day Two of the Driven Dirty Tour

Mike Goodman and Wayne Pugh are on the road with the Driven Dirty Tour, and Mike is never at a loss for words, so here’s his review of the tour so far!

Posies’ 3-W passenger side door has come open three times now. You’d think he’d catch on! First time on “on ramp”-no damage. Second time on X-way at speed–HUGE damage to door and quarter panel, but the door will close if you slam it brutally. Third time- (yesterday) on way to breakfast–so much previous damage it’s like what the hell.

Scott Whitaker…he owns Dynamat. Driving a “new” older custom 3-W with his son…. his driver door came open and tore the side sheetmetal where the 3-hinges where forced to the rear. Simple fix, just repair the door, door jam, repair the whole side of the car, and re-paint everything in sight.

Danny Mink (Danny’s Rod Shop) is now in this THIRD car. The first two crapped out before we linked up with them. Danny’s truly a great guy and loves this stuff. Nothin to it.

Gary Case fell out and went home after repairs @ Alloways Rod Shop. Trans problems and he said Moser put their rear axle seals in backwards so the rear brakes oiled down.

Kenny and the Brookville crew didn’t come this year. I spoke with Kenny and Chuck and we’ll see them @ SEMA. I don’t know if they didn’t get their new 3-W finished or it had to do with Ray’s passing away. Either way we miss them and him.

“Red Sled”. Wade’s Impala gets lots of looks. Seems everybody’s seen it on TV. At almost every gas stop somebody recognizes it and can’t believe it. Wade and his son Tim have had fun, the Impala’s preformed flawless and looks absolutely great @ speed. Front tire wear looks normal so it’s thumbs up for the Ride Tech air suspension i guess. Sounds bitchin’ too.

GR-3: Flawless runner. No problems. Corky and Cameron are continually smiling and laughing. We’re running both our Flatheads a little easier this year (60-65 mph) so the drive’s a little easier and seems like the engine temp is staying a little cooler.

Final note for the day–Weather’s perfect. Wish y’all were with us.

Click HERE for our Facebook gallery with all of the photos from the Driven Dirty Tour!

Driven Dirty Tour 2010–DAY ONE

It’s that time of year again! With cooler temperatures and fall foliage comes the SEMA show, which generally falls in late October/early November. Honest Mike Goodman hopped in his ’32 Ford five-window with his good pal (and Honest Charley customer) Wayne Pugh alongside.

This long haul is called the Driven Dirty Tour, and it will consist of a dozen or so hot rods driving to the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a pretty cool deal, and we’ll keep you up to date on their progress. Check out the Facebook page for a full gallery of photos from the Driven Dirty Tour–here’s the link:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=562706&id=215169095647

Here’s some highlights from the boys’ departure from Chattanooga.

The Joys of Building a Hot Rod Part 2

The last time we heard from Will Davenport, he was working on the chassis for his ’32 Ford project car, and now, he’s knee deep in Deuce parts, all of which came from Honest Charley. We want to sincerely thank Will for his business and we hope he keeps up a good pace on the build. For his personal account of the buildup, read further:

“It’s been a while since the last post, and I now understand why folks say it takes years to build or restore a car. I’m 8 months in and have a rolling body and lots of miscellaneous parts. But who’s complaining – this is the most fun I’ve ever had messing with a car, and when you’ve only got weekends around family stuff, it’s not too shabby a schedule.

Any rate, before the body showed up, a ’56 Caddy had to go, so a guy in Tennessee is cruising in style and I’ve got an awesome Brookville Roadster steel shell. Not a bad trade, and my new best friend Mike Goodman of Honest Charley brought it down in a van (yes, it fit in a van) along with lots of other miscellaneous parts, and viola – three friends and 10 minutes, and the body’s on. If only life were that simple. A handful of shims and a bag of bolts, and everything is nice and tight with clean door gaps. What you do learn is when you tighten the firewall, it moves the body, so you tighten, loosen, shim. Loosen, tighten, shim. And so on.

Thanks to Ebay, I have a chromed ’40 Ford column with 3-on-the-tree (I had to scavenge the shift rods off another column as this one had been welded to use with an auto tranny. Please, who would put an auto tranny in a hotrod.)
It came with a ratty black ’40 steering wheel that at first look I was tempted to toss. Now you can find repro wheels all day long, but who can pass up the chance to try restoring one? A POR-15 restoration kit (throw away the file and saw they send unless you have just a few hairline cracks or about a year to restore your wheel) and my Dremel tool did the trick, and if you ever wanted to play dentist, this is your chance. It looked like Swiss cheese after cutting out the cracks, and all the ground plastic made a royal mess, but man does that epoxy work wonders. A trip to Advance Auto for Duplicolor enamel and clear coat and it’s a thing of beauty. In case you haven’t caught on, there’s a red theme here for the interior and wheels.

I dropped in a set of Classic Instrument gauges (with Honest Charley logos – kind of a historic tribute since those guys opened shop in ’48) and a Glide seat. Now my kids can sit in the car and go “vroom, vroom”. So do I, but only when no one else is around. One thing I’ve learned in messing with all this metal – keep plenty of Band-Aids at hand. I’m starting to think this thing has teeth, as I’ve got new scars and perpetually cut fingers. This must be what they mean in talking about “blood, sweat & tears.”

And to tease you with the next piece on the build, I have a beautifully reworked ’52 flathead block thanks to PSI in Fultondale, and a ground and balanced 4” Merc crank. Add to that every other part to build the engine (thanks again to Honest Charley) so not too much longer and the Deuce can go “vroom, vroom” by itself….”

The Joys of Building a Hot Rod…

Check out one man’s story about building a hot rod. His name is Will Davenport and he’s from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s building a killer Deuce roadster and he’s using Honest Charley parts to do it! Check out his adventures so far…we can’t wait to hear more about the buildup and see pictures of it!

“A couple of years ago I got a harebrained idea that I wanted to build a hotrod in the style of the 1950’s. This naturally leads to thinking of the ’32 roadster (unless you’re an American Graffiti fan, and then it’s a coupe), so I started buying magazines and “how-to” books to get an idea where to start. The heart of the ‘50s rod was a flathead engine, and I was fortunate in having a friend who gave me a ’52 flatty and transmission that had been in his father’s car. Mind you, they had sat in a barn since Vietnam, and I never would have thought you’d use a sledgehammer to disassemble an engine – the pistons were that frozen.

From that point, a road trip to Honest Charley’s in Chattanooga yielded a Pete & Jake’s ’32 frame, dropped front I-beam suspension, and a narrowed 9 inch rear. This next bit isn’t a marketing plug, but an honest statement – you will not find finer people on the planet to deal with than the guys at Honest Charley’s. Plus, if you go, it’s like the pilgrimage to Mecca for a car guy – parts, cars, car guys, and Corky Coker’s car collection. Anyway, when the suspension parts came in, I got the frame and 9 boxes on a pallet and thought “is that it”? It was, and I’m not kidding to say if you’ve got a set of socket wrenches, screwdrivers and a hammer, you can build a rolling ’32 chassis from Pete & Jake’s. Coker Tire supplied the ’40 style front wheels and rear Gennies, all wrapped in bias ply Firestone rubber. Running the big & little combo gave me a 5° rake – perfect for my plans.

I took the engine block to PSI in Fultondale, and if you’ve never been – GO. These are three retired guys who’ve been drag racing forever, and they have fun toys in that shop. Laying around were a built 409, 389 with 3 deuces, piles of small and big blocks, and more engine parts than you can shake a stick at. Plus lots of greasy old machining tools. Cool. And the guys are great just to hang out with. They’ve vatted the block, and fortunately everything was copacetic, so the boring and align honing have begun. They’re also replacing the ring gear on my flywheel, and polishing the holy grail of the engine – a ’50 Merc crank with a 4” stroke (yes, I’m building a stroker flatty). That part came from a great guy in California who’s built hotrods since the ‘50s. Once PSI is done, the block is coming home and I and the fellow who “donated” it will build the engine.

My thought is to get the frame and driveline buttoned up, and then head back to Chattanooga and drag home a Brookville Roadster steel body. I’ve already come up with a ’40 Ford column with the shifter, ’49 Merc gauges, bomber-style lap belts (I’m not using bomber seats – those look ridiculously uncomfortable), and a bunch of other small parts to make the car period-correct. The overall goal is to build a car that looks like what a guy would have done in his garage in 1952 – not a ratrod, just a cool old school hotrod. I’ve learned one thing about the dangers of hotrodding. Not long ago, I was standing in the barn with the ’56 Caddy on one side, and the ’29 Model A roadster on the other and thinking, ‘wonder how hard it would be to drop the Caddy engine in that thing….’” –-Will Davenport

Minor Modifications…

Some folks like to stick with the norm and build a cookie cutter ’32 Ford, and that’s perfectly fine, but there are still a few car guys that dare to be different. Mike Coger is one of those guys, as he chose to build a Morris Minor, which are very cool compact cars that debuted in the 1940’s. They have a British heritage, and we’ve seen quite a few of these tiny coupes turned into hot rods over the years.


Mike gave his a slammed stance with a custom chassis that features independent front suspension and a narrowed rear end. When tackling a project like this, it’s hard to simply pick up the phone and order parts, so Mike called upon the crew at Honest Charley Speed Shop to help with parts selection for such a unique vehicle.


Mike sent us a few progress shots of his Morris Minor, and we thought it would be cool to share them. Check out all of the custom fabrication work to make the small block Ford fit within the tight confines of the original body. Mike also fabricated the floor pans and firewall from scratch. We can’t wait to see this one finished and on the road!

Nitro is in the Air…

Waving the Honest Charley banner, Army Armstrong boils the hides en route to debuting his brand new “Joker” ’67 Nova in the IHRA Prostalgia Class at Rockingham, NC this past weekend. Nitro Nostalgia funny cars have become the new “bad-boys” on the drag racing block with spectacular side by side action at over 250 mph and high 5 second quarter mile times being the norm for a typical pass.

Fan response to the new class has been overwhelming as race enthusiasts can really identify with the muscle-car-on-steroid type appearance of the various body styles, names, paint schemes, etc. that make this class unique. Novas, Camaros, Vegas, Corvettes Dusters, Mustangs, etc….all have late 60’s early 70’s styling cues and big time horsepower (we’re talkin’ 4,000+). The open style pit-area where fans can interact with the crews, drivers and purchase merchandise from their favorite teams leaves a lasting impression on anybody from ages 8-80. We’re glad to see Army representing the Honest Charley Speed Shop and we hope to see the Joker up close and personal sometime soon!

Road Trip!

There’s nothing better than hopping in an old hot rod and taking a road trip, especially if it’s with your best buddy. Chuck Yaeger did just that with his ’33 Ford coupe, making the trek from his hometown of Macomb, Illinois to Fort Myers, Florida. The springtime trip made for a great ride, and his friend David Riley was in the passenger seat to help him enjoy it.

Chuck Yaeger's '33 Ford Coupe

Chuck’s three-window coupe features a fiberglass body, and sits nice and low over a set of polished Americans and BFGoodrich radials. Under the steel three-piece hood is an LS1 engine with a few modifications to easily put it into 400hp territory. Behind the fuel injected engine is a six-speed manual transmission, with a 4.11 gear set out back. Talk about a hot rod that’ll get up and go–this one will definitely pin you back in the seat.

Chuck's coupe looks right at home in front of Honest Charley Speed Shop
Chuck’s coupe looks right at home in front of Honest Charley Speed Shop.

Chuck and David hangin out at Honest Charley
That’s Chuck Yaeger on the left and David Riley on the right.

The duo said that temperatures were barely over freezing when they left Illnois, but with sunny skies and temperatures in the 80’s they’ll have a great ride home. They picked a great day to stop by Honest Charley Speed Shop and we grabbed a couple of shots of them before they hit the road again.

A Deuce in the Showroom?

You bet! We got motivated by all this warm weather and sunshine and set up a new display in the Honest Charley showroom. If you’re in the area, you need to check it out. We keep enough stuff in stock to build a complete hot rod in a matter of hours. The Brookville roadster body is really a nice piece with uniform panel gaps and flawless panels–it wouldn’t take much bodywork to get this one ready for paint! It never hurts to change the scenery once in a while, and we knew how to spruce up the show room for our walk-in customers. Check it out!

Old Man Winter

Chattanooga, TN has strange weather patterns, but this winter has certainly been one for the books. Very cold temperatures and more snow than we’ve had in over a decade is enough to send most folks into shock. Of course, everyone has to stock up on milk and bread prior to any snowfall, but relearn their snow-driving skills. Other parts of the country are being pounded with heavy snow, but hot rods are still being built, even in the coldest of climates. Just fire up a good ‘ole kerosene heater and get to work, right? Well, sometimes it’s not that easy to get motivated.

This hot rodder in Ohio will have a hard time digging out!

This hot rodder in Ohio will have a hard time digging out!

Chattanooga, TN Snow--Not quite as severe as our neighbors to the north, but fun nonetheless.

Chattanooga, TN Snow from last week--Not quite as severe as our neighbors to the north, but fun nonetheless.

Regardless of the temperatures, winter is the perfect time to rebuild a hot rod, or at least perform routine maintenance while driving season is on hold. And if you choose to drive your hot rod in this wild weather, don’t say we didn’t warn you that donuts are addictive.