Reward of all rewards, the coveted Detroit Autorama Don Ridler Memorial Award is something every custom car builder dreams of, but very few get the chance to compete for it. Billy Thomas of Georgetown, Texas is one lucky man whose 1939 Olds convertible didn’t satisfy competing, but went full circle and won the prize. Just by throwing a glance at it, we have to concur with the jurors. Thomas’ ‘vert is 2016 Ridler Award winner for a number of good reasons.
Even when Thomas bought the old Series 60, the car was in fine shape. It was bought from the original owner who didn’t drive it since 1970. Now, you might be surprised it’s a convertible, and rightfully so. Thomas’ ‘vert is probably the only one in existence today. That’s because 60 Series convertibles only came in entry-level form, and as you can imagine, people didn’t actually care too much about them.
Bill immediately devised a bold plan for his new project. He knew he wanted the Ridler, but it wasn’t that easy channeling his enthusiasm to prospective car builders. After many snubs and one shop which nearly destroyed the car, he finally found Harold Chapman and his crew at Customs & Hot Rods of Anice – just north of Austin, Texas. Unlike others, guys from CHRA immediately jumped in at the idea and the rest is history.
First things first, though. This 1939 Olds features state of the art undercarriage. It distributes its weight upon modified Art Morrison Enterprise chassis whose every inch is polished and put in the right spot. Guys from CHRA say that they easily could have made another car with the time they spent solely on this meticulously detailed undercarriage.
They also say that the body is 90 percent modified, but 1939 Olds ‘vert still resembles the original. It was basically swung back and lengthened. CHRA’s stylist Christian Dotson envisioned a car that’d have plenty of role models. Influences came from European cars, low riders and even trucks. Most dramatic of changes came in bumpers, fenders, hood, roof profile, and even wheelbase which was extended by almost 4 inches. Needless to say, building such a masterpiece takes time, and this Oldsmobile convertible took no less than three years. When it was all done, ‘vert received its shining Kona Brown paint, courtesy of Charley Hutton’s Color Studio.
Apart from possessing some sublime skills, guys from CHRA are very open-minded and prone to team work. Only thing that Billy Thomas specifically requested of them was to put Joe Mondello big-block Olds engine under the hood. And there it is, with all of its 470 cubic inches, Greening valve covers, and CNC Wilson intake manifold. It doesn’t sit idle, however. It delivers a full 650 horses to the rear via Bowler 4L60E automatic transmission.
Kudos for the interior goes to Jay Schluter who decided to keep it simple, yet elegant. Plush brown suede leather upholstery and carpets match the Kona Brown paint which is present inside, as well as on the outside. In fact, kudos goes to the entire Customs & Hot Rods of Anice team for building such gem of a car – let alone for winning the Ridler Award. Finally, kudos goes to Detail Mold and Design whose custom parts were used throughout this award-winning hot rod’s body. Billy Thomas has been one lucky man coming across these guys. This cooperation paid off big time for all parties involved. Given their sublime work on this Olds convertible, we might be seeing CHRA’s name again much sooner than we’d expect.
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