Dan Wittenberg's 1928 Ford
- 1 The Hot Rod Fever
- 2 Found in the Branches
- 3 Spare Parts
- 4 The Build Begins
- 5 Boxed and Kicked Up
- 6 Pontiac Crate Engine
- 7 "Whistling Bernie"
- 8 Completed in 1958
- 9 Passed City Inspection
- 10 Kings Drive-in Restaurant
- 11 Sold to Jim Johnston
- 12 Rediscovered
- 13 Dan Recreates his Old Hot Rod
- 14 Magazine Features and Appearances
- 15 References
The Hot Rod Fever
Dan was smitten by the hot rod fever in 1953, when he was 17 years old. He had a buddy, Fred Merkley, who was building a channeled Model A roadster at the time. Dan wanted to build something for himself as well, so the friends found scraps of lumber and used building materials and built a two-car garage behind Dan's mother's house on 33rd near Fraser. The garage would become a hub for hot rodding activity over the next years.
Found in the Branches
In 1954 Dan finally located a roadster pickup at a farm in the Abbortsford-area. It was covered in branches, and he had to pay $20 for it. The seller asked Dan how he was going to get it out of there, and Dan told him he would drive it home. The next day, armed with extra parts from Merkley's garage, they got the car running and drove it home to Vancouver without road permits or license plates.
When Dan bought the pickup, the city of Vancouver and surrounding country lots were littered with old cars from the depression that nobody wanted. If you saw a car with a part you thought you may use, you asked the owner if you could have it. Most of the times the answer would be sure, take the whole car! As a result of this, Merkley's garage was lined with gaskets, belts, hoses, water pumps, starters, transmissions, brakes, and all sorts of parts.
The Build Begins
Back in Vancouver Dan and his buddies began working on the car, turning it into a hot rod similar to what they had seen and read about in California's Hot Rod Magazine. The body was stripped off before a flathead V-8 engine, transmission, rearend and hudraulic brakes from a 1948 Ford were installed.
Boxed and Kicked Up
Pontiac Crate Engine
Dan worked at Bowell MacLean, a Cadillac dealership on Burrad. He stared as a car jockey before he worked his way up to the tire shop and then eventually the lube rack. In 1956 Bow-Mac parts manager Al Mills took it upon himself to order a brand new hot 1956 Pontiac 265 V8 motor in crate for Dan's project. Mills came by to look at the car, and he told Dan that what he really needed was a new overhead-valve Chevrolet engine. Dan said "yeah right," as he had no way of paying for such an extravagance. A few weeks later Mills told Dan that his new crate motor would arrive in ten days. Asking how he would ever pay for it, he was told it would come out of his pay cheque. In 2009 Dan told Alyn Edwards of The Vancouver Sun that he was totally taken by surprise that he went ahead and did this; "The result was I was able to install what probably was the first crate engine in a hotrod in Western Canada." The green painted Pontiac crate engine came with a two-barrel manifold and no exahust, headers or starter. Mating the brand new engine to the 1948 Ford transmission turned out to be a nut to crack, but Cal Van ordered a new aluminum bell housing specially built for the conversion. in 2013 Dan told Performance Plus Magazine that the bell housing looked so good that he actually slept with it the first night.
Completed in 1958
After five long years, the build was finally completed in 1958. It was an instant sensation when the low-slung copper-coulored Pontiac V-8 powered Model A roadster pick up hit the streets of Vancouver. The beautiful Copper paint was applied by Joe Mahovolich. Joe was the in house painter at the Cadillac dealership where Dan worked. Dan and his buddies did the interrior. It didn't have door panels. It featured a 1932 Ford grille and 1930 - 1931 Ford fenders. It ran Dominion Royal Master 8.20x15 tires on the rear, and Firestone 6.70x15 tires up front. The rear tires were the tires used on Cadillacs of that era.
Passed City Inspection
An insurance was not required when the build was completed, but a city inspection was. Dan took the car to the city test station, and he remembers that after the technician drove it ontp the brake test and the car actually stopped quickly, he was so impressed by the hot rod that he gave Dan a sticker even though the car had no windshield wipers.
Dan installed two small seats facing backward in the pickup bed so he, his buddies and girlfriends could cruise to Kings Drive-in Restaurant on Kingsway, the hot rod hangout of the era. Dan's pick up would go on to win major trophies at the Vancouver Motorama and custom car shows in Seattle and Portland.
Sold to Jim Johnston
By 1961, Dan had married his long-time girlfriend Shannon Ward, and it was time to establish a family. The hot rod had to go, so Dan sold it for $908 to Jim Johnston of the Johnston Motors Chrysler dealership family. A photo of the truck from when Jim owned it was published in Car Craft September 1961, by then the truck had been pinstriped, and Jim had added a blower to the car.
Jim eventually sold the car to Danny Maxwell. After Wittenberg sold the car, life went on. He moved to Belcarra, and spent the next 45 years building a career as a construction superintendent. One day he went to Sandy Morita's body shop to have a small accident fixed on his wife's car. Morita's office was filled with photos of hot rods. Dan studied the photos until Sandy asked him if he liked old cars. Dan pulled out a faded, pitted laminated photo of the roadster pickup from his wallet that he showed Morita. Morita told Dan that he knew the car, and that Jim Woods of Sicamous was the current owner of it. Morita could also tell Dan that he repainted the car blue for current owner Danny Maxwell in the 1970s.
Dan Recreates his Old Hot Rod
In June of 2007 Dan met Danny Maxwell and Jim Woods at a British Columbia Hot Rod Association banquet in Cloverdale. In fact, six owners of Dan's old hot rod attended the event. During the event Dan became determined to buy the car back. At the time it was in pieces, and it had been apart for about 25 years. When Dan's bid failed to buy the car, a remarkable coincidence was brought to his attention by John Carlson. Previous owner Danny Maxwell had acquired another 1928 Ford Model A roadster oickup project car with intensions of building another hot rod. This didn't happen, and he was willing to sell it. After disconvering this, Dan bought the car from Danny. John Carlson then suggested that Dan should build a tribute car with a reliable modern drivetratin instead.
Dan and John Carlson designed the chassis for the recreation. It was to have a TCI frame and a So Cal stainless front end, a quick change differential and a Chevrolet ZZ4 rollerized crate motor running a 700R4 transmission. The recreation was built by Jimmy Lester and Ross Tortoiseshell at Jimmy's Rod Shop in Maple Ridge. Sandy Morita was responsible for the overall look of the recreation. The project took just 10 months to complete.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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