John F Toohey Sr. of Eugene, Oregon. John was an enthusiastic and self-taught Northwest hot rodder that began building show cars in the mid 1960s. Passing away in 1971, he had a short but productive career.
Welding and fabrication
John built a couple of hobby cars in the 1950s. "Powered by Crosley and V8 60 engines, they looked like midget racers," his son, Fred told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2020. "He took up welding after taking a night class, and started making extra money doing small jobs for people and hobby projects." In about 1963 a fellow worker of Fred wanted someone to build a frame for a hot rod, "and I recommended my dad. Before he was trough, he had built the frame, installed the running gear, mounted the body and engine and transmission. Dad fell in love with the project and was upset that the guy would not sell it to him. He got a lot of his ideas from observation and magazines, like Tex Smith's XR6 which is why he used a VW front suspension," Fred explained.
2E-"T" - John's first show car
After attending the 1964 Portland Roadster Show, John got serious about building a show car for himself. He visited the show to see a Ford Model A Roadster Pick Up that Fred had painted chartreuse Metalflake for Gene Barett. That ignited a spark, and "next year he entered a Maroon roadster with a silver top," Fred recalled. "He used a Model T body he found in a brier patch and a donor car with a big Hemi and push-button automatic." He called his first build the 2E-"T".
John was a cabinet maker by trade. After building a house for him and his wife Orva in the Eugene/Springfield area he started having angina pains which made him limit working, and he had to retire due to heart problems.
"I can do better" - The Royal T
After completing the 2E-"T", John felt he could do better, so he set out to build another show car. "The second car my dad built was a C Cab using a Dodge Red Ram mini Hemi and automatic transmission from a donor car. I painted it Green Metalflake," Fred told Kustomrama. Known and shown as the Royal T, it had a short upholstered box on the back. John returned to the Portland Roadster Show with the truck in 1966, and he also showed it at other shows around the northwest.
Third build - The Ice T
Bitten by the bug, John continued building radical hot rods. He became friends with local hot rodder Dick Schuc, who mentored John, learning him all he could about the trade. "The third car my dad built was a shortened Model T Touring body with a solid fabricated top." Known as the "Ice T," it was powered by a Pontiac V8 engine and transmission from a donor car. "The custom paint was done by Jim Carmichael, a well-known custom painter. John completed his third build about 1968."
Blue Magic - Last build
John's last, and most famous build, was a 1915 Ford Model T Touring with a solid top over the back seat, like a chauffeur-driven limo. Known as the Blue Magic, the radical build ran a hot Chevrolet 327 engine with a Hilborn fuel injection.
In 1971, John suffered a fatal heart attack, passing away at the age of 53. In the end, building cars became therapy for John's health problems. "He had to rest when the angina pains hit," Fred remembered. "He was able to do small jobs like welding at fabrication at home for people and do them at his own pace. Since Orva was a school teacher he was able to devote a lot of time to building his cars." Fred remembered his dad showing his cars around the Northwest, from Longview, Washington to Roseburg, Oregon. "His cars were all built by him, except the paint and some upholstery in his covered back porch." When Jim Matthews interviewed John about the Blue Magic for a featured story in 1001 Custom and Rod Ideas, John told him that he was an avid reader of rodding magazines, "and if he saw that some idea had been used he passed it by. His goal was to build each of his cars as unique; something no one else had."
Where are John's show rods now?
Fred Toohey is currently trying to locate his dad's old show rods. His stepmother Orva sold the Ice T and Blue Magic after John passed away. His first build, the 2E-"T" was last seen in Coos Bay, Oregon. Painted red, the Royal T C Cab was later entered in the Portland Roadster Show by the second owner. About 1971 it was spotted driven on the street in Tacoma, Washington. Sold locally, the Ice T was last seen in the late 1970s, at a show on a golf course in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Blue Magic was sold to a Californian that rented out cars to movie studios. It appeared in the Winter 1971 edition of 1001 Custom and Rod Ideas magazine, and can also be spotted in an episode of "Police Woman." Please get in touch with Kustomrama at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any info to share about the Toohey show cars.
John Toohey's hot rods
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