Bob "Li'l Axle" Stewart was born into the life of hot rodding in 1934. He was the son of Ed and Tilly Stewart, and grew up in San Diego, California. Bob's father Ed, nicknamed Axle, was by training a machinist and heat-treat specialist, but became a committed hot rod builder. In the late 1930s, Ed started caravanning out to Muroc in the Mojave Desert with other San Diego and LA hot rodders to run cars through time traps on the dry lakes. Ed got involved with the Southern California Timing Association, and in 1941 he became a founding member of the San Diego Roadster Club, along with Johnny Vesco, Bozzy Willis, and J. Otto Crocker.
While Bob was in his early teens, his father Ed started up a speed shop called Stewart Speed Automotive in their garage in Suncrest, about 30 miles from San Diego. Ed collaborated with Abe Kobeck at Rogers Auto Carriage to learn how to make 1932 Ford dropped axles by the drop hammer method, which made them tougher than taffy-pulled axles. The modified axle lowered the stance of the desert racers for less wind resistance and faster times and became a signature hot rod part known as the Dago Axle after the locale of San Diego.
During WWII, Ed and his friends were making their runs on the salt flats at El Mirage and Ed raced his 1929 Ford Model A with a V-8 flathead. Then he started building a 1932 Ford highboy with a low-stance Dago axle. In 1945, young Bob, only 11 years old, turned a 98-mph time in the deuce at El Mirage! That same car would become the famous Stewart Roadster in the 1990s, owned by the Stewart family for 63 years.
In the early 1950s, the father-son Stewart speed shop was moved to San Diego. Young Bob became expert at boring, honing, port-and-polish work, and made deliveries of the Dago Axle and other speed parts to Los Angeles. His customers nicknamed him Li’l Axle after his well-known father. Bob was also a member of the San Diego Prowlers car club.
Bob Li’l Axle has three kids: Cindy Lou, Bob Jr., and Ed. Bob Jr. is a hot rodder too and he and his dad finished the Stewart Roadster in 1989. Bob’s life history and the car were featured in American Rodder Magazine October 1997. The Stewart Roadster was sold in 2006 to a private museum in South San Francisco where it is in good company with 17 Dearborn cars and some Barris customs.
Bob lived in Grants Pass, Oregon, with his smart and energetic wife Kathi, his number one supporter. Their house and garage was like a mini hot rod museum. Their prized hot rod, a collaborative project with son Bob Jr., is a 1950 Mercury. Bob passed away in June of 2019.
Bob Stewart's Cars
Bob Stewart's 1932 Ford Victoria
Bob Stewart's 1940 Ford Pickup
Bob Stewart's 1941 Mercury
Bob Stewart's 1950 Mercury
Did you enjoy this article?
Kustomrama is an encyclopedia dedicated to preserve, share and protect traditional hot rod and custom car history from all over the world.
- Help us keep history alive. For as little as 2.99 USD a month you can become a monthly supporter. Click here to learn more.
- Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive regular updates and stories from Kustomrama.
- Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Click here to forward it.
Can you help us make this article better?
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional information or photos to share about Bob Stewart.
This article was made possible by:
SunTec Auto Glass - Auto Glass Services on Vintage and Classic Cars
Finding a replacement windshield, back or side glass can be a difficult task when restoring your vintage or custom classic car. It doesn't have to be though now with auto glass specialist companies like www.suntecautoglass.com. They can source OEM or OEM-equivalent glass for older makes/models; which will ensure a proper fit every time. Check them out for more details!
Do you want to see your company here? Click here for more info about how you can advertise your business on Kustomrama.