Saturday, October 29, 2016

Junkyard Emergency: 1934 Ford Tudor race car found in woods, rescued

1934 Ford Tudor sedan was a local Birmingham, Alabama race car in the 1940s and 1950s.

Deep woods dig for 1934 Ford. I found a ’34 Ford Tudor sedan race car stashed deep in the woods of Alabama. Weathered lettering spells out “JACK MASSEY ‘THE DUKE’ of the SPEEDWAY” across the roof. The number on the door, J-2, has almost been erased by time. This piece of auto racing history deserved to be rescued. The Junkyard Life crew jumped into action. Follow us, just make sure you’re current on tetanus shots, have mosquito repellent, and snake bite proof boots.

Keith Lively built a monster Jeep, just what was needed to haul an old 1934 Ford out of the deep woods.
Keith Lively’s home built “Money Burner” Jeep is more than capable of pulling a vintage 1934 Ford race car out of the woods.

Why was I in the woods?
  Travis Brown, friend, fireman, and Ford loyalist, remembered stumbling upon some old cars while searching for a missing elderly man in the woods one night. After some prodding and permission to look, we arranged to check out the long-forgotten stash of old cars. It was sometime in 2012, when Brown took me down a wooded hillside (we call it a “holler” in the south), to find a 1934 Ford Tudor, 1951 Ford Victoria, and a mangled VW bug. A flat head V8 engine and various car parts and scrap metal were found all around. How long had they been down in those woods? I could only guess… 40 years, maybe longer?

Jack Massey of Locust Fork, Alabama is in the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame.
Built by the greatest generation and still surviving after 40+ years in the woods.

Who owned the race car?
  L.Z. Strickland or “Strick”, once owned the property near the 4-way intersection known as Crosston. That land is where Strickland unloaded a ’34 Ford that he had wrenched on with the Massey brothers from Locust Fork, Alabama. It’s possible that Strickland may have swapped the engine over to a newer body and wound up with the old ’34 race car shell.
  “L.Z. lived in Tarrant but had his summer place out in the country for planting a garden. Had plans to move out there when he retired,” Patricia Rawlinson said. Rawlinson was married to Strickland’s son, Larry. “He kept up a little garage and always had some cars to work on.” 
   The elder Strickland never got to move to the country. In 1977, at 61 years old, and less than eight months from retirement, Strickland was crushed to death while working at U.S. Pipe. His cars and tools sat untouched for decades. The cars at his summer place out in the country forgotten.

L.Z. Strickland move these cars onto his property many years before his death in 1977.
1934 Ford and 1951 Ford Victoria sat at the bottom of a holler in the woods of Alabama for more than 40 years. This is how they looked when I first saw them in 2011.

OK’d to rescue the car
  L.Z.’s daughter-in-law gave me permission to rescue the ’34. It took me 5 years to connect with her and get written consent. The 11-acre property where the car sat never changed hands from the original family. A portion of the land has been rented for many years but the car remained out of sight and hard to spot.
  Note: Always get permission to hunt for junk on someone else’s property. 

Moving the 1934 Ford was a challenge because of all the trees.
Moving the 1934 Ford Tudor was a challenge because of all the trees, roots, and difficulty moving a vehicle without wheels and a rear axle.

Trapped by time, tree roots
  The old race car, lacking wheels and a rear end, had sunk into the earth and was losing a battle with nature. Several feet of tree roots grew along and into the rear frame rails. I dug around and under the body for many hours over the course of several sweltering summer months. When I reached the point where I could saw through the tree’s roots, the junked jalopy was finally free. 
  Next obstacle? Moving it. I cut the surrounding trees down and jacked the car up and sat it on blocks. My dad, Joe, and I managed to slide it several feet using metal rails, blocks, and a chain and come-along. The railroad track method was effective but was going to take forever, unless I could get a car trailer down into the woods. The nearest navigable path was 300 yards away from the car. 

Slow, safe method of moving an 82-year-old car.
My dad, Joe Potter, works the steel tracks into place as we devise a plan to move the 1934 Ford. He was quick to produce a McGyver-like plan using the available resources.

Time to call the a recovery team!
  I gathered the Junkyard Life crew, starting with Ron Kidd and Keith Lively. These guys are always up for automotive adventure at the drop of a hat. Keith rescued a 1969 Olds Cutlass S convertible from the scrapyard just before it hit the crusher and Ron
is drawn to cars like a kid to a lost puppy. He can’t say, “No!” 
  We needed to get the car out, sooner rather than later!

The “Money Burner” Jeep that Keith Lively built is the ultimate junkyard rescue vehicle.
“Money Burner” is the ultimate junkyard rescue vehicle. LS 6.0 liter power, 1-ton axles, dual winches, onboard air compressor and welding capabilities.

Money Burner

  Keith Lively, instigator of automotive mayhem, was the man for the job. Lively built a monster Jeep known as “Money Burner” that has a 6.0 liter LS engine, 43-inch tires, and a winch among its recovery tools. It has a TJ front clip on a YJ rear which was extended into a 4-door by stretching frame.
  After two days of chainsaw work, clearing somewhat of a path down into the holler. Lively and “Money Burner” navigated the steep hills, trees, stumps, and other obstacles, such as the discarded flat head Ford V8s in the leaves with ease. 
  “The hill doesn’t look steep but trust me it was hard to walk up and down,” said Lively. “The large amount of pine straw made the Jeep slide when I used the brakes.” 
  Ron Kidd and I assisted on the recovery by using a massive pulley and the winch. We were able to fish the ’34 Ford between trees. The process required pulling from a dozen different angles and directions. Lively cinched the ’34’s frame up in the air and dragged the vintage racer to freedom. 

Jody Potter and Ron Kidd steered the 1934 Ford while the Jeep and Keith pulled using a winch.
Jody Potter and Ron Kidd steer the 1934 Ford clear of trees while Keith pulled using a winch on the Jeep.

Ron Kidd and the 1934 Ford look small next to Lively’s Jeep.
Ron Kidd and the 1934 Ford look small next to Lively’s Jeep.

Massey raced in the late-40s and 1950s in Alabama. He is in the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers HoF.
The inset photo shows cars on the Iron Bowl track in the late 1940s. One of the tracks from the time period that Massey’s 1934 Ford raced.

Who raced the car?
  Jack Massey, whose name is on the roof, was the wheel man on the ’34 Tudor. Jack and his brothers, Sam and Joe, also raced during the late-1940s through the 1950s. All three brothers, from Locust Fork, Alabama, were inducted into the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame several years ago. 
  “J-2 was Jack’s number and my husband, Joe, always drove the J-1 number,” Anne Massey said. “We got married in 1952. I never went to the races, but they raced at the Fairgrounds (B.I.R.) in Birmingham on Sundays, the Iron Bowl, Crystal Springs, and in Tennessee sometimes.” 
  Anne wouldn’t commit as to who was the best driver out of the three brothers. “They raced for the fun of it,” she said with a laugh.

Jack Massey always ran the J-2 number when he raced.
Jack Massey always ran the J-2 number when he raced. He raced for several years in the Alabama region.

Racing Pioneers disappear
  The tough-as-nails men that raced the dirt tracks in daredevil jalopies have disappeared. Jack was killed in an auto accident while driving an 18-wheeler in Florida in 1988. Sam succumbed to cancer in the 1990s. Joe operated a wrecker company and died in 2010.
  The history of Alabama auto racing is rich and many stories are left untold. This car is a testament to the racing community. Thousands of race car drivers, and mechanics were born in the Birmingham, Alabama area. Hopefully this car can shine a light on those stories so they are not forgotten.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Read moreRebuilding the 1934 Ford race car found in the woods, Part I

The recovery trip lasted until past dark. The 1934 Ford race car saga continues.
Junkyard Life recovery team, Jody Potter, Ron Kidd, and Keith Lively. The recovery trip lasted until past dark. The 1934 Ford race car saga continues. Stay tuned.

Safety equipment, such as this roll bar, was crude but necessary. The 1934 Ford was still being built with wood inside the body shell for support.

Dash in the 1934 Ford Tudor race car.

Inside the forgotten ’34 Ford round tracker.

Tape still on the steering wheel of the 1934 Ford race car that has been sitting in the woods for more than 4 decades.

Long process to acquire the car but worth it to save a piece of history.
1934 Ford as I first saw it almost 5 years ago. It was a long process to acquire the car but worth it to save a piece of history.

Read moreRebuilding the 1934 Ford race car found in the woods, Part I

Know details about this old race car? Have a find of your own?  Send us the word and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at