Saturday, February 3, 2018

Rebuilding the 1934 Ford race car found in the woods, Part I

Joe Massey poses with car.

Holding onto history. Hunting down the owner of a 1934 Ford, found in the woods can be tricky. It took me five years to locate the owner of the property and convince them that I could, and should remove the "junk" car with the name ‘MASSEY’ painted on the roof. That was just half the battle. After fighting trees, a three-legged dog, and a small mountain, the car was finally mine. A few months later it would be gone, but that’s not a bad thing. The battered old Ford is now back in the hands of a man who plans on restoring the car to its round track glory days. Mike Massey, the son of one of the car’s trio of former drivers, is well on his way to reviving the ’34 Ford found in the woods.

Joe, Sam, and Jack Massey raced cars in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
1934 Ford race car shows more than a few battle scars after decades in the woods. 

Massey Auto Parts
  After tracking a link to a possible former owner, I decided to contact Massey Auto Parts in Locust Fork, Alabama. The lady on the phone gasped when I told her I had found an old race car with the name Massey on the roof. 
  “Mike you’re gonna want to take this call,” she said. 
  Mike Massey, 68, is the son of Sam Massey, one of the Massey brothers trio who took turns wheeling the 1934 Ford "J-2" race car around dirt bullrings in the Deep South during the 1950s. It wasn’t long before the pieces came together. 
  I relayed my story. It was a jaw-dropper to them, because the family believed all the old Massey race cars were dead and gone. This one had slipped through the cracks or the trees, as it were. 

Joe, Sam, and Jack Massey took turns racing the ’34 Ford in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Sam’s name is visible over passenger side door, Jack’s name over the driver’s door.

Quick trip
  The three Massey brothers, Jack, Sam, and Joe, are members of the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame. The extended Massey family, all aware of the historical significance and sentimental value of the ’34, wanted to see Mike get the car back. 
  It didn’t take long to decide that I couldn’t keep a piece of history from a family who wanted to restore it. I was happy to play a small part, and let it go back to the rightful ownership.

Mike Massey check out the work done to reinforce the body.

Steel body transformation
  To say the ’34 Ford needed help is an understatement. Massey found a $250 replacement frame, courtesy of his friend Bobby Varnon, to start the rebuild of the race car. Major metal work was needed to stabilize and strengthen the rusty shell on top of the new, sturdier frame. 
  Massey contacted Road Rage Hot Rod Restorations, located in Blount County, Alabama, who specialize in rat rods. The owner, Kendall W., is an expert in crafting something good out of something bad. Kendall reinforced the doors and body shell with electrical conduit. A new firewall, roof skin, and grafting a 1935 Ford center-section to the back panel of the body went along with the tons of patchwork that was needed. A new roll bar was also welded in place. 
  Road Rage worked on the car off-and-on over the course of six months as Massey’s funds allowed. An acid treatment was applied before the ’34 was sent off to the body shop for paint. 

Restoring the ’34 as it was raced in the 1950s. Note the push bar.

Paint, future plans

  Smoothing out the bumps and bruises on the ’34’s body was not a high priority. Massey wants to maintain the original, rugged looks of the round tracker. He plans to have it painted the same colors it ran in the 1950s. All black paint and lettered with "SAM MASSEY ‘THE DUKE’ of the SPEEDWAY” across the roof. Period-correct seat, wheels, and powertrain are in the works. I can almost hear the sweet sound of a flathead V8. 
  Never thought this old race car would be gone this fast. Stay tuned to Junkyard Life for updates.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life 

Sam Massey, Mike Massey’s dad, holds a victory trophy in 1950s.

Before photo of the rotted firewall and flimsy sheetmetal. The body shell survived being hauled out of the "holler," barely.

Bracing and electrical conduit reinforces the body around the perimeter. 

A roll bar and sturdier frame were the basis to build the ’34. Doors have new metal and bracing.

Shiny new sheetmetal firewall.

Another shot to compare the "before" beauty, patina, or rot.

New 1935 center rear window section used to replace back window.

This is what it looked like before the new metal work.

After shot of rear metal fabrication.

Lines of the ’34 were blended into the single ridge ’35 model Ford.

Mike Massey looks over the progress on his dad’s old race car.

Daredevil is not a strong enough word for the drivers who braved tracks using angle iron for roll bars.

She looks almost ready to roll from this angle.

Know details about an 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 and Ron Kidd at

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