Ron Cherry: Back to gearheading with a ‘38 Chevy
There are hot rodders who have had their rods since they were teenagers. Others have always had a different project in the garage. Then there are others who were hot rodders in their youth, but take a long break before returning to those roots. Ron Bost is one of those.
“I’ve been a gearhead all my life,” he said.
When he was 18 years old, he owned a ‘58 Chevy with a 348 cubic inch tri-power engine and a 4-speed trans. His brother owned a body shop and Ron made it into a mild modified, stripping off the chrome and filling in all the holes before painting it root beer brown.
“I bent up all the molding and threw it in the trash can,” Ron said. “Those parts would be worth thousands now.”
He used to cruise Sacramento with his Chevy.
“I lived American Graffiti,” Ron said. “We used to cruise and drag race. It was fun.”
But when he was drafted in ’66 and sent to ’Nam, he sold the car. Although he continued working with his hands in mechanics and machining when he returned, he did not get back into hot rods. At least not for a few decades.
In 1995, Ron had moved up to the foothills and found out about a stock ’38 Chevy 2-door sedan a co-worker owned. Another co-worker had owned it for twenty years, but just stored it in his garage.
Seizing the opportunity
When the present owner acquired it, he put it on a pallet and left it outside for eight more years without doing anything on it. As the saying goes, Ron saw the Chevy’s potential and bought it. The car sat in Ron’s garage for another five years before he got started on it.
Then Ron’s friend of 52 years and a hot rodder, the late Bob Barton, told him “Let’s do it,” and the journey began.
Doing most of the work all by himself in a 1 1/2 car garage and paying for it as he went, it was a slow process. He started by taking the body off the frame.
“I found lots of rust,” Ron said. Having sat in the weather for many years, the entire bottom 12 inches of the car was rusted away, fenders, quarter panels, running boards, doors and even part of the floor pan. All of these Ron repaired with new metal.
He added 2 inches in width to the fenders and running boards to handle a ’72 Nova front suspension and steering that he installed. He hand-made a 2 inch setback for the firewall to accommodate a modern V-8 engine.
He also extended the drip rail down to the body line and eliminated the wind wings for a smoother look. Then he prepped it for paint.
“I spent nine weeks on it,” Ron said. “I primered it, then block sanded it. Then I’d primer it and block sand it again. I did it a couple dozen times.”
When he finally painted the Chevy, he started with two coats of florescent orange, followed by eight coats of Mandarin orange, sealed with three coats of clear. Around the side windows, he used metallic Ford-wheel grey.
For the rearend, Ron used a Ford 9 inch with a Chris Alston four-bar coil-over-shock suspension, using four-wheel power disc brakes. Then came the running gear.
“My friend Bob said to me, ‘If you’re going to sell it, go with a small block. If you’re going to keep it, go with a big block,’” Ron said. “My wife, Toni, said, ‘If you want a big block, go for it.’ After her saying that, I went with a big block.”
Since he had originally planned on a small block, it took some serious modifications to take the heftier engine, a 502 cubic inch, 510 horse power crate engine with a “kitted” Turbo 400 trans.
Since he wanted to use Sanderson full-length headers, Ron custom machined motor mounts that attached to the front of the engine like the early Corvettes uses. He was working at Litton Engineering Labs at the time and they allowed him to use their equipment after working hours.
“A special thanks to the Litton family for letting me use the machine shop,” Ron said. “Most of my hot rod parts were made after hours.”
He then hand built a 3-inch exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers.
Inside, Ron installed Dolphin electronic gauges, a B&M Quicksilver ratchet shifter and ididit tilt steering. For comfort, he opted for 6-way seats from a ’96 Cougar and had Premier of Sacramento wrap everything in two-tone grey leather.
Finally, he installed Vintage Air air conditioning and a Pioneer AM/FM/CD sound system with a power amp. Since Ron removed the door handles, he set up the electric door latches, windows, trunk release and horn alarm with a remote control. Pretty trick.
Hard work paid off
Ron finished his Chevy in time for the 2010 Roamin Angels “Cruisin’ the Pines” Car Show, where it won the President’s Trophy and the NSRA Safety Award. It had been a long journey.
“I’m pretty meticulous,” Ron said. “I was making a driver, but did a lot more. I went a little crazy.”
Although he did most of the work on the car alone, his late friend, Bob Barton, did some help on assembly and another friend, Bob Comstock, did the wiring and 90 percent of the 4-bar suspension installation. Ron’s very happy with the result.
“I just hop in and turn the key and it fires right up,” he said. “I try to keep my foot out of it, though. It spins the tires pretty easy.”
It’s a street rod any gearhead would be proud to have built.
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, remarkably similar to Nevada City, will be out before Christmas. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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