Passion and zest for life is all about goals and influences and living life to the max. With that we all have our heroes who we look up to or are influenced by. For me growing up in the world of hot rodding a whole world away from where it all began in the USA I had my share of influences locally in New Zealand but also internationally. One of those guys I looked up to was the late Gray Baskerville who was a writer and photographer for the American Hot Rod magazine.
Sadly, Gray passed away 20 years ago with cancer so I never met the man, but I felt like I knew him from his words and Hot Rod and Rod and Custom magazines. During his tenure at Petersen Publishing/Primedia - from 1966 to 1981 the 1932 Ford roadster you see here was Gray’s only form of transport. He believed that hot rods should be driven and enjoyed and he did just that practicing what he preached.
His readers from all over the world were inspired by his fun with cars attitude and also inspired by his fantastic roadster. Built by his friend Paul Horning in 1957 in Southern California, this roadster clocked over 250,000 miles during Gray’s ownership. It is one of the very few surviving continuously driven hot rods from the 50s.
Current caretaker Jim Shelton from Las Vegas purchased the car from Gray‘s family after his passing. Jim, together with his son Chris have been the perfect caretakers for this icon of hot rodding. In fact, over 20 years ago Jim built a roadster very similar but maroon in colour to pay tribute to Gray’s roadster. Gray‘s last request was it the car to be driven and enjoyed just as he had for his 36 years of ownership as he didn’t want it to be over restored and end up in a collection or a museum not to be used or seen ever again.
Together Jim and his son Chris have done just that. Paying tribute to Gray and the car and their place in the hot rod world, the Sheltons have continued to drive the car all over the country to many events and numerous road trips across the USA. Just as Gray wished.
Gray and this car have been strong influences to my hot rod and writing interest and personally I consider this car to be my favourite full fendered 1932 Ford roadster. So, when Jim turned up to the recent Shifters 30th anniversary show in Primm, Nevada it was a real treat to see the car. Jim has visited New Zealand before and it was great to catch up with him and talk about life and the world and of course hot rodding.
At the end of the day, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather when Jim said “Hey do you want to drive this back to the motel?” I really couldn’t contain my excitement. I slid behind the wheel and sat down into the comfy bench seat and looked through the same windscreen that the late Gray Baskerville did. What a moment.
The little small block Chevy engine fired straight up with a nice idle and everything felt so good I quickly understood why this car was driven so much. Comfortable and very easy to drive and those are two key ingredients to having a driver. The car felt so smooth so easy to navigate and it would’ve been so easy to turn left onto the freeway and just drive on into the night.
I can’t thank Jim enough for that opportunity something I never ever envisaged happening. May Grays memory live on forever and as long as the Shelton‘s around we will never forget the man or the car. To show you how inspirational the car and Gray were, the American Hotrod Magazine recently selected this car to be the cover of the 75th anniversary issue which debuted at the SEMA show in Las Vegas in November. How cool is that?