Building and fabricating play important roles in the custom-car hobby, but it's hard to beat the smiles that arise when owners use their machines to travel somewhere new.
Readers of this Classic Recollections column may remember our profile of famed suspension fabricator Gary Heidt. At the time, Heidt was still in the assembly phase with his 1932 Ford Roadster, which hadn't seen any real-world road time. That all changed once the project was completed last summer.
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Over many years of working in the industry, the Rolling Meadows resident accumulated and saved the needed parts to build this special car. "As it finally came together, I realized I could fulfill my dream of driving to the Bonneville Salt Flats," he said.
The salt flats in Utah are "the fastest racetrack in the world where all the great land speed records are set. I always wanted to experience it firsthand."
Before embarking on the cross-country trip, Heidt set out on a more moderate maiden voyage to ensure his roadster was ready. In August he drove to the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Ky. His initial plan was to head straight to Utah on a solo cruise but another opportunity presented itself.
"In September, a large group left San Francisco, Calif., bound for the Good Guys street rod show in Indianapolis," Heidt said. "They were celebrating the 80th anniversary of the '32 Ford and had assembled a caravan of nearly 100 examples that participated in the drive."
To make their scheduled departure date, Heidt transported his vehicle out to California and arrived just in time to leave with the group to return back East.
Over the next nine days, Heidt logged 2,500 miles in his custom Ford, traversing through nine states. One of the special stops for the caravan, and Heidt, was in Bonneville.
Despite being at his dream location, he had qualms about his sparkling dream machine and the potentially corrosive salt residue.
He drove down the paved access road and pulled onto the edge of the famous salt bed to snap a few pictures. Feeling satisfied, he turned to exit but couldn't shake a nagging thought.
"I realized I had waited all these years to drive here and this was something I need to do," he said. Heidt pulled a U-turn and ventured out onto the salt toward the pit lanes of the historic racing venue. He even opted to leave with a special souvenir.
"Pulling away I noticed a heavy coating of salt spray on the side of the car. While most would rush to remove it, I decided to leave it on. The rest of the guys called it a badge of honor."
Rain a few days later in Lincoln, Neb., washed it away but the downpour couldn't remove his feeling of accomplishment. After carving up Colorado mountains and desert vistas with the hot rod bunch, Heidt and his roadster ended the trip back home in the Midwest.
"The car performed better than I hoped it would turn out. To spend a week on the road with some old California hot rod guys and visit Bonneville was a dream come true."