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Early Custom Cars

April 23, 2014

Dale Runyon part one

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Written by: Tom Nielsen
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DALE RUNYON PART ONE

 

Dale Runyon, a young car guy from Everett, Washington. A pioneer in hot rodding and customizing in the mid-late 1940’s. A story by Tom Nielsen.

 
 

In the beginning:

By the end of WWII the California hot rod craze was moving up the West coast to the larger metropolitan areas of Portland and Seattle. While in its infancy, some young car fans began customizing their everyday drivers and a few creative hot rodders built roadsters out of cast off parts.

In 1945-6 there were a couple speed shops in Seattle and Portland that sold hop-up parts and were involved in racing track roadsters. But for the most part the young car guys had to be resourceful in building a custom or hot rod. They worked on their cars themselves and developed a network of friends who shared ideas and helped each other.

One of these aspiring, ambitious, young car guys was Dale Runyon from Everett, Washington. Everett is about thirty miles north of Seattle where the Boeing 787 Dreamliners are built today. In the forties it was a mill town with a small group of car fans that were pioneers in the area of modifying cars for more performance and better looks.

On the North end of Seattle the Aurora Speedway was located near an amusement park called Playland. The car races there attracted many of the early hot rodders as both spectators and participants. The racing roadsters were one of the main motivating forces in the beginning stages of the hot rod movement in the Pacific Northwest.

Dale told me that he didn’t belong to a car club because there weren’t any clubs to join in the 1940’s. But he and his friends would attend the races at the Seattle track where other cars guys would congregate and show off their customized cars. This was also the time before any custom car shows were being put on in Seattle and before Hot Rod magazine made its debut.

In the forties when he got his driver’s license Dale was working at his parent’s grocery store in South Everett. An ambitious, young, car crazy kid made a promise to his mom that if he got a car he wouldn’t smoke or drink. However, he found himself way too busy and broke to take up those “bad habits” anyway. Everett’s young Dale Runyon was spending all his money and leisure time building hot rods and customs.

Newer used cars were hard to come by at that time because of the huge post war demand for cars. Production of automobiles in the US had stopped from 1942 through 1945.
This didn’t deter Dale though and he was always busy fixing up Fords and Mercs. When he sold them he never seemed to have a problem finding his next project. In fact, he built two full custom convertibles that were relatively new cars at the time he began working on them. All this car activity happened between 1945 to 1949.
 
 

Dale’s cars:

The following cars were built and owned by Dale Runyon

1929 Model A highboy roadster: This was his first hot rod and showed Dale’s creativity and talent for hot rodding and customizing. The highboy roadster had a McCollough supercharged V8 flathead. The hot rod roadster was a fast car for its time. Dale built this car from scratch with parts from several junked cars. In the mid 1940’s his hot rod must have attracted lots of attention on the streets of Everett. The fast little roadster was fun to drive but it also got him into trouble with the local police department. Dale told me that he received so many speeding tickets with his roadster, that he finally decided it was wise to sell it.
 
CCC-dale-runyan-custombuilder-03Dale’s ’29 Ford roadster with him at the wheel and ready to “hit the road”. Note the supercharger on the flathead V8.

 

 
 

1936 Ford three window coupe: A very clean, mild custom with skirts and a nice black lacquer paint job. The single bar flipper hubcaps, blackwall tires and single Appleton spotlight pointed rearward are typical trends of the mid 40’s era when he modified his ‘36. You can get a sense of the detail and quality that Dale put into his custom cars by looking at this Ford coupe.
I am not sure what happened to the ’36, but I suspect that it was looking so good that some other young car guy persuaded Dale to part with it. This pattern would repeat itself with his other cars.
 

CCC-dale-runyan-custombuilder-04Dale polishes his sharp looking 1936 three-window coupe.

 

 
 
The 1934 Ford three-window:  This car had all the right modifications and a “hot” motor as well.
1934 Ford three window coupe: Solid hood sides, fender skirts, lowered and a chopped top. This car may have come from California originally where it was chopped. However, Dale improved it quite a bit while he owned it. His ’34 coupe had a “hot” flathead V8 in it and Dale would routinely replace broken parts. When he owned this car he also had a ’34 four door that he used for transportation. His friends would often come by to hang out and lend a hand on his latest project. One of them told me how they bought and changed an engine in the ’36 Ford all in one day at a local Arlington wrecking yard.
 

CCC-dale-runyan-custombuilder-05You can see in this picture that the rear end was out and he was fixing it. 

 

 
 

CCC-dale-runyan-custombuilder-06This picture shows Dale’s 1934 Ford at the family grocery store. His friends would often come by to hang out and lend a hand on his latest project.

 

 
 

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End of Part one, continue to read about Dale Runyon in Part Two of Tom Nielsen’s story.
 

 

 
 
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(this article is made possible by)

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About the Author

Profile photo of Tom Nielsen
Tom Nielsen
Tom Nielsen is a long time Custom Car fan with wonderful collection of photos of 1940's to 1960's custom cars. He loves to share his collection and to tell stories about them.




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One Comment


  1. Profile photo of Justin Kudolla

    It’s nice to see someone other than the “big names” spotlighted too. Thanks for doing the article, Tom. I’m looking forward to the next installment!



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