1982 LEADSLED Roadtrip Part 2

 

1982 LEADSLED ROADTRIP

 

In 1984 Mike Key created his famous LEADSLEDS book. It made a huge impact on me. Today, in 2016 Phil Waters makes us relive this 1984 book, with his photo collection and story.


By Rik Hoving with photos from the Phil Waters Collection

This is part TWO of the¬†Road trip to Des Moines:¬†Driving The Rebel to the KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular, 1982. If you have not read part ONE, then please read Phil’s STORY¬†first.¬†The photos in this article were taken by Phil in 1982, at the¬†KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular in Des Moines Iowa. A car show¬†this editor (Rik Hoving) know so well from the Mikey Key Leadsled book from the early 1980’s. This article is my story about the Mike Key book and how the photographer of the photos used in this article, Phil Waters lived my dream back in 1982.

In 1984 Mike Key published his LEADSLEDS Chopped and low – ’35 thru ’54 book. I bought a copy of the book¬†as soon as it came out, it was so fantastic. Filled from cover to cover with nothing but Custom Cars. I had never, ever seen anything like it before. Back in the early 1980’s I was a young guy 16-17 years old, and anything Custom Car related was nearly impossible to find in the Netherlands. So when the Mike Key book came out I was in Custom Car heaven. I have read the book at least thousand times, gone over every little detail on all the cars in the book. I had my favorite photos, like the Sam Barris Buick and the one of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford (I had no idea it was the Ayala – Barris created Jack Stewart Ford for another couple of years). And there was one photo, or a mildly customized black 1950 Mercury. Nosed, decked, lowered and custom hubcaps. Not as spectacular as many other customs in the book, but the photo caption with that Black Mercury always intrigued me.

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-33-phil-watersMike Key’s 1984 published LEADSLEDS chopped and low- ’35 thru ’54 book with on the back cover Phil driving “The Rebel” 1950 Mercury with Kathy Ashby in the passenger seat.
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Mike Key mentioned the car was owned by Kathy Ashby, but that is was driven by an English guest of Ashby. I was “jealous”… I wanted to be this guest… But besides being “jealous”, it also made me think… that if this guy from England could go over to the US and drive a 1950 Mercury…. So could I… in perhaps a couple of years. Dreams!… I often wondered about this English guest, or better said myself in that Mercury, and what I would do if we would have arrived at the ’82 Lead Sled Spectacular¬†in Des Moines, where the mercury was going when Mike Key took that photo. I know I would have brought my camera and shot hundreds of photos of all those beautiful Customs. But sadly it was not me in that Mercury, it was that unknown guest from England.

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-32-phil-watersPage 14 of the book shows Phil “the English guest” on highway 35W. Mike Key gave Phil the photos he took back in 1982.¬†
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In April 2016 Phil Waters shared a photo on his Facebook Page, a photo of a young guy in a black Mercury. I recognized the Merc and the scene immediately. Phil mentioned that it was him, as a young guy back in 1982. Ok… so Phil Waters was this unknown guest from the 1984 Mike Key book black Mercury photo. WOW…

I checked out Phil’s other photos and sure there it was an Facebook album with around 50 photos taken at the 1982 Led Sled Spectacular in Des Moines. I contacted Phil and asked him if he would perhaps be interested in sharing his photos, and his story from the amazing 1982 show, with us here on the Custom Car Chronicle. He would love to do that he wrote back. Great!


CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-19-phil-watersGrilles…
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A couple of days later Phil had scanned over 200 photos he had taken back in 1982,¬†and I could use them all he said. I was in Custom Car heaven.. looking at those photos took me back to the mid 1980’s when I looked at the Mike Key book for hours… and dreamed about being at that show… and taking¬†exactly the photos that Phil had just shared with me. It is so great that after 32 years I finally know that the English guest in the Mike Key book is Phil Waters, and that he took exactly all the photos I always dreamed of taking if I had been there.

Phil Waters, thank you so much for sharing these 1982 photo with us now. They bring back wonderful memories.


CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-20-phil-watersGreat low angle photo of a dark brown primered chopped 1950 Mercury, Donn lowe’s chopped white with burgundy and maroon scalloped 1949 Ford Coupe. Donn’s Shoebox had a huge impact on me.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-21-phil-watersYellow…. Connie Winkler’s 1939 Mercury 3-window coupe with 1940 Ford grille,¬†Jeff Johnson’s heavy chopped¬†school bus yellow ’50 Merc, and two photos of the huge hit Posies 1936 Ford convertible with white padded top.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-22-phil-watersDonnie Malinkovich¬†Ford Shoebox,¬† John Kolkovich built the sectioned Bonneville inspired red chopped and sectioned ’51 Ford and John Gowman owned the black and flamed pro-street box
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-23-phil-watersJim Wilkens finished an old sectioned project vehicle and brought it to Des Moines where it pleases the crowd. The baby blue ’54 Ford “Crystal Blue Persuasion” built by Keith Steies,¬†and bright red 1952-54 Fords show that these cars look good done mild, or wild.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-24-phil-waters“So Fine” 1950 Mercury with Pontiac grille bar and a wonderful Candy Apple Red paint job, an un-chopped nicely restyled primer gray ’50 Merc, chopped with¬†Buick headlights in the works project and Ken Meyer’s chopped 4-door Merc with red and white scallops from Kansas.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-25-phil-watersChopped in progress primered 52-54 Ford coupe project, Class of ’57 chopped Merc with unique front quarter panel extruding lake pipes. Glenn “Moose” Morion’s ’57 Ford convertible cruiser, and nicely styled black 1956 Ford Victoria.
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Deep Candy Red chopped 49 Chevy with black wall tires, which sure made it stand out at the event. Lee Pratt’s primered sedan with Buick side trim, “Wild Child” Chopped gray with maroon scalloped Coupe and a rear view of¬†George Dorr’s maroon ’48 Chevy coupe with Plymouth bumpers.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-27-phil-watersRon Channel brought his chopped with ’50 Mercury rear window ’56 Chevy from Lebanon Illinois. It looked really great with the ’56 Packard taillights. The chopped and unfinished ’57 Chevy¬†shows these years chevy’s can make very nice Customs as well.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-28-phil-watersPat Show built this chopped with ’54 Buick headlights and ’60 Chrysler tailights ’57 Chevy hard top with smaller rear window.¬†The ’59 Chevy looked like it just rolled out of the early 1960’s.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-29-phil-watersDoug Reed’s 1949 Oldsmobile in wonderful medium green with dark green and gold tipped scallops. A nicely chopped mid ’50’s Buick with a yellow chopped 1940 Ford sedan, a line up of customs and¬†Elden Titus’s 1950 Buick.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-30-phil-watersVery nicely done bright red mild restyled Hudson, chopped ’56 Pontiac Safari Station wagon in black with red and yellow flames. Very stylish chopped mid ’50’s Chevy pick-up in pale yellow and two more in progress custom pick up projects.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-31-phil-waters Super slick gloss black 1960 Chevy with yellow to red flames with reversed chrome wheels with narrow whites from Donnie Malinkovich, and later ended up in Japan. A very interesting in progress chopped 1957 Chevy custom project in brown primer. Kurt McCormick with his Sam Barris Buick in the late afternoon, and a flamed black with silver top 1950 Chevy Hard-Top.
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Go to Part ONE


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1982 Road Trip to Des Moines

 

ROAD TRIP to DES MOINES

 

In 1982 Phil Waters makes the trip from Manchester, England, to the US, to visit the Lead Sled Spectacular in Des Moines Iowa.


By Phil Waters

Driving The Rebel to the KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular, 1982.

Ever since I was a young kid I have been mad about cars. Back in the early 1960s when I was around ten years old I came across a copy of ‘Custom Cars Annual 1959’. It was in a pile of old US magazines for sale in a department store in my home city of Manchester, England. The one with Larry Watson’s panel painted ’58 Thunderbird on the cover. The magazine cost me very little money to buy and I still have it! Inside were photographs of the top custom cars of the day and a major feature on one of the guys that built such cars: Joe Bailon. I was very struck by the design and look of his wonderfully restyled cars even though the black & white photographs obviously did not show the ‘Candy Apple’ colours for which Joe is famous.

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-A55-phil-watersMy old 1958 Austin A55 chopped sedan I created. 
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Many years later, when I had started to mess around with real cars, I put together a traditionally styled roof chopped custom car based on a 1958 Austin A55 sedan. The influence of that old magazine was still strong! Then I saw a photograph in the British magazine ‘Hot Rod & Custom UK’ that showed an old Bailon built 1950 Mercury that was owned by a guy called Sterling Ashby in Minneapolis/St Paul. I decided to make contact, managed to track down a mailing address, and wrote a letter about my admiration for Bailon built custom cars.

A short time later I was delighted to receive a reply from Kathy Ashby, little did I know at the time that this would be the start of a long lasting transatlantic friendship…


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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-03-phil-watersMike Key took this photo while I was driving¬†Kathy & Sterling’s 1950 Mercury¬†“The Rebel”. The photo ended up in Mike’s famous LEADSLEDS book. Mike¬†gave me this print of the photo.
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Some time after this Hot Rod & Custom UK magazine decided to organise a visit to the Street Rod Nationals to be held in St Paul, July 1982. I must have mentioned in one of my letters to Kathy that I was considering going on this trip. I received a very quick reply inviting me to come and stay at their home, extending my visit so that we could also attend the Lead Sled Spectacular the following weekend. Not only that, but Joe Bailon was scheduled to be the guest of honour at that event!

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-02-phil-watersOn our way to¬†Des Moines, Iowa. ¬†We met up with other members of the Crusin’ Customs at our¬†breakfast stop in Albert Lea.
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And so it was that whilst all the other guys on the magazine trip were taken to their hotel for a week…I was met at the airport by Kathy & Sterling in The Rebel, a 1950 Mercury custom, and taken to their home. I was obviously quite tired and jet-lagged, but we managed to watch ‘American Grafitti’ on the VHS player that evening…a great start to two weeks of hot rod heaven!

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-16-phil-watersLead Sled Spectacular at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-04-phil-watersRick Schnell’s 1950 Mercury ex-coupe “Misty Blue”.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-05-phil-watersCecil Proffit’s silver¬†and scalloped ’51 Merc with continental kit and Truman Nelson’s red 1951 Mercury.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-06-phil-watersMercury Grilles…
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-07-phil-watersGeorge Beluscsak’s bright yellow ’50 Mercury, a nice flame and primer chopped 51 and Jim Grinlimton’s flamed, but un-chopped ’49 Merc.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-14-phil-watersTom Philpot’s ’48 Ford “Artic Gold” cloned after a ClarKaiser custom from the 1950’s and Bob Drake brought his restored Jack Stewart 1941 Ford originally built in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s by the Ayala’s and the Barris Shop.
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Our first weekend was spent at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, which is a whole other story and photograph album. Suffice to say it was fantastic! During the week that followed I was asked what I might like to do and replied that I would really love to go to a drive in-movie. We didn’t have such things back in England…there would be no point as the movies would have to have weather-appropriate titles such as ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ or ‘Rain Man’! But I digress.

So Kathy, Sterling and myself climbed into The Rebel and went to the local drive-in movie theatre, hung the speakers on the window and enjoyed cherry cokes whilst watching the newly released movie ‘E.T.’…fantastic!

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-08-phil-waters“So Fine” candy red and scallops 50 Mercury, Jeff Johnson’ hammered school bus yellow ’50 Merc showing off the engine and a mean looking perfectly chopped gray primer ’51 Merc.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-09-phil-watersThe old Barris Employee’s Frank Sonzogni’s 1950 Mercury, which was created in the early 1950’s, was brought to the event by Larry Dames.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-10-phil-watersDuane Flaherty’s orange and white with Buick Riviera side trim ’51 Merc, Ed Lepold’s white with DeSoto grille ’49 Mercury used some odd looking wheels.
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We also went to an ’emergency cruise’ one evening with the Crusin’ Customs car club, probably to make arrangements for the convoy of customs to Des Moines. Plus lots of other interesting stuff during my stay which included visits to various folks’ homes to see what they had stashed away in their garages, and an expedition to a junkyard in Fountain City Wisconsin to rummage around the vintage tin and view the yard owner’s collection of classics, muscle cars and even a Model A Ford that lived in his sitting room.

Finally the second weekend arrived and we hit the road at a very early hour, bound for Des Moines, Iowa. Myself and Kathy were in The Rebel and Sterling was in his pickup truck towing the Bailon Merc on a trailer. We met up with other members of the Crusin’ Customs and drove for a couple of hours before a breakfast stop in Albert Lea where the first of my photographs were taken. Mike Key, the British photographer had joined the convoy to cover the event for the UK magazines and at some point on the freeway came past the line of customs to get the driving shots that appear in his ‘Lead Sleds’ book. Kathy had invited me to drive The Rebel for a few freeway miles and so that was how I came to appear in Mike’s book driving the car. She has been constantly quizzed about who the driver was in the photos ever since!

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-15-phil-watersKathy and Sterling Ashby with Joe Bailon talking about the Sonny Morris Mercury Joe built in 1956. This was the first time Joe saw the car in a long time. Sterling found the car in 1973. Joe Bailon would help with the restoration a couple years later.
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We reached Des Moines in the early afternoon and went to the event headquarters hotel to register, although we weren’t staying there. Kathy had arranged for us to stay at a nearby friend’s house for the weekend…I’m not too sure about the name but it may have been Bob Butterley the pinstriper. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

Then onward to the State Fairgrounds to help unload the Bailon Merc and begin to take photographs. I even took my turn on the entry gate welcoming attendees and the like. In the evening we went back to the headquarters hotel to hang out, look at the cars in the sunset and generally have a great time. I was introduced to Pat Ganahl, a writer for whom I have a huge amount of respect having enjoyed his many thoughtful and informative hot rodding articles over the years. Another time we went to George the Chilli King’s drive-in restaurant where they had car-hops on roller skates serving food to your car just like in ‘American Grafitti’…wonderful!

I spent a lot of the time at the show wandering around taking photographs, and some of the best ones were taken when Joe Bailon was reunited with the Merc custom he originally built for Sonny Morris back in the 1950s. My pictures show him chatting with Kathy and Sterling, possibly discussing the eventual restoration of the car. There was so much to see and do, copies of old car magazines to be bought and more Mercs to look at than I’ve seen before or since! Another outstanding car was the Sam Barris Buick, and I managed to get a few shots whilst Mike Key had his professional shoot set up! Sorry Mike!

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-01-phil-watersKurt McCormick brought the Sam Barris 1950 Buick that had been freshly restored about three years prior to this event.
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At the close of the event Joe presented trophies to the winning exhibitors, and everyone present had the chance to get a signed print of his iconic Chevy custom ‘Miss Elegance’. Then the long return journey back thru’ the fading evening light in convoy once again, tired but blissfully happy!

Before my flight back home to England I decided to have all my photographs printed to avoid any possible damage en route, some 25 film cassettes in all and over 500 prints. Kathy kindly took them to a local photo store and promptly almost brought the place to a standstill with all the pictures coming through! I hope you all enjoy looking at a selection of them and maybe those of you that were also at the event will have your own great memories and stories to tell.

CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-11-phil-watersYELLOW… Ken Fenical’s Posies 40’s styled 1936 Ford, super smooth chopped ’50 Merc, Marv Englert’s chopped ’50 Chevy Coupe, and Donnie Malinkovich interesting looking darker yellow Shoebox with Caddy taillights.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-12-phil-watersMark May’s ’49 Mercury “Earth Angel” with 53 Buick side trim, Gold and maroon ¬†’50 Merc, and Roger Lund’s very nicely restyled ’49 Merc with ’55 Chevy side trim.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-18-phil-watersDave Crook’s Harry Bradley designed Firebird, ¬†George Dorr’s maroon ’48 Chevy coupe, and a wild restyled Chevy with full fade-away fenders, chopped top and canted headlights.
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CCC-82-des-moines-kkoa-13-phil-watersBright yellow stripes on heavily chopped red ’50 Merc, Jim Musgrave’s candy red ’51 Mercury, ¬† The “Green Flame” Mercury in wonderful purple with, what else green flames, ¬†Ron Dolson’s unique “Nascar themed” ’50 Merc in red with yellow to orange flames.
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Finally I cannot close this article without paying tribute to Kathy and Sterling Ashby, better known to some as ‘Mr. Merc’, for the kind hospitality freely given, their great sense of humour and fun and the enduring friendship I now have with these wonderful people as a result of all this. Special thanks also to Kathy for letting me drive The Rebel, truly a dream come true…

Go to PART TWO of the 1982 Road Trip to Des Moines.



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