More Calgary Hot Rod History

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Further to the post about Calgary’s early hot rod scene, with thanks to Dave Meyer for that history, a few more details have emerged.

Ian Morrison of Vancouver had some information to share about the late 1950s and a certain Calgary car club called Road Knights Kustoms.

Beginning in 1957, a group of high school and working friends got together to form Road Knights Kustoms. According to Morrison, the club flourished thanks to eager participation from several members — and the focus was on hot rods and custom cars. But the club also promoted charity events, blood donor clinics, social events including dances and parties, road runs, touch football matches and car shows.

The Road Knights club was one of the first to host a car show in Calgary. They used a livestock pavilion at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede grounds, and were able to attract custom cars from Alberta and the United States. Morrison said seed funds (to facilitate the rental of the pavilion and to pay for advertising) was raised by hosting dance nights at a city community hall at Fifth Avenue and Eleventh Street. The band was Keith Hitchner and the Be-Bops, featuring Glenn Grice on drums.

All photos here are courtesy of Ian Morrison.

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Typical with most car clubs of the era, the Road Knights Kustoms were eager to lend a hand whenever needed, and help dispel the myth that car customizers were hooligans!

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This 1933 Chevrolet was Ian Morrison’s first car, which he purchased for $17.

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Morrison’s second car was this 1952 Chevrolet 210. “The first thing any of us ever did when we got a new car was install lowering blocks in the rear,” he recalled. He lowered the Chevy, and also added twin carburetors to the inline-six cylinder engine.

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Eventually, the Chevy was further modified with different taillights, and painted a light purple. A favourite spot to shoot Road Knight club cars was the parking lot at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, or more simply back then, Tech. The original SAIT building can be seen in the background, it’s now hidden by much more modern buildings and is called ‘Heritage Hall’.

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Photo below marked ‘Glen Smith’s car — Calgary’. This was a 1932 Ford roadster, and the image was taken at one of Calgary’s earliest hot rod shows, hosted by the Road Knights. There will be a news clipping about this a little later. The show preceded the World of Wheels.

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Simply marked ‘Lethbridge car’.

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… and again, simply marked ‘Glenn Richardson — Lethbridge’. This is a full custom 1951 Chevy coupe.

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… ‘Edmonton T’.

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…’Clark Lamont’s Custom Ford’.

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… the promised clipping from an undated Calgary Herald.

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…’Al’s 1941 Chevy’. This was Road Knight’s member Albert Van Wyk’s customzied Chevrolet coupe. Love the Continental kit and the fender skirts.

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…’Barry Kyle’s 55 Chevy, Yogi Bear.” Morrison remembers this car as being the fastest ‘stock’ car on the strip.

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…’Norm’s Merc’. This was Road Knight’s member Norm Gossett’s four-door Mercury custom.

ROAD_KNIGHTS_CAR2_0001…the following photos are all marked ‘Saskatoon’, where the Road Knights visited a car show and Morrison snapped these images.

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… the car above is a late 1950s MGA. It was won new in a raffle, and the winner went ahead and hot rodded it with a V-8 engine and custom paint job. The photo below is the last in the ‘Saskatoon’ series.

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…below, another car shot in front of the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. It’s marked ‘Phil Post Model A/Chev, Calgary 1970.’

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…and finally, the Road Knights Car Club official crest, as it would have been sewn to the back of club jackets.

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Calgary hot rod history

A little bit of Calgary, Alberta hot rod history to share. One of the greatest names in drag racing came from a humble north hill neighbourhood — and Dale Armstrong went on to build and tune some fast engines. Read my column at driving.ca.

In researching the story, I met with Dave Meyer. He shared some of his memorabilia from the era of go-fast cars in Calgary circa 1958 to 1963. Enjoy.

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Cards from the various car clubs and specialists that populated Calgary.  More to follow.

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DAVE_MEYER_RODS_5aNo comment necessary here. Good looking car …

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…and finally, a scene from a Calgary back alley. Does anybody recognize these rebels? Dave Meyer would like to know who they are.

Red Devil Rods and Custom Paint profile with George Bordas

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section 25 March 2011. Photos courtesy Red Devil Rods.

George Bordas was 17 in 1985 when he started working at Carline Muffler in Calgary’s Forest Lawn.

The job was a life altering experience, and it set him on a different path than what he had intended.

His parents wanted him to be a pharmacist, and he had plans to study medicine. From medicine to metal, some 25 years later, Bordas is the man behind Red Devil Rods and Custom Paint, Calgary’s newest fabrication and paint shop.

And he has his friend Marty Robertson to thank. In 1985, Robertson was an employee at the Carline Muffler location. After Bordas was given a tour of the shop he was quite literally written an uncommon prescription.

“Marty was into rods and cars, and I wasn’t a gearhead at all,” Bordas said. “But when Marty showed me the underside of a hotrod on the lift, I could see the (car’s) frame and then picture in my mind how all of the custom bent exhaust tubes would have to come together. I went over to the tubing bender, and went at it.”

Soon after, Bordas was working at Carline Muffler — his first paying job out of high school — and he learned to weld and to work on engines. To further his automotive apprenticeship, Bordas moved to Winnipeg where he approached the owner of a local hotrod shop. He was told that the shop wasn’t hiring, but his spark of enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed, and he was soon employed.

Bordas paid his dues in this Winnipeg shop, spending two years cutting and welding nothing but custom frames, and then another two years fabricating replacement fenders and quarter panels from sheets of steel.

“I used to draw a lot,” Bordas said of the next step in his education. “And I wanted to see if I could paint like I could draw, so I bought a $20 airbrush kit.”

He did a few samples of airbrush art, and showed them to his boss, who was suitably impressed. Bordas was then taken into the spray booth, and asked to paint a fender and a door.

1941 Willys project.

“I’d never done prep for painting before, but I got it together and painted it perfectly, and from then on was doing body work and paint jobs,” Bordas said. He became known for custom blending one-off paint colours, and for the quality of his finished products.

In 2009, because he loved the mountains, Bordas moved to Invermere, B.C. Simply looking for something to do in his new hometown Bordas began working on a 1949 Mercury, and this led to similar jobs. Not long after, Bordas opened Valley Rod and Accessories, a small three bay shop where he customized vehicles, and painted everything from boats to jet skis and dirt bikes.

“I was finding, though, that 90 per cent of my customers were from Calgary,” Bordas said, so late last year he moved back to Calgary, and recently opened the new shop.

Red Devil Rods is located in an eight bay facility in southeast Calgary. The location could hold 16 or 17cars, although it would be a tight fit.

“Here (in the new shop), I get to do more of what I like to do – and that’s work on the older stuff.”

That being said, Todd Angus and Freddy Sanders are employed to take of collision and insurance work. Bordas tries to stay on the fabrication/hotrod/painting side of the business.

Bordas sprays only the latest environmentally friendly water borne paints from PPG, and said he had to learn to work with the new products himself – he adopted the paints before many others in the industry.

A number of unusual projects on the go at Red Devil Rods, including a 1941 Willy’s pickup truck Bordas purchased from an estate. The owner died in a house fire before he had the opportunity to finish the truck, and Bordas bought the Willy’s with the intention of completing the project and then giving it back to the daughter.

1950 Buick Dynaflow sedan project.

Bordas has a 1950 Buick Dynaflow sedan set aside for himself. He plans to chop the roof 6.5 cm, blast and paint the frame, and install an LT1 Corvette powerplant in the massive engine bay. It will be done in a lead sled style, with a custom red and black leather interior and flat black and pinstriped exterior. He plans to have the Buick on the road this summer.

“I feel I’m not working at a job when I’m cutting, grinding or painting,” Bordas said, and added, “I just love doing this.”

Calgary Herald, Diablos Car Club all about the hotrods, by Greg Williams

Photo courtesy Monika Dool: Dwayne ‘Dooley’ Dool’s 1935 Ford truck — chopped and channeled to the max.

This story first published in the Calgary Herald June 13. While the Greaseball Bash is over, the Diablos Car Club in Calgary are still “pounding the rods,” to quote Jack Kerouac.

Welding torches. Cutoff saws. Grinders. Wrenches.
All tools of the trade for the hotrodders in Calgary’s Diablos Car Club.
And if you’re in the closed membership club, you better know how to use them.
“If you’re going to call it yours and drive it to a car show you should be able to say you built it,” says 35-year old Dwayne Dool, a Diablos founding member who is better known by his nickname Dooley.
The club is proof that hotrodding is not dead, especially amongst a younger generation — many of whom were born in the 1970s and 1980s. Taking the best of the hotrod and custom era of the 1950s and 1960s and adding their own twist to the mix, the Diablos are all about living a lifestyle and driving the cars they’ve created.
A group of 10 dedicated hardcore builders, the Diablos formed in 2001.
Members have their own cars that they’re customizing and modifying, and they’ll help each other out with tasks like chopping a roof or dropping in a motor.
“This is traditional hotrodding,” Dool says of the club.
While Calgary might be the central location of a few members, other Diablos live in Red Deer, Carstairs, Crossfield — and even Los Angeles.
A welder and mechanic, Dool works at Hot Rods Inc. in Airdrie. He sees firsthand the amount of money some are willing to pay for a cool car — anywhere between $80,000 and $500,000.
But Dool’s theory is if you do it yourself, you’re much better off, saving thousands of dollars. And the satisfaction of creating a ride with your own hands is incredible. In an age when many custom car parts are available from a catalog, the Diablos work hard to use only era-correct pieces and make as much of their own one-off items as possible.
To say their cars are unique is an understatement.
Dool’s own hotrod is a fenderless 1935 Ford truck. The project started when he dragged home a neglected 2 1 / 2 ton truck from the farm where it had sat for years. All he kept was the truck cab and the first 10 feet of the frame. He proceeded to chop the roof seven inches, and then lowered the cab over the chassis by channeling it eight inches. Dool created his own custom box at the back and dropped in a 455 cubic inch Oldsmobile engine. It’s got the coveted 1963 finned aluminum Buick front drums on 1940 Ford hubs.
“My truck, with all of the parts, comes in at about $32,000,” Dool says. And, of course, that’s not including his labour. But that’s kind of his point. Do it yourself — and save.
The Diablos will be showing off their cars, and those of others, on June14 when they host their fourth annual Greaseball Bash at the Bowness Sportsplex at 7904 43 Ave. N.W. According to the poster, the event is for pre-1964 rods, customs and bobber motorcycles. There is no entry fee and no registration fee.
Says Dool’s wife, Monika, of the show, “We’re trying to get away from the ‘old man’ car show where all of the cars are roped off and there are only men looking at them.
“The car show is purely for (our) love of old rods and the lifestyle that goes with it. You won’t see signs on any of these cars asking you not to touch or lean on them. There aren’t any of those creepy baby dolls leaning on the cars pretending to cry. The only dolls at this show are the ones walking around in heels!”
Vendors such as Plan B, Zombie Hut Design and Atomic Blonde will be there, together with Calgary bands including Big Foot Rocket Ship, Hurricane Felix and the Scorched Banditos.
“We’re trying to bring (the car culture) all together in one place,” Monika says. “And it’s also a kid friendly environment.”
The show runs tomorrow from 10 a.m. to dusk. Food is available on site. Check www.myspace.com/diabloscc for more information about the club and the Greaseball Bash.