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DOANE

DOANE
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Doane lived on the hill, over across Tujunga Wash from me, and just a stone’s throw from Norm Grabowski. Doane Spencer was a doer, somewhat reserved, and willing to let the big mouths ramble on while he steadily got the job done. He was a great mechanic, an excellent fabricator, and pleasant to be around. He was a perfect example of a Real Hot Rodder.  Well, except for the fact he let one of his daughters talk him into fixing her a car. A Morris Minor.  One of those typical English POS thingies. It was just an ordinary little sewing machine, the more so in the care of a beautiful young girl.

However, I must admit that it looked pretty good, because it was a woody wagon. And it would have been a real POS had it belonged to me or similar contemporary rod builders. As with everything Spencer, this little English timber pile was good looking, and it usually ran great. Exactly what daughter Wendy needed.

Saving grace to this off-side of import catastrophes was that in the home garage was always some kind of exotic Italian POS that Doane was saving for some bucks-up Hollywood type. And saving grace  for that FU was Doane’s personal ‘Bird that was in perennial semi storage, awaiting the time when he could get around to doing something with it. By now, you should be getting the drift.

With his living so close, I could keep up with most of Spencer’s exotic side. Not so easy to keep track of an endless procession of ‘’Just helping out” projects in the hot rod world. Thankfully, I never had to press our friendship for any of my hot rod projects, since the area was choc-a-block with similar craftsmen. Our part of San Fernando Valley was, and remains, a gold mine of automotive talent.

Late of a night, I would hear the throaty bellow of some unmuffled highway terror coming down the hill from his house. At the bottom was a two-lane that bordered Tujunga Wash, and on which Doane had marked off a measured distanced over which he could time his latest engine tune masterpieces. There would be a slight pause, so I knew he was turning onto the street (there were only a couple of houses on a full mile stretch o smooth macadam) followed by the stacatto blast as Spencer would wind through the gears. A return blast, and back up the hill he would go. It was nice to have such a road test course handy, and I took advantage of his measurement on numerous occasion. 

Our part of San Fernando Valley was a gold mine of automotive talent.  One such a business was Valley Custom, which was a five minute ride, and it is where Doaneh had some of his metal shaping done, and where neighbor Norm Grabowski went for much of his body and paint work.

But in the cloistered world of street rodding, Doane Spencer is better remembered for a certain l932 Ford roadster. Black. Interesting kick-up’s on the frame to get it down. Steering pitman arm out the cowl panel. Maybe the most famous DuVal windshield ever. And it set over in a garage corner, neglected. I kept at him to let me buy the car. The fact that I never had any money certainly didn’t deter me pestering him about the car. The fact the car had no engine didn’t bother me, either.

So it was with considerable consternation that I greeted the news from Lynn Wineland (he of Rod & Custom magazine lineage)  the he, and not me, was the new owner of Doane’s famed deuce. Of course, back then the car was famed to a precious few. Me, Lynn, and Neal East come to mind. Two of us ended up as eventual owners. I was not one of them.

When I mentioned the error of his ways in selling MY car to Lynn, Doane replied that MY car had gone to Lynn because Lynn had expressed an interest earlier. Another one to the Sooners, by damn.

Anyway, Doane had built his Deuce before War Two, then when the Mexican Road Race came along after the war, he had torn it apart and started a rebuild with running the race in mind. He knew Ak Miller, who eventually did run a hot rod down there, so maybe AK was the germ for the idea. Or ‘tother way around maybe.

So, Doane ended up stripping the side rails from another ’32 frame, with which he boxed his rod chassis. Made it super stiff, then he went to work on tuning the Old Ford design and the result was a great handling car. Early on Spencer ran a flatmotor, but he was convinced he would need something much stouter and stronger for Mexico. He had several engines around his shop during the early Fifties, I don’t know if one of those was intended for his race foray. By the time the roadster was in Lynn’s hands, the decision had been made to put in a Ford OHV.

Then, Lynn decided to move on to other things (Lynn penned the name ‘Go Kart’ by the way), and the car moved over to Neal. Still without my permission. So Neal started piddling away on the project, in amongst several other interests, and the roadster never did get to a road race. Where it is now I have no idea, but whoever has it just understand that it is really MY car, so treat it with respect.

 I’ll take up all this tomfoolery with Spencer if we get together again in the great by and by. I don’t know if Wendy still has that English POS, either.