Merwin Belin likes to refer to himself as a “Professional.” Professional what you wonder, he has worked as a salesman, in construction, as a scenic artist, drum tech for Blondie, yeah that Blondie, is himself an accomplished musician and artist so Professional, I guess covers it. Amongst his many interests, one has always been to go to Bonneville, “Someday I will go to the Salt Flats” is a phrase many hot rodders have said to themselves, and Merwin was no exception in this matter. This was his deal – to build a 32 Ford drive it to Bonneville Speed Week and camp at “the end of the road.”
His project started with a rolling chassis that he took in payment of a debt. There was no engine, transmission, or exhaust. Front and rear suspension and a steering box on a frame, “it got me started” he said. Next was a fiberglass 32 Ford body and he was on his way on a four-year build that drove him to “the end of the road.”
If you ask Merwin how to get to Pomona California he can tell with great detail the best times to go, where to park, and where the good deals are at the famous “Pomona Swap Meets.” Dreams come true at every event for someone who has just found exactly what they were looking for! This is where Merwin found all of the parts he needed to build his rod, check their website for more info at www.pomonaswapmeet.com. For power, Merwin acquired a small block 327 and mounted 3 Rochester carbs to the intake manifold and married this to a Ford C-4 transmission. With all of this situated in the rod, a friend custom bent the exhaust and four years later Merwin was driving the rod around Southern California. He said, “I was inspired by a full fender Henry Ford 32 Roadster built by Cookie Lind who was the President of the Innocents Car Club of Norwalk California from 1959 to 1964.” Your humble correspondent and Merwin shared an interest in the production of a book about the southern California rods called “Memories of the California Jalopy Association” written by Thomas D. Luce available at Amazon.com. This book chronicled the history of Jalopy racing in southern California. Several years ago the author commissioned me to print from original newspaper negatives that he had collected for the book, images of Jalopy racing reported in the sports sections of local newspapers. Merwin and I were privileged to see an era of motorsports, which is almost lost to fans today and has historical significance to the development of modern auto racing.
The trip to Bonneville a 1300-mile adventure each way from Southern California, 15 hours of motoring pleasure to get to the end of the road, “it’s a little like salmon that swim up stream to spawn and die without the spawn and die part” he said. He did get caught going 110 mph passing a 40’ commercial truck by one of Nevada’s finest but the patrolman was so interested in the rod he let him off with a friendly warning! Just north of Las Vegas “I had to replace a fan belt,” that was the only mechanical issue he had to deal with and by the way, he had no spare tire. (Not recommended for travel further than walking distance from your driveway – ed.)
The End of the Road, well that’s where you camp when you go to Bonneville and you don’t stay at a casino or hotel. And as you have guessed, it is literally at the end of the road.
Check out “Bonneville” in “It’s Show Time” for more info and images from Speedweek