Back Roads & Side Streets

If you can get away from speeding down the massive interstate system that crisscrosses our great country and slow your speed to fit into the state or county highway system, you will find some really great automotive jewels. Whether these jewels are in the shape of a small hometown automotive museums, the custom shops that you don’t see on television or the occasional rusty relic that really catches your eye, they are there to be found if you just slow down and hit the back roads & side streets.

Mirage – One Man’s American Dream

1941 Ford Truck
Article & post-build photos by Larry Crain
Build photos by Richard Broyles

At one time or another almost everyone in the automotive enthusiast world has dreamed of building a vehicle that would stop people in their tracks and say “Wow” or other colorful words. For many, this is just a dream or one that was just partially fulfilled for one reason or another. To dream this type of dream is to start down a road filled with many curves, potholes, crossroads and delays. Often it’s a journey to find out if you have what it takes to finish.

One such person is Richard Broyles of Jonesborough, TN who started down such a road about 7 years ago with the lofty goal of building a vehicle in his home shop that would try to win the much sought after Ridler Award at the Detroit Auto Rama. Richard has built many cars during his life and one previous car that competed against the show circuit cars.  But as good as that car was, it was not built to be a contender for the Ridler. For this project, Richard would have to dig deep into his imagination and use all of his many talents to build his American Dream. This project was built with winning the Ridler in mind but also in the hopes that it would inspire others to accomplish what some might think you cannot.

Richard’s project titled Mirage started out as nothing but a 1941 Ford truck cab with fenders and a whole lot of imagination. The idea was to build a roadster style fat-fendered truck that looked to the past as well as to the present. Every bit of this truck came from Richard’s imagination, which he then transformed into the custom parts of steel or aluminum that flowed into this beautiful piece of rolling automotive artwork. To begin this project Richard took his ideas to local artist Jim Caswell to work up a concept drawing that would help him focus on what the finished vehicle would look like.

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Snake Alley

McHenry, IL

One day while visiting the Chicago area, I was taking a short cut between here and there when this cool rod and the awesome shop name, Snake Alley, caused me to do a double take. I was in the area for a few days so I made time to pull into the shop just to see what they built. Snake Alley is a small-town shop located near McHenry, Illinois that turns out some truly great custom bikes and cars.

The day I stopped by the shop the rod that had originally caught my eye was nowhere to be seen. I went into the shop’s showroom and the owner of Snake Alley, Marty Behan, was nice enough to tell me the car was parked out back in one of the work bays. I asked if it was okay to get a few photos of it and to just give it a really good looking over to see how it was built. “No problem” was his answer.

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Editor’s Introduction

Just the title of this should have caught your attention since up until now had no such title or person. So let me introduce myself and give you a little background on what I hope makes me qualified to hold this title.

My name is Larry Crain, and I live and breathe hot rods, street rods, customs, classics and almost everything automotive new or old. This passion as an auto enthusiast alone does not qualify me to hold this title. It is decades of busting knuckles, breathing paint and exhaust fumes that do. I learned mechanics, metal work and painting from what I thought were the “old guys” who started me down the road to where I am now… “the new old guy”. I have turned wrenches for a living in shop bays, worked in and then owned a Napa parts store, then worked as a Powerhouse Engineer for almost three decades. During those years I built many hot rods, classics, customs and street rods, only contracting out upholstery, which is the area of building that I will not attempt.

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