The Green Gasser

Story by Rick Neal – @therealpossumkiller
Photos by Trent Sherrill – @trentsherrillphotography

The story of this nose high 1935 Ford coupe begins in the late ’50s, racing down the dragstrips of the Memphis, Mid-South area tracks, such as Lakeland, Collierville, and Halls, Tennessee. It raced up into the late ’60s when it was retired for something newer.

Enter Glen Grant in 1972, who purchased the car to build a hotrod. He first began by installing a new drivetrain where the injected Oldsmobile and B&M hydrostick once sat. He removed the spacer above the front spring to get more of a hotrod stance. In true ’70s fashion, once it was running and driving, he put it in a fresh coat of red oxide primer, then he covered the whole interior with brown shag carpet.

Glen, a mechanic by trade and a former drag racer himself, started by installing a healthy-built 327 Chevy engine backed by a well-built Powerglide. He chose to keep the 8 3/4 Mopar rear and upgraded the gearing to something more streetable for highway cruising since this would be his daily driver. A full set of Stewart Warner gauges were still intact, which Glen chose to put back in service, along with most of its racing past, such as its roll bar, aluminum floors, and door panels. It also had a plexiglass roof insert originally installed for weight savings but now served as a sunroof. The hand-fabricated four-bar front suspension was used, but power steering and a tilt wheel were added for driver comfort. Lastly, power windows had to be installed since the interior of the doors was removed via a cutting torch for weight during its racing days.

Glen put the hotrod into use not only for daily driving back and forth to work but long highway miles, including several treks to the Street Rod Nationals and many trips from Memphis to Dallas, TX to visit his daughter. In the mid-’80s, Glen wanted to upgrade the ole hotrod with a finish paint job. He called on a longtime friend, Ricky Neal, AKA The Possum Killer, for paint.

The body was pretty good, but the fenders were rough, as they had been drilled full of holes in its racing days. The rear fenders were radiused for slicks, and the holes had been crudely filled with fiberglass and needed reworking. Glen wanted Corvette yellow and his wife requested stripes that looked like butterfly wings. After some discussion, a deal was struck. Rick would do the work and paint the car for a 1952 Chevy sedan that Glen owned.

After working out the rear fenders and rough edges, three coats of 1975 Corvette yellow acrylic enamel were laid down with orange, blue, and purple butterfly wing stripes, a new set of moon discs added and Glen hit the road again racking up the miles. This continued until 1995 or 1996 when Glen parked the ’35, preparing for a complete rebuild, and started driving his newly completed ’51 Henry J, which his friend, Rick, also painted.

Through all the years, Glen and Rick had a relationship that had become more like brothers. This friendship was dealt a serious blow when Glen became ill and sadly passed away in mid-1998. Glen made one request of Rick, to help his wife sell all of his hotrods, five in all. Rick honored the request, but Charlene wanted to hold on to the ’35, as it was the car they dated in.

Two years later, Rick received a phone call asking if he would like to purchase the ’35 since Charlene was getting remarried and moving away. She just couldn’t do the repairs needed to make the car road worthy again. A deal was struck that also included all of the parts to the ’35 that Glen had removed all those years ago, which included the drilled running boards, spring spacer, 3 pc hood, plus many more parts from its bygone gasser racing days.

Rick immediately knew his direction and that was to put it back to the look of its glory days. All four fenders were blasted to reopen the drilled holes, the 3 pc hood was reinstalled, along with the grill with a hole for a fuel tank. Rick located a set of slots with skinnies up front.

Next was the task of removing all of that shag carpet. Surprisingly, most of the original aluminum interior was found underneath. Rick was able to save 60 percent of it and was able to duplicate the unsalvagable pieces, such as door panels. Lastly, Rick applied a period-correct panel paint job of two ’60s Chrysler colors, green and gold metallic. The tired 327 was replaced with a 383 stroker and the same p/glide was freshened up and reinstalled. Lastly, Rick embellished the doors with his friend’s name. Rick describes it as a racecar that is street driven. The motor is still set back, with the distributor under the windshield, and the old fuel cell (boat tank) is still in service in the trunk.

The car is a blast to drive and is still driven often, including the miles Glen racked up, she is showing 132,000 plus miles on the odometer. Rick says she’s just a piece of local hotrod history. It’s such a cool car to drive, you can feel everything, and you smell the motor. It’s loud and noisy, and with that plexiglass insert, it can be like an Easy Bake oven, but Rick and his wife, Teresa both feel like it’s one of the best rides you can experience. So much so that, the weekend of October 21-22, 2022, Rick and his son, Michael, decided to put the Glen’s Garage gasser back into service. They had recently sold their 1948 Blown Anglia gasser to move up to a funny car. With the last gasser race of the season pending, the Neal boys decided to load up the ’35 Ford in the trailer and head out for Mobile Dragway. No special adjustments were made other than uncork the headers and let it eat. Michael made a couple of test-n-tune runs and for the first time since the late 1960s, the ’35 Ford was entered into race competition.

Running an 1/8 mile program, the ole girl ran a sluggish, but consistent mid-9 second pass and with Michel’s skills at cutting the light, lead to a first-round win. A second-round loss put the ole girl on the trailer, but the smiles lasted all the way home. It was an amazing weekend, thinking of the history that was being relived.

Photo by Buffalo

Michael stated, “It was a very surreal experience as I staged it up for the first time in approximately 55 years. Thinking of all the runs this car made and the trophies it earned, that dad still has. It became a very emotional experience that I am grateful to have had the privilege to share this with my dad, the Real Possum Killer.”

This story originally appeared in Gnarly Magazine issue 18, now sold out. Grab issues 19 and 20 before they are gone!

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