Occasionally, you have to step back and realize that we really do live in a small world and that’s what happened when HE&M Saw, Utility Saw Manager, Rick Gwartney met Bill Flint.
Several years ago, Rick was in Louisville, KY, for the NSRA (National Street Rod Association) Street Rod Nationals, working the HE&M Saw booth, when he met a gentleman who was showing a car, at the show, and was interested in a utility saw for some of his projects, both auto and ranch related. Well, HE&M Saw just happens to sell a very fine line of just that thing.
So, for those unfamiliar, let’s define exactly what a ‘street rod’ is and what it isn’t. According to many rod enthusiasts “A street rod is an automobile, car or truck, manufactured before 1949, that has been modified to handle modern highways.” Typically, this includes the builder taking the body and pairing it with a late model chassis, transmission, engine, power steering, power brakes, AC, as well and all the bells and whistles you can think of. Think “Old School” look with modern amenities! A ‘street rod’ is not, a muscle car, a survivor or just a restored car.
In most cases, these custom cars are chopped, channeled, lowered, shaved, frenched, louvered, given Easter egg colored, heavily glossed paint jobs, trimmed with lots of billet and custom leather interior to match. Once all this custom work is done, the owner stands back, checks the weather, packs his car cleaning tools, checks the weather again and gingerly heads off to a car show, providing there is not a cloud in the sky and the show is local and there are no dirt roads involved.
Not Bill Flint, he believes in driving his cars. You can tell because even his pride and joy, 1942 Ford “Hardtop”, has bug guts and rock chips on the paint. This car is so sweet, it’s been featured in “Street Scene” magazine 3 times, won at the NSRA show in Oklahoma and was nominated in Louisville. That’s really something for a car that is driven to most of the shows it attends. Yes, it was trailered to Louisville, we won’t fault anyone for that, it’s a long way, but once there, he drove it all over town.
Even as a young man, Bill Flint loved cars. Though he made his living for 52 years as a barber, these days he ranches close to 500 acres, and still manages to find time to build and play with cars. It may have taken him 20 years to build the ’42, but it’s okay, the detail is impeccable.
Let’s talk details. First, there were NO “hardtops” built in 1942…. “hardtop”, meaning that the roofline was rigid and sufficient enough that with front and back windows down, there is no post holding the roof up. Second, ALL consumer vehicle production halted in February of ‘42 and didn’t resume until October of ‘45, by order of the government’s Office of Production Management. By the end of WWII, Ford Motor Company had built nearly 90,000 complete aircraft and an additional 58,000 airplane engines for the British government. Why for the British government? Because Henry Ford was a pacifist and he opposed America’s entry into WWII, until the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
So, now that you’ve had your history lesson, we’ll get back to Mr. Flint and his “street rod”. Bill gave his Ford a nice chop, 3” in the front and 6” in the back, widened the fenders, front and back, giving the car a really nice wide stance.
Underneath, he added an ’89 Mustang engine, the ’85 Lincoln Town Car transmission and all the other details taken from modern cars, but when you look at the details, you see art.
But the devil is in the details, and that’s why these cars take so long to build, like the original running lights; a style only used that year, and the subtlety of frenched taillights. But what really showed me his eye for detail is over the doors. The window frame was removed from the door body and added back to the roof line and a small, ever so slight bend or ridge, was left in definition. And the two-tone paint scheme, light copper over champagne, highlights all the right places and helps to exaggerate the widened body. It’s the kind of forethought that separates the builders from the artist.
This isn’t the only car Flint has, no; he’s a bit of a collector and mostly Fords! There is a ’57 Ford Custom sitting on 17” tires, a ’40 Ford street rod, but he bought it already done, a ’70 Maverick with a ’68 302 and 4.88 gears, all set up to turn a 12:47 in the 1/4 mile. And let’s not forget the ’70 Mach I, he bought to work on with his son, that’s waiting to have the 351 Cleveland put in and a his ’67 Fastback, aka Eleanor, that’s had all the body work done but still needs paint and the 2011 Coyote to be installed.
Then he took us to the garage attached to the house and there was the most beautiful, factory correct Sun Gold and White, 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, with retractable hardtop.
Now, is your head spinning? Mine was, and that’s when he showed me his ’37 Dodge pick-up. And again, the details make the difference between a nice truck and a show truck. First, he had to stretch out the frame to fit the ’48 Buick straight 8, with 4 carburetors. All this power required a little reinforcement, so he added a ’50 Chevy front axle, a ’65 Ford pick-up 9” read end, transmission from an ’85 Chevy S10 5-speed and more fun than the law allows. Flint also built channels for the leaf springs to hid in, just an added custom touch. The color, I believe, is Root Beer and the custom interior and bar finish wood parquet bed, are real show stoppers.
But he wasn’t finished, Bill then had us follow him to another house, on the property, and when he opened the garage door, there sat his Factory-Five Racing MK4 Roadster, aka as a 1965 Shelby Cobra replica. Even after 50 years, the Cobra is still one of the most desirable cars around and Flints’, which he hand built himself, certainly checks all the right boxes.
So, why are we interested? Because while at the previously mentioned NSRA show in Louisville, Bill Flint bought a utility saw from Rick and that is when they discovered they live and ranch maybe 10 miles, or so, from one another. Flint needed a utility saw to cut frame rails and exhaust pipe, but also for fence post. He bought one saw and liked it so well, when he had an additional need, he bought a second model HE&M Utility Saw.