Modern Rodding STARTING OVER
Brian Brennan headshot
By Brian Brennan
Attitude and
are Everything

o say all of us have been through the ringer throughout 2020 and into the early days of 2021 may be the all-time understatement. I’m often reminded of a quote by John Wooden. He was nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood” for his coaching prowess, having brought numerous NCAA basketball titles to the UCLA campus. He was once quoted as saying: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” There’s no denying he was a masterful coach. I believe, however, his true ability rested in his leading young men through the pitfalls of college life, thus providing a solid footing for them to take after school and “roundball.”

I see a correlation between Coach Wooden’s quote and how each of us handles our ventures with life and our hot rods. I, like all of you, have made it so far through these unsettling times, and when I’m thinking this just can’t get any worse, I’m reminded it can, frankly, and yet through all of this I’ve managed to be fortunate.

Having driven a hot rod across country many times I have had all sorts of mechanical woes beset me. At the time it seemed things couldn’t be worse. In reality it can always be worse, it’s just a matter of how you handle what’s at hand.

The first time I drove to the Street Rod Nationals in Memphis there was the “gas station overflow” incident. Magoo (Dick Megugorac) always warned me not to overfill my gas tank because the overflow valve, while at the top of the tank, was below the fill tube. By overfilling the tank, the excess gas began draining out of the overflow tube thereby creating a suction that kept the gas draining for a bit. OK, it seemed to be a lot worse than it was, lesson learned, and overflow tube relocated.

Then there was the time I was driving the Super Bell coupe (Jim Ewing was catching a nap in the passenger seat) on our way to the Nats South in Winston Salem, North Carolina, when I heard the fan making a gosh-darn awful racket as it was spinning up against the fan shroud. We thought we were in the middle of nowhere when we were about 20 miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas. A motor mount bolt had broken and it allowed the engine to settle down, causing the fan to strike the shroud … a lot! While I sat on the side of the road contemplating my life taking a turn for the worst, Ewing hitchhiked into the dusk. As luck would have it, he gets a ride from a local gas station/mechanics garage/convenience store owner. Ewing continues into the very small (no traffic lights) town and makes friends with the gas station owner and finds out that he’s a retired California Highway Patrol officer from Bakersfield who decided he’d had enough of The Golden State. In time, Ewing returns with his new buddy and we are towed to the outpost where we fixed the broken motor mount, filled up with gas, and I gathered sustenance by walking the aisles of the convenience store. What could have turned out very badly turned into a great story that I have told for a lifetime.

There was the time I was driving my 1927 Ford lowboy roadster to the Nats in Oklahoma along I-40 when a rock from a passing semi hit the windshield and destroyed it. Turns out I was on I-40 in Amarillo, Texas, staring at the Cadillac Ranch. (For those of you who have never seen it or don’t know what it is, there are 10 Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground.) My traveling partners on this trip were Pete Chapouris in the California Kid and Jim “Jake” Jacobs in his 1933 Ford coupe. We all looked at each other and within a few minutes we had the broken windshield out of the roadster and in the front seat of the California Kid. I drove into town sans windshield but with goggles on and as luck would have it, I found a glass shop that was open afterhours. The owner was a retired military man and liked cars and especially hot rods. He and his assistant spent the evening cutting a new windshield—that’s still in the car to this day—installed it, and had the roadster back on the road. (Oh, it cost me $40.) Once again, I thought it was going to be a major tragedy when in reality it was merely another great story unfolding and all was right with the world.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, no matter how bad it looks now, it’s all a function of how you manage the hand you were dealt. Yes, bad things happen to good people but keep your eyes on the road and keep moving forward. In closing, I’m reminded of one more saying: “You start the game of life with a full pot of luck and an empty pot of experience. The object is to fill the pot of experience before you empty the pot of luck.” I hope to see many of you on the road this summer.

Modern Rodding
VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 3 • 2021