6 hot rods from the 3 Dog Garage collection
Ross Myers is the consummate car collector. His father was a keen car enthusiast, and Myers’ own enthusiasm began when he was a child; he grew up with everything from Model T Fords to classic Pierce-Arrows. He still has some of those cars, including his dad’s Pierce-Arrow coupe. Over the years, they’ve been joined by Duesenbergs, a Thomas Flyer, many Porsches and Cobras, and a slew of racing cars with a focus on Carroll Shelby, Holman & Moody, and the Trans-Am Series. There are more than 70 cars in the collection. Myers especially loves vintage racing and is a regular at the Monterey Historics.
But his passion is hot rods.
Myers owns one of this country’s finest collections of historic hot rods, capped by a Detroit Autorama Ridler Award–winning ’36 Ford three-window coupe built by Troy Trepanier and crafted from the bones of a derelict ’36 that Myers bought when he was just 8 (!) years old—and kept for decades. Myers especially likes ’36 Fords. He owns several, stored in an updated historic factory and museum complex in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, called 3 Dog Garage. (The collection takes its name from three Bouvier des Flandres dogs that are deceased but still fondly remembered.)
That is not, however, the theme of the cars he is bringing to Greenwich.
It’s not often that an enthusiast owns both Duesenbergs and Deuces, but Myers is the exception. He especially likes hot rods with interesting stories and famous owners/builders. Myers and his wife, Beth, have are bringing six vehicles to Greenwich for this year’s concours. The cars will be on display both Saturday and Sunday—and that’s good, because you’ll want to study them in detail.
The Kookie Car
This flamed, raked, and bobbed 1922 Ford roadster pickup starred in the TV Series 77 Sunset Strip, with Edd “Kookie” Byrnes as a jive-talking car jockey (parking valet). The car was built by part-time B-movie actor Norm Grabowski of Sunland, California, and it starred on the covers of Hot Rod magazine, Car Craft, and many other monthlies. Ross Myers says he watched every episode of that popular show and was delighted when the car came up for sale.
But there was a catch. The once-iconic roadster had been totally transformed by a previous owner, with ugly dual headlamps, dual superchargers, and even dual rear wheels. Fortunately, all the original parts had been saved. The San Francisco shop of nationally recognized hot-rod builder Roy Brizio restored “Kookie” to its 1950s TV configuration, even leaving the crude chassis welds “because that’s how Norm built it.” It won the Pebble Beach Historic Hot Rod Cover Car class in 2019.
“The Kookie Car has to be the wildest-looking machine that’s ever been to Pebble Beach,” says Brizio. “For the 2019 Cover Car class, there were some fierce contenders, including Tommy Ivo’s nailhead-powered T-bucket and Phil Cool’s Deuce highboy with a blown big-block Chevy. But the Kookie car had undeniable hot-rod appeal, with its flames, the wild paint, and all the chrome. Even more important, if you mentioned the Kookie car to anybody, they knew about it. It was amazing.”
“I was going to buy that car,” Myers says, looking back. “I probably spent too much on it, but I really wanted it.” You’ve got to love that attitude.
1932 Ford Five-Window Coupe: “The Avenger”
Don Tognotti was a successful Sacramento, California, businessman who owned a chain of custom auto parts stores. He also built a few very well-known hot rods and customs in the 1950s and 1960s. The most radical and best remembered is this car, which he named “The Avenger.”
It is a 1932 Ford five-window coupe that he built in 1960, and it was a consistent winner at rod and custom shows in California at the time. It is wedge-channeled, which gives it the unique raked stance that is one of its trademarks. The other is the big 1951 Chrysler (early) Hemi V-8 engine that is a tight fit in the available space it occupies. The engine was not radically modified, but it did use 1953 Chrysler heads and wore custom exhaust headers. Those headers were so cool they became a constant topic of conversation by all who saw them or who wrote about the car for the hot rod and custom magazines of the time. Its sheer audacity still makes Avenger a topic of conversation nearly 60 years after its creation.
The Dick Williams AMBR-Winning 1927 Ford Roadster
First owned by Dick Williams of Berkeley, California, this handsome T won the coveted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) award in 1953. It’s likely the first hot rod with a hand-built, chromoly tubular chassis. State of the art for its day, it packed a lusty 286-cubic-inch Mercury flathead with Belond “W-Type” headers, four Stromberg carburetors on an Edelbrock manifold, and Navarro high-compression heads. The tubular chassis had rare Kinmont disc brakes on all four corners, a suicide front end, and a Halibrand quick-change rear.
Hall’s Top Shop in Oakland, California, did the rolled and pleated black leatherette upholstery. Frenched ’46 Ford taillights, a full belly pan, a rolled rear pan, and chromed reversed wheels with ’50 Mercury caps were just a few of many features. It took two and a half years to build. Everything was buffed and chrome-plated—even the oil pan.
“I heard about this car years ago from (noted Pennsylvania hot-rod builder) Jim Cherry,” Myers says. “It was always one of his favorites. For its time, with all the modifications, that AMBR win, and 123-mph Bonneville racing history, it was remarkable.”
The Doctor Wetzel 1932 Ford Roadster
Famed builders Clay Jensen and Neil Emory from the Valley Custom Shop in Burbank, California, were best known for sectioned custom cars such as the famed Jack Stewart Oldsmobile Holiday 88 coupe called “The Polynesian.” They didn’t do many hot rods, but when they did, iconic cars such as the Dick Flint roadster and this sharp yellow Deuce afforded them lasting fame. Valley Custom was one of the most influential shops in the 1950s and many of its cars have survived.
Jensen and Emory built this channeled ’32 with a racy DuVall windshield for Dr. Leland Wetzel, who picked up his new, professionally built hot rod at the shop in Burbank, drove it to Bonneville, and then to his home in Springfield, Missouri. It was owned for years by Kurt McCormick, a Missouri-based Barris Kustom enthusiast, and he installed a blown Cadillac V-8. Thankfully, Myers had Roy Brizio track down the original flathead V-8 and reinstall it. (By the way, Neil Emory was Porsche Outlaw creator Rod Emory’s grandfather.)
The Frank Mack 1927 Ford Roadster
This snappy black-painted 1927 Ford Model T roadster was built by Frank Mack in Farmington, Michigan, and it starred at the first Detroit Autorama in 1953. Beautifully proportioned and flathead powered, the car was driven by Mack on the street—in fact, thanks to its snug top, he even took it out in the Detroit winter weather. That sleek track nose was made from two ’41 Chevy fenders and there’s a full belly pan. Its wonderful patina and still-lustrous black lacquer paint attests to the fact that this car is totally original and it has never been restored.
Unusual for a Midwest hot rod, the Mack T was featured in Hot Rod magazine in the early 1950s. Frank did the work himself, with no aftermarket parts. That’s when hot-rodders had to be metal men and mechanics—Mack was both. Historic-rodding enthusiast Bruce Meyer owned this car in Beverly Hills for a while, but he was too tall to drive it. Ross Myers says he fits in this tiny T just fine. And he has no plans to change anything on this Midwest hot-rodding time warp.
1932 Ford Lee Titus Roadster
This 1932 Ford roadster was built in the late 1950s by Lee Titus, who owned a speed shop in Culver City, California. When Titus opened his shop in 1955, it was a natural progression from his experience as a well-known and highly competitive California dry lakes and Bonneville Salt Flats hot-rod builder and racer. Lee’s technical skills and a clear vision of what he wanted helped transform this roadster into a car worthy of a Hot Rod magazine cover and feature article in the May 1959 issue of that publication. Retaining its fenders, finished in black lacquer with a red interior, and powered by a fuel-injected Corvette V-8, it was pure California and pure Lee Titus.
Hot-rod photographer Andy Southard was the car’s next owner, during which time it became the subject of a multi-part feature in Rod Action magazine, when Dick “Magoo” Megugorac removed the fenders and transformed it into a highboy. Subsequent owners of this car included a host of famous hot-rodders, including Jim Busby, Bruce Meyer, Bill Hammerstein, and Andy Cohen. After 60 years and many changes, the roadster was recently restored to its 1959 Hot Rod magazine cover configuration by Roy Brizio.
Roy Brizio gets the last word:
“I especially appreciate Ross’ quest to build a collection of significant hot rods for his museum,”’ says Brizio. “He has a plan. He wants to acquire historic cars, usually with an East Coast heritage. When I first went to see his 3 Dog Garage Museum, I was in awe. Very few people are trying to amass such a collection, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone making it happen on such a high level. Ross is dedicated to not only these cars, but to the sport of hot rodding itself.
“Perhaps he thinks, ‘I could have a Ferrari 250 GTO like other people, or I could have the greatest collection of significant, one-of-a-kind hot rods—and I would be the only guy.’
“He’s not going to own every historic hot rod,” Brizio adds. “There are cars at the Don Garlits Museum, at the NHRA and the Petersen Museums, and collectors such as Bruce Meyer, Dick Munz, and John Mumford are not giving up any cars. That said, I think Ross is doing a helluva job. I was blown away with what he has. He’s built an enormous, time-consuming construction business and, despite all his work responsibilities, he’s had time to dig up and revive important hot rods for the world to see.”
You can enjoy six of Ross Myers’s cars on the concours field—and it just might make you want to travel to 3 Dog Garage to see the rest of them.
Historic Hot Rods is one of 20 classes to be featured at the 2023 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, on June 2–4, 2023. Download the 2023 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance event program to learn more about Sunday’s other featured classes, Saturday’s Concours de Sport, our judges, sponsors, nonprofit partners, 2022 winners and more!