Dirty hulk to dirty track hero: The story behind our Snowball race car


“Look and you will find” is the saying that Tom Cotter and the Barn Find Hunter team live by, but when the right car appeared, Davin Rekow and the Redline Rebuild crew wanted to join in the on the fun. A quick road trip to Virginia and nearly three years of work later, and a certain old Ford race car is slinging dirt again. Of course, that’s only part of the story.


It all started with Tom Cotter’s adventures while he was writing “Barn Find Road Trip” as he traversed the U.S. with a few friends in search of captivating stories and interesting cars along the shoulder of the highways and byways. This trip was one nearly guaranteed to bear fruit, but no one thought a Ford guy named Snowball Bishop would capture so many people with his stories and personality. The cars were pretty good, too.

One in particular caught not only Tom’s ear but also that of Hagerty’s engine expert Davin Rekow. When Tom went back to visit Snowball and capture some more stories for our Barn Find Hunter YouTube series, the story made its way to Davin, and with his background in running modified cars at local Michigan tracks, it was mere minutes before Davin was picturing the Chrysler 440-powered 1937 Ford coupe running deep into the cushion on track again. A plan was hatched, a trailer hooked up, and the car was hauled back to the Redline Rebuild garage to make that dream a reality.

Before diving in and starting the rebuild, it was best to first look back at the history of the car. Snowball originally built and ran the car with a flathead Ford powerplant. It did well, but finishing sixth behind five Chevy-powered cars was unacceptable to a man who happened to have a ringer like NASCAR star Richard Petty living down the road. “I Love Ford, don’t get me wrong,” Snowball told Tom, but he saw that they couldn’t run with the other cars on the track, and something like, say, a Dodge 426 wedge started looking real appealing.

When he appeared on the Petty property it was Richard’s father Lee who greeted him, and Richard joined shortly after. The Pettys had started running Hemi engines so the wedge motors were just sitting in the corner. The trio agreed $1200 was a fair price for Snowball to buy it all, but he didn’t have that money. He only had $1000 and needed some of it for gas to get home. They let him have that engine for $900. That’s called negotiating.

It became a winning car with that setup, taking the championship in 1972. When the wedge parts dried up Snowball switched to the 440 Chrysler, and that was what sat alongside the car in the garage when Davin and crew appeared to pick it up. At that point even more history came out about the car and how it had received a chassis swap to the 1955 Chevrolet it current sits on. Most of the parts from the “original” car make the leap to the new chassis, but it just never quite got put back together. Davin and team agreed on a plan: Put the car back to the form it was when it last competed, with a few select upgrades and updates.

It took nearly three years, but the end result is a dirt-slinging 440-powered coupe that was happy to make a lot of noise from the side pipes while turning laps at Merritt Speedway just a few weeks ago. Watch the whole time-lapse rebuild of the car below, and when you’re done with that video maybe switch tabs in your browser and go find your own vintage racer to bring back to life. Maybe you’ll stumble upon one just as interesting as the Snowball ’37 Ford. Don’t know ’til you try…



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    I remember Tom’s video and thinking that I hoped Snowball would sell him that old racecar to refurbish. It’s great to see it slinging dirt once again. The stop-action filming of the rebuild and restoration was first-rate.

    Really well-done story and great video. You can’t make up people like Snowball or places like this one in rural Virginia. Nice to see this old dirt track car back on the track after all the work done by Davin and his crew, and nice to hear that old Mopar V8 when Davin leans on it a bit in the last couple of laps. I think Snowball would be happy.

    Seeing that “modest” home in the background I have to give credit to the lady of the house whose husband spent $900 on his race motor. I’m sure there were plenty of things she did without…

    Great to see another 37 Ford coupe race car. I also have a 37 coupe that i ran at Goodguys auto cross events. I was fortunate enough to win 2 yrs. in a row , in the hot rod division. I belong to the N.H. sports car club, and also competed at the 1.3 mile road course auto cross events . running a 383 full roller motor , Tremec 5 spd. still with a straight axle, and Ridetech suspension. Keep beating on those old Ford coupes, They love it !!!

    Great to see some of these cars are brought back to life! Even better to see that some of the guys saved the cars, even if they were just “parked out back”.. I did not save any of my dirt track cars from the 60’s and 70’s and regret it! I do still have my Dwarf Car I built in the 90’s. Also have 1/4 midgets from the 50’s. Tom’s country wide search has opened up opportunities like this for a few folks! Tom even came by may place a few years ago! Safe travels Tom! — Hey Tom, where is the Offy powered Sprint Car I’m looking for?

    This is the kind of racing I grew up around. My neighbors, The Povero family ran modifieds at Dundee Speedway and Chemung Speedrome in Upstate NY in the 50s & 60s. They ran a 37 Plymouth coupe powered by a Chrysler Spitfire six and a 40 Ford coupe powered by a Mercury flathead. Car no, was 68. Flat towed to the track. Loved it!!

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