Cars

A hot rod with room

Jerry Harrison created his own wide-bodied super street rod, the Ravenhawk, after being frustrated with the confines of a more traditional rod. Now he is working toward manufacturing and marketing the car, which can be customized to fit any buyer's option list.
Jerry Harrison created his own wide-bodied super street rod, the Ravenhawk, after being frustrated with the confines of a more traditional rod. Now he is working toward manufacturing and marketing the car, which can be customized to fit any buyer's option list. The Wichita Eagle

Jerry Harrison is driven by a dream — the dream to design, build and market his own high-end street rod using state-of-the-art, readily available automotive parts.

Today, Harrison is driving that dream, the prototype of the Ravenhawk, a broad-shouldered Corvette-powered roadster that looks a little like a Plymouth Prowler on steroids.

When Harrison retired from Beech in 2006, as an electrical engineer, he set to work on a '33 Ford roadster kit. "After a year of messing with that, I wasn't satisfied and I gave up on it," he said. "My elbows rubbed, my knees rubbed."

He figured if he was cramped in a typical fiberglass street rod, almost everyone else would be, too. "So I called my brother-in-law to come help me cut it up," said Harrison, who decided to add a 14-inch section to the frame and body width.

"I became a sculptor," he said, explaining how he used rigid, sandable foam placed on the existing car to create new contours for his wide-bodied street rod. He used the new shapes as forms over which he built up fiberglass fenders, quarter panels, doors, deck lid and a forward-tilting clamshell hood that blends with a heavily raked '33 Ford-style grille.

"I really like the Prowler's looks... but it had a V-6. I wanted mine to have a guttural sound of a hot rod," Harrison said. He slipped a 405 horsepower LS6 Corvette engine in the engine bay, bolted to a 6-speed manual transmission. Even with a 4:11-geared 9-inch Ford rear end, the car easily returns 23 mpg on the highway, he said.

The Ravenhawk, named by one of his daughters, uses Kugel inboard pushrod-style suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering, 4-wheel Wilwood 11-inch disc brakes and 17-inch American Racing wheels up front, 20-inchers in back, all wrapped in Goodyear Eagle performance rubber. A pair of stainless Magnaflow mufflers provide the required guttural rumble.

The roomy interior consists of leather-covered Wise Guys bucket seats, a GPS navigation/front-rear TV camera system, and a leather-covered custom dashboard full of white-faced gauges.

"Everything just came together," said Harrison, who constructed the 4,100-pound Ravenhawk in his own shop at home. He decided others might want a comfortable, fully equipped street rod, too.

"It has all the stuff that street rod guys want, but with the width, comfort and no rust or grease. There are no used parts on this car," said Harrison, noting almost everything above the belt line can be bought new from a GM parts counter. The Ravenhawk can be equipped with any brand of engine or transmission, he said.

Harrison envisions building two models of the Ravenhawk, the SSR (Standard Street Rod) which would retail for $250,000, and the LSR (Luxury Street Rod) with all the bells and whistles, stickered at $300,000.

"That sounds like a lot of money... I get a lot of sticker shock," he said. "But if you took it to a shop and had it built (at hourly shop rates) it would be $600,000 and five years," he said.

He is looking for investors to help him move on to building production Ravenhawks and is toying with offering the car in kit form for more hands-on customers.

The first Ravenhawk has been thoroughly road-tested, with demonstration runs to Phoenix and Fort Worth already logged. "It's a real attention magnet. It gets a lot of comments... people say it looks like a factory car, like it's supposed to be," Harrison said.

For more information: www.contemporaryclassiccars.infocq

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