Jeff Breault was hoping for something classy to street-rod, but he wasn't having much luck.
"I was looking for a hot rod, a '39 or '40 Ford coupe," he said. "I had looked at millions of them, but I was not finding what I was looking for."
So he enlisted some help. "My son Andrew became my secretary and danged if he didn't find this car," Breault said. But even after looking at photos of it online, he wasn't sure if this would be the project for him. "I thought it looked like a smaller car," he said.
He finally contacted a car buddy, Ron Boese of Haven, for some advice. "The auction was ending that day... he said 'You'd better try to buy it.' So I went in, closed the door and started hitting the button... eventually, I won it,"Breault said.
"A year and half later, here we are," he said, showing off his jaw-dropping 1934 Pontiac coupe. He had no idea how unusual his find really was.
"I think maybe less than 10 of these are left. Three are three-windows and some of them are five-windows," he said. "Some have been restored, most are rodded," Breault said.
His car is the more desirable three-window version and is noticeably larger in almost all dimensions than the more common Ford coupes of the era that have long been a staple of the hot rodding world.
"This is a 'Sport Coupe.' It came with six wire wheels... and was originally tan and brown," Breault said. "It had a flathead straight-8. Pontiac was very proud of their straight-8 in those years," he said.
The 8-cylinder Sport Coupe equipped with a nifty two-passenger rumble seat cost a whopping $725 new. But remember, this was auto retailing during the Great Depression. For the really well-to-do, a stylized "Miss Chief Pontiac" hood emblem could replace the standard logo for another $4.50.
Breault's car features that high-dollar hood emblem.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, the Pontiac was pulled out of a barn in Gardner, Kan. "The guy who pulled it out... didn't do anything with it except put a moon roof in it," Breault said.
Eventually, a hot rodder from Shawnee made the owner an offer he couldn't refuse and began transforming it into the hot rod of his dreams. Before the Pontiac could be finished, though, the Shawnee man died, and the car was sold to a Bonner Springs hot rod dealership, which listed the Pontiac on eBay in late 2008.
That's where Breault found it. He quickly made plans to finish the car, which by then had been painted and equipped with a big block Chevy 454 bored out to 468 cubic inches. The previous owner had come up with authentic-looking Pontiac valve covers and installed a Street & Performance fuel injection system on the engine, which was mated to a 700R4 automatic transmission.
Breault contacted Devlin Rod & Customs to clean up the bodywork and repaint the top half of the car, which is finished in rich purple pearl over a deep black basecoat. It also features ghost flames.
"We also rebuilt the dash and reworked the Air Ride system," Tim Devlin said. "Whoever started the car, we were impressed with the quality of workmanship."
A set of Flowmaster Hush Power mufflers were added to the exhaust system in an effort to quiet the big V-8 a bit. The Pontiac rolls on 17-inch Weld Racing wheels, which mount big BF Goodrich T/A rubber at all four corners.
The interior was a "blank slate" according to Breault, who took it to Downey's Auto Upholstery, where Scott Downey filled in the blanks.
"He did an incredible job," Breault said, noting Downey chose to incorporate exterior styling themes into the interior of the car, using executive jet leather. "This is the closest I'll get to riding in a Cessna jet," the appreciative car owner said.
Among the interior amenities are Vintage Air air conditioning with art deco-style vents, a leather-wrapped Billet Specialties steering wheel on a tilt column and a hidden Alpine stereo system controlled by an infra red signal receiver in the dashboard. Dakota Digital gauges fill the instrument openings.
The original roll-down rear window, which gives access to rumble seat passengers, was retained.
The car has been on the road since last September and it picked up the "Pure Class, Pre-'49" award at this year's Starbird Show.
Breault clearly has no second thoughts about his Pontiac being the right choice. "I call her Bessie," he said fondly. "She just looks like a 'Bessie' to me." And after all, Bessie did come out of a barn.