Cars

Man of varying tastes

Jack Petty's 1951 Kaiser Club Coupe DeLuxe is a stunningly stylish car for its era, with its sculpted lines accented by deep maroon paint. The car is no "trailer queen," though, as Jack and his brother Jerry recently racked up about a thousand miles winning the "long distance award" at a gathering of Kaisers near Scottsbluff, Neb.
Jack Petty's 1951 Kaiser Club Coupe DeLuxe is a stunningly stylish car for its era, with its sculpted lines accented by deep maroon paint. The car is no "trailer queen," though, as Jack and his brother Jerry recently racked up about a thousand miles winning the "long distance award" at a gathering of Kaisers near Scottsbluff, Neb. The Wichita Eagle

Jack Petty's tastes in vintage automobiles are not exactly mainstream.

Just check out the two beauties currently in his possession. There's a gorgeous maroon 1951 Kaiser Club Coupe DeLuxe with 87,000 original miles on its odometer.

And then there is a replica of Tim Flock's 1952 Hudson Hornet NASCAR racer in white over baby blue, complete with the big red No. 91 and all the period-correct sponsor logos.

A former round track racing veteran himself, Petty appreciates climbing behind the wheel of either car whenever the opportunity presents itself.

"My brother, Jerry, and I drove the Kaiser to a Kaiser gathering at Gering, Neb., near Scottsbluff last week... 490 miles one way. It was the first time it had been on the road in 23 years," he said, grinning. "We won the long distance award."

A friend's son found the Kaiser for sale in Buhler after the previous owner passed away. "I went and looked at it and bought it, and I drove it home," Petty said. "It's a very sought-after model," he said, noting how much harder it is to find a club coupe than a Kaiser sedan.

"I remember the first one I saw. I was in high school in Utica, Kan., and the lumber yard where I worked, one of the owners bought a brand new Kaiser this color. It was the most beautiful car in town. His wife would drive by in it and I would just stand and drool," he recalled.

The 1951 Kaiser was a fresh new design styled by the legendary Dutch Darrin, with slim, sleek lines and a posh interior featuring chenille upholstery materials and a chromed dashboard topped by padded leather. The front and rear windshields were mounted in subtle heart-shaped frames.

"To me, it's just amazing that all of that chrome and trim is still in such good shape," Petty said. Even the javelin-like spear mounted in a clear plastic ring on the point of the hood is in remarkable condition for a car nearly 60 years old.

In 1951, Kaiser automobiles featured a 226-cubic-inch inline flathead 6-cylinder engine producing 115 horsepower. Petty's Kaiser is equipped with a GM-supplied Hydramatic automatic transmission and rides on a 118.5-inch perimeter frame. Despite its lack of a radio, it is a very road-friendly ride.

Plans call for the front seat and door panels to be reupholstered in the correct materials and a new set of bias-ply wide whitewall tires may be added for safety's sake.

"I'm going to show it and have some fun with it," said Jack Petty, who has no plans to trailer the car anywhere, but drive it as it was intended to be driven.

"I'm going to keep it about 5 years and then a gentleman in Stillwater has the first shot at it. It will be time to pass it along and let someone else enjoy it for a while," he said.

The Hudson Hornet race car, on the other hand, has become something of a signature car for Petty. "I had made up my mind while I was still racing that I wanted to do Tim Flock's car as a tribute car," he said. "He was a family man, a good person and a clean driver."

After spending six years looking for the right '52 Hudson, Petty found it in Ohio. He soon began building a replica of the car that Flock raced several times accompanied by a spider monkey known as "Jocko Flocko."

The monkey had his own driving suit and harness, but caused havoc at a race when he got out of his harness and began dashing around inside the car at high speed.

Today, Jack Petty displays a life-size figure of "Jocko Flocko" when he shows off his popular NASCAR recreation.

Tim Flock passed away before the car was completed in 2001 and displayed as part of a vintage NASCAR exhibit at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Petty said.

Some people have trouble believing the tribute car is an accurate rendering of an early 1950s stock car. But Petty explains, "They didn't have roll bars in them. They drove them to the track, took the fender skirts and hubcaps off and put lap belts in them and raced them."

The big 308-cubic-inch flathead 6-cylinder engine, with its legendary Twin-H Power carburetors, can still move the old Hudson down the road in a hurry. Returning from his 50th high school class reunion, Petty said he discovered the car would run flawlessly at 95 mph along a deserted stretch of four-lane highway.

Of course, he didn't have a spider monkey to contend with on that trip.

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