Before the advent of the GM A-body intermediates, the precursor of the fabled muscle car, there were only big sedans and coupes, creatures of the T-Rex faction if you will. They displayed all the fabulous qualities of American automotive technology. In a word: big. They had the biggest engines, and they tromped asphalt with monstrous feet. Where do you think the phrase “big as a Buick” came from?
And look here. What has gone around seems to be coming around once again. Big B-bodies are beginning to get some respect now, partly because of exclusivity and partly because of the reoccurring muscle car themes. If you’re beyond 50, you have a sense of this. The arks, while not commonplace, were still extant when you were of driving age. Danny Johnson, a son of Hurley, Mississippi, is in his mid-fifties—that awkward and sometimes scary period wedged between “I’m ridin’ high” and (gulp) “I can see that the end is nigh.” Sitting on your hands with a thousand-yard stare will get you nowhere. Action is always preferable here.
Danny’s no stranger to the harebrained hot rod world. The action in his dad’s service station infused him with the curriculum needed to work on cars. When he was old enough to drive, his dad helped him buy a ’64 Dodge Dart. It was in serious want of fresh paint, and so the father/son bonding began. Danny remembers: “…over the winter, dad and I did all of the bodywork and paint right there in the wash stall at the station.”
A little later on, it was time for Danny’s first new ride, a ’74 Plymouth Duster 360. Danny will probably keep it forever because it represents the soul alliance between him and Beth Johnson. Before she met Danny, Beth didn’t want to know diddly about cars. But he got her into it, not as the recipient of her encouragement but by getting her in the driver seat. In 1979, they raced the Duster in IHRA Pure Stock. Danny: “Well, by now she was hooked and could work right alongside the best of them. After a few trips down the racetrack we decided that Beth would be the driver and I’d do the tuning. After we got racing out of our system, we decided to restore the Duster and put it back on the street.”
On down the line, Danny owned an obsession, a succession of station wagons—’62 Chevy Bel Air, ’66 Chevy II, and ’60 Nomad. His next fetish would follow suit. Once again, he went looking for an early ’60s longroof. He found one and proceeded to get to work. Then, this: “As time went on, I knew deep down the wagon was not really the car I thought I wanted, so the search was on again.” In 2006, he got sensory overload at the Turkey Rod Run in Daytona Beach and under its influence he encountered “…a beautiful red ’62 Bel Air bubbletop. I had no idea how rare the car was. All I knew was that I had to have one. It had class and looked like a real hot rod,” Danny says.
He found his inspiration at Street Machinery in Cleveland. Street Machinery began operations in November 2007 as a repaint, interior upgrade, engine swap, and wheel and tires shop. “Then I decided that the interior needed to be a little on the custom side and I wanted some custom fab work done.” Inexplicably, the car then spirited east to Warrendale, Pennsylvania, and into the realm of RPM Hot Rods. RPM completed the interior and continued to refine the car … a long way from those sepia days at his dad’s service station.