Tuesday December 4, 2018 at 11:51 AM
I decided to post my full story about The Bat in case some of you have never seen it,
some things have changed due to age and time but this story is all very accurate, enjoy,
Story by Dick Johnson.Here is the story on " The Bat " . It got it's name when Frank finished it in 1955 and California gave him new plates that had BAT 386 on them, The name fit and it was known as " The Bat " from then on.
I first saw it in that little issue of R & C in 1957. We lived in Oregon then. In 1958 we took a trip to San Diego and I saw it downtown sitting at the curb. I was hooked, what a car. Dark metallic blue with a black top made to look like vinyl but is all steel.
Later that same year we moved to San Diego. I saw it go by the house one evening and ran after it. By the time I found it Frank had already parked it and was gone. I waited next to it in this dark service station parking lot for over two hours. When he returned at 10:30 PM I was still standing next to it. He introduced himself and invited me to set in it. What a thrill. We sat and talked for almost an hour as he told me all about it. He gave me his phone number and address and said to come over anytime and he would take me for a ride in it. I didn't waste any time getting there.
Frank was my dads age and the nicest and kindest man you could ever find. He built The Bat himself and I still have all the old pictures of it's construction.
I was in the eleventh grade and the school was having a senior car show. I ask Frank if he would be willing to show it in our car show and he said no but I could. So he drove it out 10 miles to my school and handed me the keys and told me to take my girl friend out to Oscars drive in after school then he took the city bus back home.
Frank treated me as if I were his son and just to make a long story short, he and I were the only two to ever drive it and it was never out of San Diego. I would go and get it often and keep it for sometimes several days. We put over 300,000 miles on it all in San Diego.
In 1979 I was able to contact Spence Murray then editor of Rod and Custom, he and a camera man drove down from L. A. and did an article on it for the second time titled " In The Eye of The Beholder " and said it was the oldest one owner daily driven custom known. Spence then showed me movies he had taken of the Dream Truck when it was wrecked.It was fully restored years later and I was there and had a hand in it's restoration. It is in a private collection today and still as beautiful as ever.
We then got in The Bat and went out to dinner.
In 1987 I called Frank to say hi and he said "I want to give you The Bat for good " come and get it. WOW !
Remember it had never been out of San Diego but shortly after getting it I moved to Portland, Oregon and drove it up there with no trouble running along at 70 MPH. It had over 300 K at the time and only one engine change running a strong built straight eight.
It was driven until the mid 90's when it went into inside storage. The wiring had rotted from age and it needed a paint job.
I got it out of storage about two years ago, it has no rust and the interior Frank had redone in 1964 is still in great shape, even the headliner and sun visors as good as back then. The body work Frank did is still flawless and was done in lead and has stood the test of time very well.
The windshield is the rear window from a 1953 Studebaker and the top all steel just cut down to match the windshield.
Due to poor finances and health issues I couldn't afford to restore it so I found a collector here in Seattle that I sold it to and he is having it restored to it's original condition and it will be back in shows.It is in grey primer now but still looks great. The top was changed from black to silver in 1964 with real vinal because the black was to hot in the sun.
Because of no windows in the back except for a small one from a 1951 Hillman convertible it had poor rear vision. So Frank found some rear vision mirrors at a war surplus store from a WW2 army tank and installed them on the roof. All that was needed was to look up and you can see a wide view behind, solved the problem and they look great. The front seat is from a 1953 Kaiser and welded in place to add support to where the B pillars were removed. This is still a four door but the rear doors blend so well with the top it is hard to tell. The spare tire opens up from a lever under the front seat so the trunk is useable, it is mounted on a hinge at the bottom and has an airplane shock to push it open. There is a fuel door from an airplane in the floor of the trunk.
The rear fender skirts are 1949 Chevy fender tops turned up side down and fit neatly up under the fender stainless trim from a 1948 Cadillac. Rear fender scoops are made with 1940 LaSalle grill parts. The scoops on the hood sides were hand made by Frank and 1937 Dodge hood louvers installed inside them and along the rocker panels on both sides with real exhaust coming out just ahead of the rear fenders and they had a real throaty sound. The landau irons on the roof are from a 1927 Cadillac and were cut so part of them opens with the rear doors. Tail lights are 1953 Chevy. Because of the design, roll up windows would not work so he built windows that would slide back into the rear doors. They would also lock with a key lock when pushed all the way forward. He built in a safety device in the rear doors so they could not be opened unless the windows were all the way back. The grill was all hand made by Frank. He mounted a stop watch in the center of the steering wheel and that is how he would set the timing and carb. adjustment on a steep hill called Texas Street. When he got his best time up that hill thats where he left the settings
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|I decided to post my full story about The Bat in case some of you have never seen it, by Dick Johnson #39691|
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