Teddy Zgrzemski's 1954 Ford
1954 Ford owned by Teddy Zgrzemski of Rockwood, Michigan. In 2019 Teddy told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that it was the first car he got on the road; "I paid 350.00. 33.00 a month. I was 15 when I bought it. For 3 months all I could do was look at it and wash it."
Teddy began working on the car when he got his drivers license. Teddy is Bill Hines nephew, and Bill helped him customize the car into the radically restyled "X-Tremist". When Joey Ukrop interviewed Teddy about the car for the book Hot Rod Detroit, Teddy said that he only wanted frenched headlights, rounded hood corners, a bar grille and maybe split bumpers; " But I came home from school one day and went to the shop and he had the whole front end cut up with welding rod and tubing." Bill told Teddy he would front clip if Teddy tackled the rear. "I always thought the front end was ugly, and he always thought my back end was ugly."
Up front two 1959 Chevrolet lower pans were butted together in order to create a floating grille. The front fender flares were extended and the stock headlights replaced by canted quad headlights. The hood was shaved and fit with a radical scoop, the hood corners were also rounded. The rear sections of some 1958 or 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air side trim strips were used as side trim. Twin stacked lakers were bracketed to the rocker panel and emerged from molded rocker panel sheath. "My uncle did the front and side pipes. I did the back."
Interior by Ray Kulakowski
In the rear, the original taillight housings were capped over and molded to the fender creating two bullet-like projections on each side. Tunneled 1959 Cadillac taillights were fit inside the housings. Inside Bill installed Thunderbird seats mounted on special mountings. The upholstery design was executed by Ray Kulakowski. "I prepped it and Bill painted it," Teddy told Kustomrama. "I borrowed 300.00 from my buddy to pay for the interior."
Broke, But Happy
The build was completed in the summer of 1960. Shortly after completion, the car was shown at the Detroit Artillery Armory in Oak Park. "I was completely broke. I didn't have any money to buy headlights or taillights." He scoured his uncle's shop for burnt out bulbs to fill the voids. It wasn't a big problem Teddy told Joey Ukrop, he was perfectly satisfied being a 16-year old with a car in a car show. The X-Tremist was also shown at the first annual National Champion Custom Car Show in 1960.
In October of 1960, a couple of months after the X-Tremist was completed, Bill Hines decided to close up his Michigan shop and move back to California. Teddy recalled that he had just built Jerry Yatch's 1959 Chevrolet Impala custom and sold The Bat before leaving. After selling The Bat, Bill bought a 1954 Buick. "The Buick was a stock car. All he did was paint it a white pearl just before he left for California." In Oklahoma, the brakes on the Buick went out, and they had to jack the car up, "with the trailer and everything on it." The brake line had rusted out, and Teddy and Bill had had to replace it before they could continue the trip out west. Bill with the Buick. Teddy, with his 1954 Ford custom, The X-Tremist. "When we got to California, we were coming down the mountains, and he had this homemade trailer with all the tools on it. I was following him down the mountain, but man, I couldn't keep up with him. When we got down to the bottom of the mountain, I said, "Man, uncle Bill, why were you going so fast?" He said, "I didn't have any brakes!" The brakes had gone out from all of the weight of that trailer with all of his tools in it. You know, it was just a stock 54 Buick, and the brakes got hot, so he had no brakes going down that mountain, so I couldn't keep up with him," Teddy chuckled. He got a job at Barris and sent 300 dollars back to his buddy for the upholstery money he had borrowed.
Sold to Louis Sciarrotta
A year later Teddy sold the car to Louis Sciarrotta of Whittier, California for 800.00. "My dad went to school in La Habra, but his car club was the Henchmen of Fullerton, " Louis son Louis told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2020. "He would go back-and-forth between his grandmother who lived in Compton and his parents in Whitttier." Louis believes that it was on one of these trips that he drove past the shop and the car was out in front with a sign on it. After selling it, Teddy bought a one-owner cherry 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop for 1100.00.
Donated to a High School Auto Shop
Louis never called the car the X-tremist. "The name he had referenced the pearl paint job," Louis told Kustomrama. Teddy heard that the car was eventually donated to a high school auto shop. Louis could confirm this, telling Kustomrama that his grandparents donated the car to the high school without asking his dad. "Bothered him until the day he died."
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