Cruisin’ with the Bay Park Boys

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Walter Andersen and his '51 Merc (photo from Walter Anderson collection)

By Bill Swank

An old-timer asked the millennial, “What’s a fender?”

The kid answered, “A guitar.”

The Bay Park Boys aren’t a rock band, but they still rock. They rhapsodize about moons and spinners, flatheads and rocker panels, Deuces and suicide doors. Their chorus is chopped and channeled, sectioned, raked and dagoed.

Their eyes may be Frenched, their grille teeth replaced and their upholstery tuck and rolled, but the Bay Park Boys know that a fender belongs on an automobile… and when these seventy and eighty-year-olds hang out together, they again become teenagers lost in the Golden Age of hot rods.

The original 1950s Bay Park Boys and their cars on Chicago Street: (L to R) Darold Dwinell, Neil Dwinell, Wayne Buck, Neal Remmerde, Ray Bentsen, David Buck, Tommy Tipton (photo by Bob Lampert)
The original 1950s Bay Park Boys and their cars on Chicago Street: (L to R) Darold Dwinell, Neil Dwinell, Wayne Buck, Neal Remmerde, Ray Bentsen, David Buck, Tommy Tipton (photo by Bob Lampert)

Walter Andersen recalled, “The first car I bought was a ’51 Mercury Monterey and the trouble with the ’51 Merc was the flathead V8.”

“As opposed to overhead valves,” noted Ed Renger.

Walter continued, “Real V8s don’t have valve covers.”

There was laughter and Gary Crowley added, ”Henry Ford was a proponent of the flathead. Ford was the last to switch over to overhead valves to get more power.”

Danny Cline chimed in, “From ’32 to ’53, it was all flatheads.”

He asked, “Does anybody remember Froggy? He had a bunch of Model A’s. He’d probably be considered a street person today, but he was a real character back in the fifties.”

Nobody remembered Froggy and the conversation changed gears.

Early Mission Bay High School grid icon Wayne Lollis drove a ’40 Ford coupe and remembered that his friend, Larry Isham, had a black ’32 Ford Roadster (a Deuce). “It had a Cadillac V-8 with hydramatic transmission and I believe it had a Caddy rear end.”

Ted Svendsen's '34 Ford coupe on cover of September 1958 Car Craft magazine
Ted Svendsen’s ’34 Ford coupe on cover of September 1958 Car Craft magazine

“The coolest car belonged to Ted Svendsen. It was a ’34 Ford coupe and it was the best by far. It was chopped, channeled and sectioned. It only stood about four feet tall. Ted and his car were on the cover of Car Craft magazine back in the 50s,” said Andersen.

He added, “Ted liked how I’d painted my Model A and asked if I’d paint his coupe. I was flattered. I primed and sanded it three times to eliminate the scallops. Then I gave it seven coats of ’56 Dodge Royal Blue lacquer and wet-sanded it the last time. I hand buffed the paint job and Ted was happy. He won several trophies in car shows.”

Ray Bentsen is well-respected within the group. “I’ve owned ’55, ’56 and ’57 Chevys… the shoebox cars,” he said, but he had a favorite. “It was my Dad’s four-door wagon and I made it into a sedan delivery. It’s been in 16 magazines and it’s won 58 shows.”

Lollis said, “I remember your ’56 Chevy. It was purple and white. It looked good and it was fast.”

Karl Croft is excited about his latest project. “I’m redoing my parents ’49 Oldsmobile fastback. It’s got a Camaro clip on it with a 454 Chevy V8, positraction axle and rear end. It’s primed and ready to be painted.”

Karl Croft's classic Oldsmobile emblems: Replica emblem on left and original stock emblem on right (photo by Bill Swank)
Karl Croft’s classic Oldsmobile emblems: Replica emblem on left and original stock emblem on right (photo by Bill Swank)

Croft is particularly proud of his custom hub caps that feature the classic “world globe” emblem from inside the ’49 Oldsmobile steering wheel horn cap. The emblem looks more like the planet earth with Saturn rings.

He disassembled the horn cap, reproduced seven world globes at a local foundry, had them gold-plated and mounted on metallic blue disks with small stars fixed to the background. Collectors and dealers at an Oldsmobile show in Arizona were impressed. Croft’s beautiful reproductions look better than the original stock emblem.

Class of 1958 Mission Bay High School friends: (L to R) Wayne Lollis, Gary Crowley, Walter Andersen, Danny Cline, Ed Renger (photo by Bill Swank)
Class of 1958 Mission Bay High School friends: (L to R) Wayne Lollis, Gary Crowley, Walter Andersen, Danny Cline, Ed Renger (photo by Bill Swank)

Danny Cline laughed about a funny incident on the railroad tracks. “Mathias Ponce had a ’34 Chevy. It was less than four feet high. He’d sit so low you could only see his eyes. He’d ride around with his friends and you’d only see eyes. One time they got stuck on the tracks at the Jellett St crossing to get on (Highway) 101. You never saw four Mexican guys get out of a car so fast.”

“Chevys had a blade bumper with bumper guards that went above and below the bumper so they wouldn’t under-ride or override if you hit another car. The Ponce brothers were pretty famous for having the lowest cars in Bay Park and PB,” said Lollis.

That meant Ponce’s car could not be pushed by another vehicle which explains the rapid exit by his passengers. Nothing pulls the pin like the prospect of a train smashing into your customized ’34 Chevy

As the party was winding down, Walter Andersen grew wistful. “It’s a good group of guys who have been doing this for a long time. Darold Dwinell came from Durango, Colorado just for this meeting.”

Once a year, the Bay Park Boys enjoy being young again. The trials and tribulations of old age are not addressed, because they are not on the agenda.