Rod Benders

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2009

Terry Williams bought his 1957 Chevy from its original owner. One of the classic car’s most distinguishing body features was its tail fins and crescent-shaped brake light. Mark Whitten’s 1954 Ford sheriff’s car is parked at right.

Rodney Tullos (from left), Shipp Sissell and Gary Morrow take in Morrow’s “Cheford” rat rod.

Gary Morrow said his rat rod is a “Cheford,” built primarily from Chevrolet and Ford parts.

Mark Whitten has outfitted his sheriff’s car with as close to period sheriff’s car equipment as possible, including the Motorola two-way radio. Hanging on the tuning knob of the car’s AM radio are old-style jail cell keys.

Shipp Sissell’s black 1967 Chevy Wagon came with a monster 454 cubic inch motor. Parked beside it is Bobby Tedford’s chopped ’55 Chevy.

Admiring the monster under the hood of Bobby Tedford’s ’55 Chevy are Gary Morrow, Greg O’Conner, Shipp Sissell and Bobby Tedford.

Locals form group of vintage auto enthusiasts

The Rod Benders came in vehicles shiny and some not-so-shiny to the Hardees parking lot Thursday night.

Rod Benders is the name a loose-knit local group of vintage auto enthusiasts recently adopted for themselves. In common they have an interest in old cars that is manifested through restoration, modification and sometimes both. Sometimes elaborately.

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Thursday night’s gathering was just an informal spring airing out, an opportunity to show their cars to each other and to interested passersby. They talked cars, car history and complimented one another’s vehicles with an occasional friendly put-down.

Some in the group come in vintages near that of their vehicles. They include the usual suspects associated with auto restoration around Batesville, Bobby Tedford and Red Hudson among them.

With Tedford a Google search for a factoid of American auto trivia is unnecessary. As in: “What was the year that Chevy came out with the 409 engine available to the public like Jimmy Rowsey bought?”

“1962,” Tedford replied, explaining that the “big shots” had been able to get them a year earlier.

And if Tedford doesn’t know the answer, Hudson does.

Among Mark Whitten’s old vehicles is his 1954 Ford sheriff’s car, restored and bearing a license tag that states simply: “OLD LAW.”

Terry Williams drove up in his 1957 Chevy. When bought it from the original owner several years ago, it had 60,000 miles, he said.

Shipp Sissell’s 1967 Chevy wagon is powered by the 454 cubic-inch monster motor that it came with. Back in the day.

Gary Morrow has built a “Cheford,” he says, combining pieces of old Chevrolets and Fords to build a “Rat Rod” — or retro rod with the appearance of the original hot rods of the 1950s.

They talk cars and car trivia mostly. Soon they will drive their attention-grabbing vehicles around Batesville on sunny spring and summer afternoons. Their hobby provides a kind of rolling museum, preserving both the hardware of days gone by as well as the folklore that grew up around it.