by Scotty Gosson
(Excerpt from America’s Coolest Station Wagons published in 2011)
Why a wagon? “I had a ’29 roadster and a ’39 convertible. Neither car could safely take my family to a car show. The birth of my daughter really got me looking for a station wagon for us.” (Photo Courtesy Patrick McDonah)
When you first saw the movie Cars, it probably didn’t take you all day to realize it was made by real car guys. You were right. Pixar even put on its own car show, packed with company rods and customs, to celebrate the film’s release. Jay Ward is one of those guys.
When he found this Safari, it wasn’t exactly a show car. Jay says, “It was a borderline parts car. Dead engine, no brakes, bad rust, and parts missing. But there I was, with a trailer and money in hand, buying it anyway. Keep in mind, we had a one-month-old daughter at home, so my wife wasn’t too thrilled to see this rusty pile show up in the driveway.”
After a solid year of thrashing, Jay still had a project on his hands. “I just wanted to get it running, fix the largest rust holes, and drive it, leaving the original patina intact,” Jay explains. “But, by the time the body was all repaired, the car was more patch panels and primer than actual paint. It was decided at that point to go the rest of the way and do a complete job on it.”
Jay went all the way, all right. He lost the fender scripts, the tailgate lettering, the side mirrors, and the door handles were replaced with Lincoln push buttons. The stars were kicked off the sides, and the antenna was shaved. The chassis came down 3 inches all around, with dropped spindles and disc brakes up front and lowering blocks supporting new juicers out back. Final paint and interior choices were based on stock colors and patterns. The Safari, once aspiring to beaterdom at best, had morphed into a beautiful mild custom.
“The car now has all-new interior, completely rebuilt suspension, brakes, motor, transmission, cooling system, and tires,” Jay says. “It’s essentially had every part replaced or refurbished at this point. Was it worth it? Yes; they’re rare cars. I should’ve found one in slightly beter shape, to give myself a bit of a head start. But I’ve got it pretty much dialed in at this point. It’s been driven to several events. Now that the motor’s been rebuilt, I’d like to take it on a few long-distance trips, as well.” Uh, huh.
This explains some of what we saw in the first Cars film. Jay’s working on the sequel now. Will anyone be surprised to see a talking Safari wagon gliding down the road in that movie? Not us.
More options abound in here. Mega heater and deluxe radio top the list. We applaud Jay for showing discipline in keeping stock look intact. Late 1950s styling and colors are so much fun! (Photo Courtesy Patrick McDonah)
Dropped spindles and lowering blocks improved the stance by 3 inches. Olds Fiesta caps on steelies with wide whites confirm the traditional custom style at a glance. (Photo Courtesy Patrick McDonah)