Dennis Taylor / Booneville, AR
The square footage of a shop probably isn't a good indicator of how intense a car crafter you are-but then again, it's not a bad barometer, either. A quick glimpse at Dennis Taylor's shop reveals how deeply he is immersed in the world of fast cars and cool cruisers. Apparently, there are four more '55 Nomads that didn't make the casting call. Dennis grew up in Southern California, spending way too much of his time at Orange County International Raceway in the middle of the whole Gasser thing, but that's only part of Dennis' affection for cars with character. Clearly, he has also worked hard to include his wife, Debbie, and daughters, Alex (13) and Megan (10), in his automotive infatuation. Read his story and see if you think this guy is having way too much fun.
A. "I bought the '55 about three months ago. It was being cut up to make a Pro Street car, and they had already cut the floor all the way to the firewall. I built the straight front axle out of 2-inch DOM tube and made the hairpins so it would mimic the last years of the Gassers. I went to see Two-Lane Black Top when I was 11 years old and just never got over it. The project kind of exploded from a primered car with the iron-headed LS6 (on the stand) to a painted car with an aluminum big-block and overdrive. I'm going to drive it to California when it's done. The Rat made 711 hp at 6,000 rpm on 91-octane.
B. "The DeSoto wagon is pretty cool. I bought it off eBay because I had never seen one before. It turns out there are less than 50 known to exist today out of only 500 built. When I went to pick it up, it was right across the street from the childhood home of Walter P. Chrysler in Ellis, Kansas. I built the frame myself as well as the new floors and all the rest of the custom sheetmetal work. It had a Hemi, but I put in a new 6.1 crate Hemi so the family and I can enjoy it."
C. "The black Camaro is the car that won Drag Week(tm) in 2007. I traded a '33 Willys for it. I've been having fun just driving and running at some test and tunes and one Pinks All Out." The Camaro is powered by a 580ci Rat motor plumbed with a ProCharger centrifugal that ran 7s all five days of Hot Rod Drag Week(tm) with a best of 7.64 at 175 mph. "I even pick up the girls from school in it once in a while. You should see the looks I get from the teachers!"
D. "The Willys is my tribute to Stone, Woods, & Cook. Doug Cook was actually from Arkansas, and we got to know the Cook family during the build. We wanted to letter it with the S.W.C., but they couldn't let us, so we came up with the idea of using the nickname they were given during the Gasser wars, Pebble, Pulp & Chef. My wife actually laid up the fiberglass body and helped me build and paint the car. We did all of it in our shop, including sand-casting our own Taylor logo timing chain cover and machining my own rocker arms out of chrome-moly steel and billet aluminum. I have gone 9.30s at 134 lifting early. They say 150 is tops for these old things and that they start to fly when they get there. I can tell you at 134 it is as smooth as silk."
E. "The coffin car is called Dragula. I built it for my daughters because they got into watching The Munsters on TV, and they really liked it. I also watched the show when I was their age and thought it would be cool to have one for myself. The real car is hanging in a bar in New Jersey. My car has a 301ci small-block Chevy with Brodix heads, Crower fuel injection, a shorty Powerglide, a 9-inch with a spool, and 4.56:1 gears. The radiator lies between the front framerails, and it runs 170 degrees all day long."
F. "The Hurst Avenue road sign came from downtown Ventura, California. No, I didn't steal it. My buddy works for the city, and they changed them out. Next to the road sign is a genuine '41 Willys front axle that was drilled, chrome-plated, and ran on a real A/GS Willys in the '60s."
G. "The '60 El Camino is just another project that keeps getting pushed back. I'm getting in the mood to paint it flat black and put some gold leaf letters on the door. It has the original 348 motor, but I put a 700-R4 and a 9-inch in it along with Air Ride air springs, disc brakes, and drop spindles."
H. The small-block is just a 383 with Brodix heads and a Crower injector for another project."
I. "The skeleton? We call him Skully. He usually sits in the coffin. We took Dragula to Kansas City to the Goodguys show, and it was a hoot to watch the kids when they walked up to see the car."