Life can change in an instant. Kelly Hammerschmid of Calgary can attest to that, having survived a heart attack and twice battled cancer.
A lifelong car enthusiast and journeyman auto body technician and painter, he seizes every opportunity he can to enjoy driving his latest creation, a 1933 Ford pickup.
“Every nice day that I don’t drive it is a failure on my part,” Hammerschmid explains.
Backing up the story, Hammerschmid had purchased a rusty and tired 1933 Ford pickup project late in 2012, and had acquired a few parts and pieces to help get it started while continuing to work on his main project, a 1939 GMC cab over engine truck.
“But in April 2013, a friend and I went to the Lone Star Round Up in Austin, Texas,” Hammerschmid says. “That’s an event full of traditional hot rods, and it made me realize I was focused on the wrong project.”
As soon as he got home the GMC was mothballed. He tore into the ’33 Ford, but was looking at having to complete a great deal of major rust repair. That changed in May 2013. While searching online for parts, he found another ’33 Ford truck for sale in Okanagan Falls, B.C. He managed to swing a deal and drove out to trailer it home just before he suffered a heart attack that had been unfortunately misdiagnosed as bronchitis.
It took Hammerschmid several weeks to recover some strength, but he managed to carry on building his hot rod.
“This second truck was complete, with 80 years of abuse and a brushed on paint job,” Hammerschmid says of the B.C.-sourced ‘33. “But, it was a much better place to start than the other 1933 Ford I had.”
He started by drilling out the stock Ford rivets and separating all of the frame rails to sandblast away the rust between the parts before bolting it together to mock up the project. Wire wheels from a 1935 Ford were sandblasted and painted, finally fitted with Coker-produced Firestone tires. Hammerschmid built motor, transmission, rear torque arm and brake master cylinder mounts.
“I wanted this Ford to look like a young person had gotten Grandpa’s old truck in the early 1950s and built a hot rod,” he says.
With mock up well underway, Hammerschmid received his second cancer diagnosis – this time, stage IV mantle cell lymphoma. All work on the truck stalled over the winter until early 2014.
“Initially this truck was going to be all nicely body worked and finished with show quality paint, but after the health issues all I wanted to do was drive this truck, and it became hot rod therapy,” he says. “Mechanically, the truck had to be perfect, but otherwise it was going to look like it had just been driven off the farm.”
On a personal note, he adds, “Cancer really defines who is in your inner circle of friends, and mine were always there for me when called upon for help.”
Powering the Ford is a 255-cubic-inch 1951 Mercury flathead V8 paired with a Borg-Warner five speed transmission. Hammerschmid points out the transmission is the newest part on the truck, everything else is from 1955 or earlier. The engine runs the stock carburetor, distributor and water pumps, while the headers are from Speedway Motors.
The front axle was sent to Anson Axles in California for a four-inch drop and the rear end is from a 1940 Ford truck. Hydraulic brakes are at each corner of the hot rod.
With mockup done, Hammerschmid took it all apart, including unbolting the frame rails and applied liberal amounts of epoxy primer between the parts that would then be hot riveted back together before painting.
The frame, and all other parts under the truck, was painted black. The body and its vintage hand-brushed paint job was left alone. But if Hammerschmid did have to work on a panel he attempted to match the finish by mixing Tremclad paint with hardener before brushing it on.
The simple bench seat was upholstered in foam and black Naugahyde, while Hammerschimd made up his own wiring harness using traditional-looking cloth covered wires.
He hasn’t fit the stock fenders, because they’re in rough condition and would need a lot of work just to get them to match the patina of the truck. In the meantime, since July 2016, the Ford has been driven extensively. In fact, Hammerschimd had promised the Okanagan Falls seller he’d return to show him the truck. That journey took place this past summer.
Hammerschmid notes, “(The seller) was blown away by the truck, and it never missed a beat there and back.”
And, neither has Hammerschmid. His cancer is presently in remission, but still receives maintenance chemotherapy every two months. While his heart is weakened, he’s enjoying every day that he’s been given. Follow him and his hot rod adventures on Instagram at kellys_restorations.
Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or [email protected]