The California Kid: Profile of a Hot Rod

The California Kid's signature flames were applied by Manuel Reyes. See more pictures of hot rods.

Among the most significant hot rods of the 1970s was Pete Chapouris' chopped 1934 Ford coupe, dubbed The California Kid.

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It starred in a television movie, bucked the then-dominant resto rod trend, and played an important role in the founding of Pete and Jake's Hot Rod Repair, one of the first modern professional rod shops.

Thanks to Hot Rod magazine's Gray Baskerville, Chapouris met Rod & Custom staffer Jim Jacobs, who was pounding out his own chopped 1934 Ford coupe at the time. With similar tastes, the pair became fast friends and soon started their own hot rod business.

Pete's hot rod gained its name from a 1973 ABC made-for-TV movie starring Martin Sheen. The movie, along with the motion picture American Graffiti from the same year, spurred hot rod enthu­siasm and nostalgia, and reminded a generation how a hot rod should look and sound.

Pete Chapouris placed a Ford 302-cid V-8 engine in The California Kid.

Pete bought the car for $250 with the top already chopped. He dropped in the Ford 302-cid V-8, FMX gearbox, and quick-change rear end from a previous rod, and had Manuel Reyes apply the prominent flames.

The car originally had a set of Halibrand mags, but they were swapped for red steelies with ­beauty rings for the movie. The movie producers also had the sig­nature "California Kid" lettering applied to the doors along the belt line.

Today, The California Kid resides with Jerry Slover of Peculiar, Missouri, who acquired it in the 1986 purchase of Pete & Jake's business. Jerry was one of P&J's original customers and is a longtime hot rodder.

Movie producers changed the California Kid's Halibrand mag wheels to red steelies with beauty rings.

The quick-change is gone in favor of a Ford nine-inch rear end, and several of the chassis parts have been replaced. After all, the car has more than 90,000 miles on it! Now reunited with another great hot rod, Jake's Coupe, The California Kid has found a good home.

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