Ernie Szelesi's 1933 Ford
1933 Ford Convertible owned by Downriver Modified member Ernie Szelesi. Ernie bought the Ford from a junkyard in 1944. He was 14 years old and paid $25 for the rusty old Ford. Ernie was born with only one hand, which had just two bumps for fingers. Despite his birth handicap, he did all the work on the car himself.
Restyled by Bill Hines
Szelesi's car was originally painted black, and he raced it a lot, both on dirt and on pavement. His wife said he was always doing something to it, always changing it somewhere. In the 1950s, Ernie stopped racing and decided to start showing the car. Restyled by Bill Hines, Ernie's 33 was built as a clone of Marty Ribits' 1934 Ford, another Bill Hines custom. Fellow club member Lew Wolff helped Ernie build the car. It was repainted gold, with a little gold dust in the paint to make it glitter or shimmer.
Interior From The Golden Nugget
Ernie and Marty Ribits where good friends, and around 1956 Marty installed a diamond tuck interior in his 34, and the original rolled and pleated interior from The Golden Nugget car was installed in Ernie's car.
Detroit Autorama Best of Show in 1958
Ernie and his wife Barbara met in 1951, and were married in 1954. They had a son, John, and a daughter, Vicki. Ernie intended to keep his '33 cabriolet show car so that he and John could work on it and do things with it together. Barbara described Ernie as about 5'7” tall and weighing no more than 135 lbs. However, by the time son John entered high school, he was 6' tall and could no longer fit in the highly chopped and channeled hot rod. So, in 1978 or 1979, Ernie decided it was time to sell his car so he and Barbra could use the money to buy some land. Barbara worried about how Ernie would take it when the car's new owner drove away with it, since it had been “his baby” since age 14, but he seemed unphased and she was the one doing all the crying when they watched it leave their lives.
Bob Larivee Buys the Car
The new owner was a policeman named Tom, who lived in the town of Lake Orion. Unfortunately, within a year of buying the car, Tom lost his life to cancer. His family then sold the car to Bob Larivee. Bob tried persistently over the years to purchase the many trophies Ernie had won with the Goldbrick, but Ernie refused. Finally, Ernie concluded the awards were only going to continue decaying away down in their basement, so he agreed to sell them all except for a small handful. Son John has the Detroit Autorama Best of Show Trophy from 1958, and their daughter has the small wooden trophy from Ernie's first drag racing victory.
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