Jerry Drake's 1955 Ford
1955 Ford Fairlane owned by Injectors of Lyons President Jerry Drake of Lansing, Michigan. Known as "India Ivory," all the paint and body work on Jerry's car was done by Ed Blaisdell of Blaisdell Body Shop. Jerry is a well-known Michigan pinstriper and custom painter that later would operate under the name "Spider the Crazy Painter".
Four years prior to buying the Ford, Jerry had ridden motorcycles with Larry Cooper, the son of Lloyd Cooper, who ran Cooper Body Shop in Lansing. Cooper had already done two custom cars when Jerry bought his Ford; Terry Smith's 1954 Ford and Rudy Rodriguez's 1954 Ford. Terry Smith was Jerry's rival, and as he was having his car done at Cooper, Jerry didn't want Terry to know what he was having done: "Ed Blaisdell's Body Shop and Lloyd Cooper's Body Shop was only a mile from one another. I thought they were rivals but found out later that Ed got together with Lloyd every Saturday night at Cooper Body Shop, drank whiskey and traded bullshit with each other. Thinking that Lloyd had probably chided Ed with how good they were, I approached Ed on doing my car. He jumped at the chance to show Lloyd what he could do. He gave me good prices on all my work if he could do it on weekends when his body shop was normally closed."
In January of 1957 an early version of Jerry's Ford was shown at the 1st Conquerors Autorama in Lansing, Michigan. This version featured subtle body modifications such as a shaved deck lid and bubble skirts. It was also fit with custom taillight lenses. After that, Jerry decided that all the Fairlane trim had to go. This modification made the car look like a slightly customized Mainlane. He then relocated the gas filler into the trunk and welded shut the original hole. The stock taillights were replaced with 1956 Mercury station wagon taillights. A 1956 Ford Fairlane bumper was installed in the rear to get the exhaust pipes out of the way. All body seams were filled, and the door corners were rounded. To add length to the car, Jerry installed a 1956 Chevrolet 210 side-trim. The door handles were shaved and replaced with electric solenoids. Up front, 1955 Oldsmobile headlights were installed along with a 1956 Plymouth grille. When the bodywork was done, the car was given a 1956 Chevrolet India Ivory paint job. It was dressed up featuring pinstriping by Bill Pierce, lakes pipes and 1956 Dodge Royal Lancer wheel discs. Jerry displayed this version of the car at the Saginaw Auto-Rama in November of 1957.
Inside, the seats, door panels and headliner were upholstered in Green and White Naugahyde by Don's Auto Trim Shop. The carpets were dyed a dark green, and pleated mats were added. The dash was given a two-tone paint job, and it featured a few Stewart-Warner gauges. All solenoid door switches were mounted under the dash. The engine was hopped up by Rex Rohrer, featuring two chromed Stromberg carburetors on an Offenhauser 3 carburetor manifold, Gotha hi-lift rocker arms and a Mallory ignition with a 6000 volt coil. Everything in the engine compartment that was removable was given the chrome-dip treatment. Displayed in the Semi-Custom class, this version of Jerry's Ford was given a proper stance by lowering the rear 3 inches and the front 2 inches.
Another version of Jerry's Ford was shown at the 1957 Grand Rapids Autorama November 9-10, 1957. The problem with the paint on the car was that you could see all the air intakes, etc. behind the grille, so Ed Blaidell suggested that it should be painted dark green behind the grille. According to Jerry "This looked a whole lot better. Then I decided to turn it into dark green scallops." The scalloped version was shown at the 2nd Conquerors Autorama in January of 1958. The bubble skirts had been removed by then, and the rear quarter panels had received scoops. Legendary pinstriper Paul Hatton pinstriped the car "on the floor" at the 2nd Conquerors Autorama. "At a later show, he did and absolutely gorgeous dragon on my dash." About a year later, light green scallops and additional pinstriping were added. Jerry believes that Paul Hatton did the striping on those. This version can be seen on the cover of Cars and Clubs December 1958. This is the most radical version of "India Ivory", featuring 8 inches extended rear fenders, and deeply tunneled taillights. This version had also received 130 louvers in the hood, and the trunk was upholstered in green carpeting, containing chromed wrenches, a first aid kit, flares, flare posts, road reflectors, fire extinguishers, a flash-light, a lug wrench, tire irons and a chromed bumper jack. Inside, Jerry had added pleated pedal pads and quick release safety belts. A new low-slung look had been achieved by lowering it 5 inches up front and 4 inches in the rear. When India Ivory was featured in Cars and Clubs December 1958 it had won three 2nd places, four 1st places and one Best Car of the Show trophy. It had also been changed 5 times.
"When I really got into customizing my car, both Terry Smith and myself were having changes made to our cars every three months. I finally beat Terry at the Lansing Autorama in 1959" About two months later, Jerry drove the car to see Ed Blaisdell. Ed casually took a ball point pen out of his shirt pocket, bent over and shoved it through the rocker panel on the the car. He said, "Time to get rid of the car. It is rusting out all over." This didn't surprise Jerry, as it had been his only form of transportation. He had driven it through three, brutal Michigan winters over plenty of road salt.
One day, while driving down South Cedar street in Lansing Jerry spotted a really clean 1957 Ford Fairlane on a used car lot. He pulled in to look at it, and the owners of the used car lot were really interested in taking "India Ivory" in on a trade. "The '57 Ford was really clean with a low mileage on it. I made a deal on the car. After that, my car sat on their lot for at least three months. I stopped in one day to show them my new scallop job on the '57. They told me they had a lot of "lookers" at the car but they all said the same thing, "It will always be Jerry Drake's car." They told me that they were taking the car to an auction where no one would know whose car it was."
Sold to a kid from Battle Creek
About a week later Jerry stopped in again to see how much of a "beating" they had taken on it at the auction. This is the story they told him: "When the car came up for bidding there was a kid and his dad there. The kid told his dad, "I want that car and I don't care what it costs!" One of the owners of the car lot heard that and he started bidding on it himself, driving the price way higher than what they originally thought they could get for it. They stopped bidding just in time and the kid's dad ended up with the car. The new owner was from Battle Creek, Michigan." Jerry knew several guys from Battle Creek. They never saw the car cruising or at any car show. It just disappeared. Never to be seen again by anybody.
New traces surfaces
In 2019 Lee Bailey of Reynoldsburg, Ohio reached out to Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama. Bailey grew up in Battle Creek. He was fifteen years old in 1960, and he told Sondre that he remembered the car from his teenage days. "It must have been around 1958 or 1959. My parents knew a couple whose son, Jim Hurlebert, brought this car to our house, in Battle Creek, for my dad to paint. I especially remember the tunneled taillights. I always questioned why my dad was picked to paint the car since he was a contractor. He had painted a couple of our family cars and generally, they had lots of orange peel. He painted my 1955 Ford and thankfully he did it in lacquer since it required hours and hours of color sanding and buffing." Bailey didn’t remember anything else about the car, other than it sitting in their garage which had as much sawdust in it as a newly constructed home. "I don’t know whether Jim Hurlebert owned the car or whether he was contracted to paint it and had my dad sub-contracted to do it." Jim was an artist and a sign painter, and Bailey doubted that the father and son at the auction was Jim and his dad. "I don’t remember the dad having that kind of money nor wanting to spend it on something like a custom car for his son. It may be, but I doubt it." Bailey recalled that his dad did not give the Ford a show quality paint job. "I never saw the car again, and I attended a lot of local car shows. I honestly think my dad may have ruined the car," Bailey admitted. He didn't know why, but he always thought Jim was responsible for the tunneled taillights. "I can only believe I was told Jim did the taillights by my father either out of lack of knowledge or plain bullshit. It's obvious the taillights were tunneled before my dad painted the car," Bailey added.
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