One of the most exciting elements of any car show is the chance of seeing a few vehicles that make you feel something. It never fails, no matter how many car shows you attend, there will always be a handful of vehicles that will stick in your mind. The absolute best, and the other end of the spectrum, seem to haunt you in good ways (and sometimes bad ways).
We’ve had a reoccurring dream about one of the very best rods we’ve seen in a long time, that we spotted at the National Street Rod Association’s Western Nationals in Bakersfield, California. It was this green metallic coupe with yellow/red flames, and it has played the role of dream-maker in nightly visits while we sleep.
The paint scheme reminded us of a cross between Pete Chapouris’ Limefire, The California Kid, and an Ed Roth build – any of them. In fact, the car is named “Fink Rod” in honor of Ed Roth. “I’ve always been a fan of Big Daddy’s,” said Lillard Hill, the owner and builder of Fink Rod. “I knew I was going to build a rod like this years before I did it.”
Rat Fink Fan
Lillard the is absolute perfect person to be associated with this build. At first glance, he could be Ed Roth’s younger brother. Wearing what looked like a suede Ed Roth hillbilly crash helmet in the stiff high desert winds, he showed us around the unique build. At one point, the crash helmet flew off in a particularly strong gust of wind, and we all chased it downwind for 25 yards.
“In high school, my notebooks were filled with scribblings and illustrations of monster cars with monsters coming out of the car like Ed Roth did,” he stated. “I wanted to one day have a car like that. One with a big engine, bright paint, and stuff like that.”
At the start of the build in 1999, he was living in Louisiana, and searching for the right car to begin this project. He eventually found a car in Arizona that would work. “I actually searched for a couple of years for a steel, chopped ’34, but didn’t find one, so I ended up buying a stocker,” he explained. “I did most of the work myself. All but the paint, glass, and upholstery. This was my first chop and channel job.”
The Project Timeline
Lillard brought the car home, started to rebuild and reshape it to the vision of a monster car that he had. “When I bought it, the thing was stock and worn out,” said Lillard. “I’ve owned it for 19 years,” he added. “It took me 8 years to complete, and I’ve been driving it for the past 11 years. This car has been in rain, snow, sunshine, on the highway and on the track.”
“Hell, I’ve driven it down the mountain through snow to get to the track where I raced it. I laid down a quick time, then drove back up the mountain through the snow to get home. This car gets driven!”
We took a closer look at the beast and it didn’t look abused. In fact, the paint looked in great shape, but Lillard broke out his photo book and showed us photos of the car driving down the highway in snow, and pictures of the car on the track.
The paint job was done by the late Cliff Patterson, and when the sun is out, the car shimmers and shines so much it is hard to get a photograph that doesn’t have bright reflections. The interior was done by Monaco Upholstery in Bakersfield.
The Winning Combination
For the drivetrain combination, a supercharged Chrysler 392 Hemi V8 with a Turbo Hydramatic 400 and a Gear Vendors overdrive sends power to a 4.56:1 Halibrand Champ quick-change rearend. The setup really get those 31-inch-tall tires moving. A trunk-placed radiator keeps things cool during any kind of driving, provided it’s less than “100 miles per hour for 15 minutes or more,” Hill said with a nudge and laugh. “I did that on a ‘closed course with a professional driver.”
When asked if the car had won any awards, Lillard said, “There are many, but the best were a First Place in the Grand National Roadster Show street machine class and being invited to Blackie’s Autorama twice!”
He currently shows the car five or six times a year and drives it weekly. He splits time between this monster and a 1959 El Camino that sports a 427ci engine with a four-speed manual transmission. Life is good.
Fink Rod’s Specs:
Owner: Lillard Hill
Hometown: Bakersfield, California
Car: 1934 Ford 5-window coupe
Paint: Two pounds of metal flake and seven gallons of clear
Engine: 1957 Chrysler 392 Hemi with Hampton blower
Transmission: Phoenix Transmission Turbo Hydramatic 400 with Gear Vendors overdrive
Brakes: 1967 Ford discs on front, Wilwood discs on rear