The Prospector: Bob Larson’s Totally Rad 1938 Dodge Coupe

There’s a certain level of satisfaction that comes from building something with your own two hands.  Bob Larson spent the better part of seven years building his 1938 Dodge Coupe gasser called “The Prospector” during the evenings and on the weekends. The final product is one of the coolest street/strip cars you’ll ever see.

Larson’s history with building and restoring cars began when he was in high school after he purchased a 1936 Chevy coupe. Larson and a friend worked on the Chevy so he could drive it to school and eventually college. From that point forward, Larson always had some type of project car that he would tinker with.

Larson would eventually start his own shop called Old Guy Hot Rods. While building nice looking cars is fun, Larson still enjoys making hits at the track. Hot Rod Drag Week caught Larson’s eye, so he entered the event with his rat rod and had a blast. The Drag Week experience pushed Larson towards building a car for drag-and-drive events. The gasser class really spoke to Larson and that’s what started The Prospector project. So, Larson started his journey to build a hot rod that he could drive on the street to shows, or to the track to make some passes.

“I bought this car 30 years ago and started collecting parts for it. The car was wrecked and a real mess, but I thought I could fix it. I’m a Mopar fan, so I was happy to find an old Mopar since I didn’t want to build another Ford or Chevy. I worked on my customer’s cars during the week and messed with this car on the weekends, that’s why it took so long to build,” Larson says.

The detail and work that Larson put into The Prospector is truly amazing, and he did all of it himself. The only thing that Larson didn’t do was the machine work on the engine. Larson did all of the fab work, assembly, painting, lettering, and he even did the upholstery work himself.

Instead of using a HEMI to power his gasser, Larson opted to build a 541 cubic-inch Chrysler Wedge engine. Clegg Engine & Machine got the block ready for the SCAT crankshaft, SCAT rods, and Icon pistons to be dropped in. A set of Trick Flow aluminum heads and INDY tunnel ram intake top off the engine. Larson used valve train parts from Howard’s Cams. A pair of Edelbrock AVS-2 650 CFM carburetors bring air into the engine and mix it with fuel that’s pumped in by an Aeromotive fuel pump. Larson made the fender exit headers that expel the exhaust gasses himself.

You can’t have a gasser without a manual transmission, right? Larson bolted a T56 Magnum transmission from Rockland Standard Gear up to the Chrysler mill. A McLeod flywheel and RAM clutch take care of making the transmission send power to the DANA 60 rearend.

The front suspension uses a Speedway straight axle kit with Lakewood shocks, Speedway Motors leaf springs, and ladder bars. In the rear, you’ll find a custom suspension that uses Lakewood shocks and coil springs. A set of Cragar SS wheels make The Prospector look great.

Larson really went all out with the paint and bodywork on The Prospector. The candy root beer brown paint with metallic flake is just stunning. Larson also did all of the lettering and gold leaf work by hand. Larson did a lot of custom bodywork to The Prospector like deleting the running boards, radius work on the rear fenders, and a custom aluminum grill. Inside the Dodge, you’ll find a custom roll cage that’s wrapped around a handmade interior that Larson created. The car is all steel and weighs in at 3,800 pounds with Larson behind the wheel.

“My favorite part about this car is that I did all the work, good or bad, myself. I like how the car sits, how it looks, and how it drives, the car turned out exactly how I wanted it to. What’s also cool is there isn’t another car out there like this one,” Larson says.

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Larson put a lot of work into The Prospector and it was totally worth it. There are so many cool details built into the car you really have to give it a solid look if you want to catch them all. Larson is very thankful to those who helped him turn The Prospector from an idea to a running car.

“Ron Kirkpatrick was a big help in answering all of my Mopar-related questions for this build. Tieson Engstrum at Clegg Engine & Machine was a big help with getting the engine sorted out. I really need to thank my wife Annie for being supportive and letting me work on the car,” Larson states.

The Prospector is an inspiring project for anyone that has a pile of parts and a dream to create a super nice ride. If you see Bob Larson at the track with his old Mopar make sure you take the time to really look the car over, you’re bound to want to build something yourself after seeing what he’s created.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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