My name is Rick Kennell and I am a business manager – a bass player and bass guitar collector with nine CD’s out – also a web designer and a hot rod enthusiast.
I would like to tell you about the “Hot Rod” I restored – and the special Bass Guitar I customized to match her.
Bernadine is a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster – which was formerly a coupe body – painted Hot Rod Flatz black with Ford carmine red grill, wheels and motor – plus an alpine white firewall. She also has a black interior with carmine red piping – and features red and white old school pin stripes.
I inherited the car from my father, Chuck Kennell on February 18, 2007 when he passed away. I was faced with what I thought was a simple task. However, as you might imagine, putting a new oversized motor into a small car like this is no easy task.
Little did I know, almost every system on the car had to be re-invented and re-worked.
After the car was completed, I bought a special medium scale Fender Precision Bass Guitar from a dealer in Japan. I had the bass painted by the same folks who did the Hot Rod restoration so that the bass would match the car exactly.
I then had it pinstriped by the same pin striper and put red strings on it to match the grill shell of the car. I take the bass with me to car shows, along with my battery powered Roland “Cube” bass amp – and it really shines as a conversation starter.
My father, Chuck Kennell and “BERNADINE”
Happily, my father kept a journal about the car over the years, and although it was far from complete – it did furnish a lot of the technical details about the original build of “Bernadine”.
After selling the motor out of the original “Bernadine” in 1958 – Chuck spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the car and making detailed plans.
If you knew Chuck even casually, at one point or another he would take you out to his garage and show you his pride and joy.
He would tinker here and there, and procure parts for the future, always planning some new feature in his mind’s eye. Once a year or so, he would back the car out of the garage and fire the motor – to reassure himself that it was still roaring like a lion. It always was. After a lot of thought over the years, which he never bothered to discuss in detail with anyone, Chuck had developed a new vision for “Bernadine”. He installed chrome wheels, mounted black wall tires on her, and fabricated a custom roll bar.
He changed the name of the car to “Thunderchief” – in honor of that big bore Pontiac power plant.
He had matching white jackets with embroidered maroon scroll lettering made up for himself and his wife (my mom), Betty – which I still have in my closet.
He painted the grill shell white with maroon trim to see how his new color scheme might look on the car. He made arrangements with a local body shop to use their spray booth, because when it came time to paint the car, he wanted to do it himself.
He was always on the look out for old parts at various junkyards, garage sales, swap meets and auctions. These were the gems – which we know Chuck was looking forward to picking through and installing – in order to realize the upgraded vision of his dream car. It was all a big fabulous jigsaw puzzle to Chuck. He had the master plan in his head but only he knew exactly where all the pieces fit. He tried his best to find the time to finish it up over the years, but it seems like there was always something standing in his way.
The original “BERNADINE” from 1958
Bernadine’s origin was a 1936 Pontiac stock car built by my uncle Bud Kennell and my father Chuck Kennell of Kennell Brothers Body Shop & Garage, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the early 1950’s, that 1936 Pontiac racecar was raced at the Fort Wayne Speedway and the South Anthony Speedway in Fort Wayne, Indiana, driven by Mel Potter. It was originally number 55, but when they got to the track there someone was using that number, so they quickly painted a ‘1’ in front of it to make it 155.
The car was nicknamed “the tiny 6” as it had a beefed-up flathead six cylinder racing engine which Chuck had overhauled from scratch.
There were no sponsors in those days and over the course of several racing seasons, the financial side of constant repairs and the maintenance of owning a racecar started adding up.
They soon realized there were better ways of spending their hard earned cash, but few as exciting. The sport of auto racing seemed to be in their blood, but sometime in 1957, yet another hard kiss of the retaining wall convinced them that their racing days were over.