1936 Pontiac Bernadine Race Car. From Left, my mother’s brother Bill Miller, Bud Kennell, Chuck Kennell standing in front of our next door neighbor’s house in Waynedale, Indiana

Bernadine – The Restoration of a Hot Rod

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.

Rick Kennell Mutt Rod Hot Rod Kustom Fender Precision Bass Guitar

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.

Kustom Fender Precision Bass Guitar

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

1936 Pontiac Racecar Wrecked

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.

Continue reading part 2 …

Bernadine – The Restoration of a Hot Rod Part 2
Visit The Hot Rod Official Website

More from Pinups and Kustoms ...

  • Bernadine – The Restoration of a Hot Rod – Part 2Bernadine – The Restoration of a Hot Rod – Part 2 (0)
    Read part 1 here ... Bernadine - The Restoration of a Hot Rod - Part 1 After much apprehension and discussion, they decided to retire from racing and make the race car into a Hot Rod. Bud was the body, paint, and frame expert and Chuck was the chief mechanic and motorman. They backed the car into the garage and stripped it down, removing the body, motor, and drive train. Next, the frame was split in half lengthwise and narrowed - […]
  • David Keys – As long as I can get out of bed I will have oil on my handsDavid Keys – As long as I can get out of bed I will have oil on my hands (0)
    Hi, My name is David Keys and I started my love for cars as a little boy, I played in a '35 Chevy 3 window coupe that set in a ditch buy are house in Grants Pass Oregon. I dreamed I was driving down main street as I set behind the wheel of that old car. I started working on cars when I was 10 , every month I would change the fluids and grease all the grease fittings on my grandmothers '65 Formula S Barracuda. changing the plugs and […]
  • The Night Time Is The Right Time at ElmiaThe Night Time Is The Right Time at Elmia (0)
    Stood inside the halls at the Elmia Bilsport Performance & Custom Motor Show, you could be forgiven for thinking there was no outdoors, or even any need to head out …  there. After all, everything automotive is under one roof here, but when the sun goes down we heard things can get wild. With rumors of street racing, a heavy police presence and crazy Swedes who just want to party, we decided to take to the streets and see what […]
  • Bottrop Kustom Kulture Show EuropeBottrop Kustom Kulture Show Europe (0)
    Since 2003 every year the Airport "Schwarze Heide" in Bottrop turns into one of the biggest Kustom Kulture Shows in Europe. Car Clubs & Lone Wolfs from all over Europe come to show their Hot Rods, Kustom Cars and Cool Motorbikes! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efGydRteKu4 We have around 250 pre 1965 hot rods and kustom cars and 100 bad ass bikes. And they don't only show them standing around! They will be racing their […]
  • A Littleboy’s Rat Rod DreamA Littleboy’s Rat Rod Dream (0)
    When you’re at Bonneville you see all sorts of crazy contraptions while walking (and driving) around the five mile long pit and spectator area. You witness things that can rocket to speeds just shy of 400 miles per hour to things that are created to look the best while flossing at 20 miles per hour. Basically, you see the whole spectrum from pure performance to pure hardparking. It’s phenomenal to be able to to be able to take all […]
  • Sinclair – 100% Mid-West Lowbrow & Hot Rod ArtSinclair – 100% Mid-West Lowbrow & Hot Rod Art (0)
    Have you ever seen Thriller? Yeah, that Michael Jasckson thing with a werewolf and zombies. That started it all for me. Sure, my dad was a hot rodder and I remember sitting in his lap while we drove the old blue Nova down the road in front of our house in Wheaton, IL. http://vimeo.com/87546912 He had bikes and boats, but to find that B movie, books, GoreZone and Fangoria magazines. The search for more would lead me to Gwar and […]

Written by:

Published on: May 20, 2014

Filled Under: Cars, Interviews, Kustom, Lifestyle

Views: 3753

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>