For the month of July, we’re featuring a car and a shoot that’s close to our hearts. Our little, black hearts. Back in 2004, we were strolling the Billetproof show when we stopped dead in our tracks over a little funky-looking Henry J gasser.
Now, we love Henry Js because we’ve got one here in the shop, but also because they make perfect gassers: axle under the front, 30% setback on some sort of big block stuffed back into a cut firewall, radiused rear wheelwells, slicks, the whole shootin’ match. But what we loved even more about this one was that it was obviously some sort of survivor warrior from the early Seventies – the paint was what gave it away: asymmetrical psychedelic color scheme, wild panels, faded candies and some former glory of heavy metalflake fishscales…it was truly amazing.
And speaking of truly amazing; there was a small, peeling, decaying waterslide decal in the rear window. Most of the time, we expect to see some sort of old or fakey-old speed shop decal in that same spot. It’s just what guys have been doing for decades with their hot rods and racecars. But this one…this one was different: a black fist punching through a peace sign and the phrase, “UNITY! RIGHT ON” surrounding it. Under that was simply, “SAVOY AUTO PARTS SAN FRANCISCO.”
Toby Maciel, the owner of the J, didn’t know anything about it, but he said he’d always wondered. That’s all it took. We were on the case. It took a few months, but we finally tracked down Jim Savoy, the owner of long gone Savoy Auto Parts, in Santa Maria, CA. We poured over old phone books, talked to the human hot rod encyclopedia – Dave Catallini at Brizio Street Rods – and he remembered not only the car, but where he last saw it parked in the city 40 years prior, found the old speed shops and did some heavy duty snoopin.’
When we finally talked to Jim, he mentioned that he hadn’t seen the car in some 35 years…after it was stolen from his warehouse. Oops. But, he was good-natured about the whole thing and agreed to meet us and the car in the old neighborhood in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point. When we got those two together again after 35+ years, it was like an impromptu family reunion right there in the middle of 3rd Street: old guys came out of the woodwork to see what the commotion was all about and reunite with the erstwhile mayor of HP. Really something to see: the old stories were told, memories re-remembered, pictures taken, jokes forgotten…just glorious.
The car is still here in the San Francisco Bay Area, right where it should be and we still keep in touch with Jim. And when we got Jamie paired up with the Savoy Henry J for this shoot, traffic just stopped once again, although probably for a different reason. Just ask the guys who sat across the street to ogle the shoot and drank a sixer on the tailgate of their truck without taking the cans out of the plastic retainer. Made their day and we were happy to do it.