A True “Barn Find” for a Local Hot Rodder
Back in 1954, Francis Fortman and Kenny Kerr built a car for the 1954 World Series of Drag Racing. The Automobile Timing Association of America had just decided to begin holding annual drag racing events which they labeled the “World Series of Drag Racing.” The event was held at Half Day Speedway in Lawrenceville, Ill., about 20 miles from Chicago. Both Fortman and Kerr lived in the surrounding suburds. A host of other young drivers were also attracted to the event notably Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick, Art Arfons and Fred Lorenzen in a Cadillac-powered Ford convertible.
Fortman and Kerr brought with them a 1932 Ford three-window coupe and it grabbed first place in the A/B class with a top speed of 105.88 miles per hour. This was quite an accomplishment for the youngsters considering they were “newbies” and their mph was rather fast for the time period.
That was the beginning and the end for the twosome's racing careers. The car was parked never to be seen again or so we thought. Fast forward to 2012 and the story continues.
Enter Ken Robbins, a businessman who owns Restoration Plus in Cary, IL. Robbins had heard of the car but did not know exactly where it was stored so he decided to knock on as many doors in the surrounding area to see if he could locate the car. Fortune brought him and Fortman together and alas the two met. Fortman relayed the story of the car and it’s racing history, told him how the car had been under wraps for years and said he was interested in selling it.
The Deuce (as 1932’s are often referred to as) Robins bought in the summer of 2012 is a hot rodders dream come true. The car is very simple with just some minor tweeks for racing in the early 1950’s. A “barn find” that you rarely get to see and something a hot rodder would treasure and more importantly, leave as found.
Since acquiring the car Robbins has only changed the tire, lubricants and given it a thorough cleaning. He took it to the Iron Invasion Hot Rod Show in Woodstock, IL. And the crowd was very enthusiastic.
“This is a true time capsule,” Robins said. “Basically, this car is the Holy Grail of hot rods, but to Francis, it was just another car. He was actually a pioneer that built the car that everyone tries to copy today, which is really amazing.”
Robbins next quest is to try and locate the trophy that was presented when the car won the World Series event. Furthermore, he would like to find a museum that would be interested in displaying the car for others to enjoy.