Some of the hottest street rods at car shows across the country get their start at a shop in Marion County.
The owners supply the parts and the know-how to build a cool ride from the ground up.
“This is a ’49,” said Dale Klassen as he popped the hood of his shiny, gray truck.
From its chromed out engine to the custom radio and gauges, the Chevrolet 3100 five-window cab is Klassen’s baby.
“I spent probably four big winters building this,” said Klassen.
But the Hillsboro farmer was almost finished before he realized most of the parts he bought from a dealer in Nebraska actually came from just down the road.
“The fact that we’re in Peabody surprises a few people,” said Rex Watson with a grin.
Just outside the town of about 1,200, Rex and Annette Watson run Affordable Street Rods, which caters to high-end hot rods.
“We just helped some customers from Delaware with a car that was a contender for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” said Watson.
Virtually every piece on the ’32 Ford Phaeton came from the Kansas warehouse.
Shelf after shelf is filled with metal rods, handles and axles, and vintage car bodies line the floor.
Yet the giant storeroom is only part of the business. Most of the sales for Affordable Street Rods come from the many car shows the Watsons attend.
“We do about 30 shows a year so it’s almost every other week,” said Watson.
The husband and wife team drives about 40,000 miles a year to events like “Cars for Charity” in Wichita to show off their inventory, but more importantly, to build customer trust in a niche market.
“They understand that if they have a technical question after the purchase, they know who they’re calling and who they can talk to,” said Watson. “That’s what it’s about for us.”
He meets car buffs, like Randy Young, who built a ’32 Ford three-window coupe.
The Newton man has been restoring cars since the 70’s, but now, uses Affordable Street Rods almost exclusively. In fact, when Young is not at a car show, that’s where you’ll often find him, hanging out and thinking of his next project!
“It’s really convenient, like coming over to Wal-Mart, to see Rex because you can look at it on the shelf, and then say, ‘Hey, this’ll work,'” said Young.
And by helping others tinker, the Watsons live out their own love of cars.
“Yeah, it’s not a job. It’s a passion,” said Rex. “We never feel like we have to get up and go to work in the morning. We get to do what we want to do.”