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Built to be Driven!

Doris Day’s words from the old Chevrolet commercial “See the USA, in your Chevrolet…” have rung in Jack Boatright’s mind for years.  While many people express the fun of travelling abroad, Jack feels that there are so many things to see right here in the good ol’ USA that touring our country suits him best.

Jack worked in the body shop industry for many years and also raced stock cars in his earlier days.  While working at the Air Guard, and towards the end of his racing days, it occurred to Jack that he wouldn’t mind having a street rod.  Following the racing season, Jack began searching for what he wanted to build. 

Getting started, he bought a couple different cars and began accumulating parts, always looking for a slightly better car to begin the project. In 2002 he spotted a 1939 Chevy 2-door sedan parked in front of Terry Dammer’s Attention to Detail shop. Much of the “heavy” work was done: a 1983 Monte Carlo front and rear frame had been stubbed-in and floor pan rust had been repaired. This looked like the perfect project! After convincing his wife, Dianne, that this was the way to go, the ’39 Chevy followed him home.

Jack was building a new shop at the time, so the car sat outside for about 1 ½ years while the shop was being built.  Once complete Jack jumped into the project with enthusiasm.  He built a rotisserie to work on the body and frame.  After stripping the car, Jack spent countless hours doing all his own body work. The body was on and off the frame many times during the build.  Jack did a full overhaul on the engine from his race car, and a friend overhauled a TH350 transmission for him.  Soon, Jack was on the path towards re-assembly.

In the early morning of July 6, 2009, Jack started spraying primer/sealer, paint, and then clear coat.  Over 20 hours later he was finished. Custom Upholstery on West 12th Street then did the upholstery in the car. By 2011 the car was complete and on the road. The Buffalo Days Car Show in Luverne was its first out of state road trip.

But then, in March of 2011, Jack suffered a brain aneurysm and he thought his street rod days were coming to an abrupt halt.  After two weeks in the hospital and three months of therapy he started building a tear drop trailer to pull behind the ’39.  This was his own type of physical therapy.  Jack’s street rodding days were far from over!

Jack and Dianne soon pulled the trailer to The Dalles, OR, to visit their daughter; then up to Vancouver, BC to visit another daughter and to greet a granddaughter born the day they arrived.

2012 brought more miles driven around the country and driving the Hot Rod Power Tour from Detroit to Arlington, TX. This is a 7 day rolling car show which was 3800 miles round trip.

Having seen half of Route 66 in 2012, Jack and Dianne decided to drive the remainder of Route 66 in 2013-a 5500 mile round trip.  They particularly enjoyed the stretch from Missouri to Santa Monica, CA.  While in the Sedona, AZ, area they took an “interesting” shortcut. They took the “Schnebly Hill Road”, a former stage coach road, and only suited to 4WD vehicles.  In addition to that, they did it at night! They survived the trek, but the car needed a few “tweaks” after the drive.

A wedding in 2014 had the couple road tripping to Florida.  After the wedding, another highlight was a visit to the Don Garlits museum in Ocala, FL.  (This is a great “car guy” museum and definitely worth the stop if you’re in the area!)

In 2015 the Boatrights did most of their travel on area road trips, cruise nights, and car shows.  Planning for a major drive next year to Nova Scotia occupied much of their time.

Armed with their AAA maps, the couple took off for Nova Scotia in 2016.  They threaded their way through the New England states and along the east coast to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.  Back in the states, a visit to Niagara Falls was a highlight.  5000 more miles were logged on the Chevy on this trip.

Jack and Dianne started counting states after 36, and now they were homing in on 48.  They were only lacking North and South Carolina, so in May of 2017 they headed to the Carolinas to finish up the lower 48 states.  On this trip they particularly enjoyed the Corvette Assembly Plant and museum in Bowling Green, KY.

Now, having travelled to each of the lower 48 states, the Boatrights felt that their travels wouldn’t be complete if they didn’t head to Alaska for that one last state (that they could drive to). In May of 2018 they headed through Canada on the Alcan Highway to the Yukon Territory into Skagway, Alaska. After this 6850 mile round trip, they had now driven all 49 (continental) states, 8 provinces of Canada, and Yukon Territory.

Through all of the 50,000 miles travelled in the 39 Chevy, it’s never been on a trailer.  It’s not even had a flat tire!  Jack did choose to replace his original race car motor with a GM crate motor at 27,000 miles. They also have had a couple accidents along the way.  On a trip to Watertown the couple was rear ended by a semi-truck loaded with dry cement.  Jack repaired that damage upon returning home.  During the Alaska trip, while travelling through Vancouver, BC, Jack rear ended a car.  Jack, the accomplished body man, once again repaired his own damage upon returning home.

Forty nine states and over 50,000 miles in a 1939 Chevy street rod he built himself is an accomplishment few car guys can claim.  Some of you probably have seen a sticker on a hot rod that says: “If you see this car on a trailer, call the police-it must be stolen!”  No one will ever accuse Jack and Dianne’s Chevy of being a “trailer queen”.  Jack built it to drive…and he does!

Now, one question remains: how are you going to check Hawaii off your list, Jack?





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