Preacher, Gearhead, Y-Blocker
IN THE BEGINNING
Hot Rod Reverend at 15 with His Grandparents
1956 Ford Customline Victoria
Hot Rod Reverend at 17
Newspaper Article in the Washington Times
Fast forward almost 25 years and I was facing an ultimatum from mom and dad, "We are leasing the house on a rent-to-own. You had better get down here and get the car and all these parts you have in the garage." I finally gave in and hauled everything up to where I was living with my wife and three children in Winchester, Virginia. By this time I was pretty well settled in a role as an assistant pastor at an independent Baptist church and was heavily involved in evangelism (teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, urging people to trust Jesus Christ as the Savior). As the months went by I began to find ways and means of putting in a little bit to the car here and there. I was surprised where the market had gone. Because of the internet and auction sites such as eBay, the meager sum I had invested in quality parts in the early 90s had grown in potential profit. As I turned the profit from sales into funds to be used for restoration work and parts I needed to replace on the car I began to meet many wonderful people who were involved in the hobby. Being a preacher of the gospel is not a "job" for me, it is a way of life. With each new acquaintance I shared the message of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving grace. Not long after getting back into the classic car culture I decided to write a pamphlet that would share that eternal message with people I came in contact with. As of this writing in 2017, over 10,000 of these have been given to people as a gospel witness. A good number of people have called me personally or even contacted our church in Winchester, Virginia, to give a positive response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For which, I am eternally humbled and grateful.
Two topics of discussion most folks have strong opinions about: 1. Politics and 2. Religion. Be that as it may, I was not, and I am still not working to proselyte or bring anyone over to a specific religion, unless ones define a relationship with Christ as a religion. Anyhow, the more I would share that biblical message through the pamphlet and giving witness of the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ, several men within the hobby began to title me "The Hot Rod Reverend" and it stuck. While I am not a fan of being called "reverend" for I believe that title belongs to Jesus Christ, I certainly understand what these men mean when they give me that title. I have no problem with the moniker and wear the badge gladly. If it will bring someone closer to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and a born again experience then so be it. Lately I have even partnered with the Bible printing ministry of our church to produce full-color cover copies of the Gospels of John and Romans that also have the plan of salvation within its pages - much like the pamphlet that I wrote several years ago.
Yep, I am the Hot Rod Reverend. I am a preacher of the Gospel, a Gearhead, and Y Block enthusiast. I write articles for the Y Block Magazine from time to time, frequent such website forums as the FordBarn, and I happen to sell parts on occasion to fund what I do and provide service after the sale. Be sure to visit other parts of the site here on HotRodReverend.com but most of all I ask that you take time to consider the page entitled "Remember."
- Daniel Jessup, the Hot Rod Reverend
So how does a guy get the name "Hot Rod Reverend"? The story actually begins well before the picture above was taken. From my earliest childhood I always had a fascination with anything mechanized. Everything from airplanes, to trains, cars, boats, and even immovable machinery always captivated my attention. I was the kid who continually disassembled toys to play with their parts or build something entirely different. Discovering how something was constructed and putting it back together again or even swapping similar parts between toy vehicles was what I did. I led my brothers to even completely de-construct a large playhouse that my dad and grandfather had built for the three of us. The purpose? to find out how one was built and use the materials and knowledge to build two! The older I became the more I enjoyed working with my hands to build, repair, and restore. As a boy I also spent time building scale models of airplanes, model rockets, and cars, going to the extremes of setting up a hobby desk in my bedroom and putting together dioramas for amateur photography. My parents and grandparents fueled the passion over the years by giving me models, equipment, and tools for birthdays and special occasions. And when it came to cars, we had always been a Ford family. My grandfather on my dad's side owned a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, original Regency Purple and White, with a three-on-the-tree. My grandmother's family owned several 1955 and 1956 Fords such as Crown Victoria's, Sunliners, F100's, and Customlines. It was rare to drive by any one of their homes and not see one of these vehicles parked out front or someone in the family in the garage working through the next part of the restoration.
The closer I came to the day of getting my driver's license the more I wanted to get a car. Many of the guys at school were buying late model Camaros or Mustangs. Some of the fellas were driving small trucks. I wanted something different, something that most did not have or many my age would not care to own. So the search began. Back then there was no internet and if one was going to purchase a classic car he had to buy a Hemmings or an Auto Trader. Every once in a while a prospect could turn up in the classified section in the newspaper. Sometimes we would hear of a lead on a car from a friend or neighbor. One such memorable story when I was 16 took place when a high school friend of mine told me about a 1957 Chevrolet 210 Sedan that was for sale in his neighborhood. He told me it had bucket seats but that was all he knew. The price was right on a car like that with a decent paint job and in running condition - $2750. My dad and I went to check it out. The owner said, "Now I've done a few things to the car - it ain't entirely stock." When he raised the hood there was a hopped up 454 with two 4 barrel carburetors. The transmission was a 4 speed with a Hurst shifter and there were street/strip competition tires in the rear with traction bars. My dad looked at me and said, "I don't think so..." And, we left. Now mind you, all along during this search dad would always talk up mid-50s Fords, 60s Galaxies, etc. One car he repeatedly wished he had back was a 1956 Ford Customline Victoria that was set up as a moonshine car. Dad had bought the car in the late 60s from a Mopar dealer in Mt. Airy, North Carolina when he saw it in the SHOWROOM. The car had a 312 with two 4 barrels and a number of bells and whistles to help it outrun the law. Late one night a drunk rear ended the car and totaled it as it sat parked in front of the house where dad lived on Circle Drive in Mt. Airy. The way he explained it to me, the car looked very similar to the one pictured below.
Finally one day we heard from one of my dad's uncles that there was a man up the road near Flat Rock, North Carolina, that had a 1955 Ford Club Sedan for sale. The man had acquired the car in a trade for a Mercury, and to finish this 55 Ford he had decided to have the local Community College Body Shop Class paint the car (more on that if you go to the "In Progress" pages to read the blog on the work I am doing to restore the car again). He had just got it back from an upholstery shop who had installed a custom interior. When we pulled up into the driveway I knew this was THE car. It took my dad and I two more trips back to North Carolina to look at it, drive it, and talk turkey as it were, but that was the car that started it all for me. I remember driving it back to Northern Virginia the day we purchased it. It was a cool, fall day and the car just hummed up I-81 for almost 6 hours straight with no issues at all even though the motor was original and had not seen much care. We even got 21 miles to the gallon with the 272 Y block and 2 barrel carburetor.
Little did I know all that the car would bring my way. In addition to being a "tinker toy" with which to learn basic mechanics, it brought me into contact with scores of wonderful people. After all, even in 1990 you didn't see teenagers driving a 1955 Ford on the roads every day. I even took my driver's license test in the car - with snow covered roads! That car took me everywhere - school, work, church, basketball games, youth group activities, car shows, dates - it was a true daily driver. After spending a couple of years at a local community college in Northern Virginia, I went to Bible college to study to enter the pastorate and the family moved to North Carolina at the same time. Since the college was in Florida I decided to park it at mom and dad's house and use a different set of wheels. The car did not have air conditioning and Florida summers were hot. Two things happened while I was in college. First, someone who did not like one of my younger brothers (that brother eventually became a police officer by the way) threw a large chunk of asphalt through the windshield, hitting the dash and causing trouble. The rear main seal began to leak badly because the old 272 had quite a bit of crankcase pressure - the motor was about give out by now. On with life and bigger and better things as the car (and all the parts I had amassed at swap meets) stayed in the extra garages at mom and dad's.