Rolling Bones: The Poteet ’34 Coupe
A land speed racer for the street

Building a traditional hot rod in today’s world is a funny thing. It’s 2013 and we have access to the internet, where we can research and educate ourselves better than any time previously, yet here we are building cars like they did forty, fifty, maybe even sixty years ago. With the ability to Google ‘traditional hot rod’ come people who will slaughter the whole concept, building caricatures of what they think traditional cars should be. On the other hand, every now and then someone comes along who can just downright nail it. Enter Ken Schmidt, Keith Cornell and Ken’s son Matt Schmidt. Together they are the Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop, and the perfectly envisioned and executed ’34 you see here was no lucky shot in the dark.

I know this because I know who commissioned the build. George Poteet is a name that I’ve been bringing up here on Speedhunters quite a bit in the last year, and that’s because you can’t miss his influence on our scene. He’s worked hard and now he can pay to play, so he finds those rare guys who have talent and vision rolled together and has them build him cars that always end up stunning. We’ve recently seen it with his Rad Rides-built Torino, and even with his landspeed cars that would be right at home at a car show. Personally I’ve been mostly exposed to these shinier examples, so when I approached Ken Schmidt during Speedweek about shooting the ’34 that I thought was his, I was a bit surprised to see Poteet’s name lettered on the door.


Larry and I first spotted this car at the Nugget, where an impromptu car show pops up each night after the races. Interestingly enough, that’s actually where the idea for this car started, with Ken, Keith and George all bench racing about what would be cool to build next. At this point, Rolling Bones had some killer traditional ’32s under their belt, so George asked them to build him a five window. Ken spoke up that he had been wanting to build a ’34 though, and then George mentioned that he just happened to have one sitting around. With salt on their minds, the plan got even better: it was to be a ‘barely street-legal race car’, inspired by the famous Pierson and SoCal coupes that pioneered landspeed racing with a coupe body. Before they knew it, George’s full-time driver Danny showed up to their New York shop with the original steel ’34 body in tow.


If you’re familiar with the ’34 Ford body you’re probably noticing some pretty major differences already. Early ’30s Fords are a polarizing subject, and every hot rodder seems to have his favorite year. What I absolutely love about this build is that Ken and Keith threw out the rule book for what a ’34 should look like and just made it look ‘right’. With a priority for proportion, they erased some of the most notable ’34 styling cues like the trademark swooping grille and hoodsides.


Rolling Bones called on friend and metalman Terry Hegman to fab up a sprint car style nose and grille using a custom buck they provided to get the exact shape required.


A little more of the ’34 was worked away by tucking in about three inches in the rear to eliminate the ducktail look. Some people love ’34s for this flamboyant feature, but Rolling Bones knew it had to go if this car was going to fit their vision of a landspeed coupe on the road.


Continuing that theme are a push bar and smooth caps for the wheels made from flat sheet. There was no need to get overly complex with the wheel covers here: the flat caps really play to the post-war traditional theme well.


They carry over to the inside too.


Part of bobbing the rear was adding this louvered roll pan which clearly does a bunch of things. It gives the push bar a tidy home, but also exits the exhaust and mounts the ’39 Chevy tail lights, all while still showing off that old quickchange axle.


One more notable ’34 feature that the guys deleted was the signature sweeping hoodside, just because they didn’t like it. The lower cowl area was completely reworked and these louvered versions were made from scratch. Take a good look at the angle of the louvers and the way they frame the front tire.

Going the distance

Now would be a good time to point out a couple of things about the Rolling Bones guys. In addition to building hot rods, Ken is also a fine artist and has an extraordinary eye for detail and proportion. Secondly, you’ll notice that while their builds are thought out and show good craftsmanship, they look like they are sixty years old. That’s because they want them to, and go to great lengths to make their cars appear aged. Some hot rodders have a real problem with this, but the Rolling Bones guys have a good reason for it: besides having the right look, they don’t want the owners to be afraid to drive them, and drive them hard.


In fact, Poteet’s car already has 50,000 miles on it. Also notice that we didn’t even think to ask Ken to clean the car off for the shoot: it just didn’t need it to look good. This is an overriding theme in all their builds – they should be able to drive long distances and look good wearing the dirt and scars from the journey.


Putting his money where his mouth is, Ken drove the ’34 from New York to Bonneville and back. This was not a one time thing either: they’ve been known to caravan to California and Bonneville annually.


Of course, being a traditional hot rod, all those miles are powered by an 8BA Flathead from 1949. The 246ci mill was built by Jim Fleming and I wish you could hear the sound it makes. Once you hear one, you’ll understand why guys go to such trouble to run this old equipment.


Again playing off the barely legal landspeed race theme, gauges were mounted in the firewall so they could be seen while tuning the motor. One displays oil pressure while the other two are water temp gauges for each head since flatheads have two separate cooling systems.


With all this vintage equipment, the guys were willing to make a concession for a T5 manual transmission from a Chevy S-10. It’s understandable to want a stronger gearbox with an extra gear for all that highway driving, but they still welded on an old style shift lever so it looks right.


An old Stewart Warner tach is the centerpiece of the dash…


… and matching gauges advise the driver of every condition except speed. I suppose you’ll find out when you get your timing slip.


The driver grips a well-worn ’40 Ford wheel.


The pedal assemblies are also more stout modern units, but with old Ford rubber pads of course.


Street rods usually have the hole in the roof welded up and smoothed, but since Rolling Bones cars are time machines back to a simpler day, a louvered panel was fashioned instead and the original wood bows were left in place.


Back in 1934 this is where a dome light would have been installed.


Frank Wallic bomber seats were lined with cushions covered in a special deer hide that George sent to the shop.


’34s were made with suicide doors. Not wanting to find out why they got their name, the guys added these pins to make sure the doors stay shut.

Streamlined chop

Ken told me the car was their interpretation of the Pierson and SoCal coupes, which finally leads us to the most important cut on the body – the chop.


Those coupes were some of the first of their kind to compete with roadsters. Back then nobody thought a car with a roof could cheat the wind as well as the open-top version, hence the very radical chops. Rolling Bones took this look as far as they possibly could while still being able to road trip the car like they wanted.


The car came to them with a 3″ chop that looked like it was ‘performed by unskilled teenagers’, to use Ken’s words. This led to a full cowl replacement so they would have enough A-pillar to work with when redoing the chop. They wound up cutting the roof down 7″ and leaning the windshield back to get the right look.


’34s also come with three door hinges, and usually the top one gets whacked when the roof is chopped, but Rolling Bones has a different tactic. Their cars must have an uninterrupted flow from front to back, and they discovered that the middle hinge actually gives your eye a place to stop. They’ve also found that the doors are stronger with the hinges spread farther apart, and so they remove the middle hinge on their builds instead of the top one like most other guys.


All these changes, minor and major, come together to create a car that just flows. Without studying the car you might not notice why it looks so ‘right,’ but that’s the Rolling Bones trick.


By using period parts throughout…


… applying finishes so they look old and don’t show the miles…


… and adding their own little touches all over the place…


… you wind up with a car that could have only come out of the Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop.


I think George Poteet fully understood this when he asked Ken, Keith and Matt to build him a car.


He knew Rolling Bones wouldn’t be bound by what a ’34 was supposed look like. They delivered by building to a shared vision and making the car what it needed to be, which is really creating art on a level that most guys can’t touch.



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Really cool !
Never been the biggest hot rod fan but i have to say I do like it a lot.
keep up the good work Larry and Keith.


the roof line is beautiful.


Very cool car, absolutely love the back end. Keith I gotta say I really enjoy your write-ups and the educational (for want of a better word) aspect, fascinating to learn about rodding and how they used to do it.


I worked at the shop when this car was being built but I left in 07 as the chassis was in the fixture. The car was chopped late one night as Ken and Keith didnt want anyone stopping in. So I think we left around midnight.. The car went through various mockups, each day we'd sit and stare at lunch, change one thing, inspect, change another, inspect etc. The buck for the nose was done in the shop by Ken and I but the nose was formed by Terry Hegman in Huntington Beach. The paint design was based off Phil Remingtons lakes modified, its on the cover of "The Birth of Hot Rodding" a book ive read through many times. I spent many hours metal finishing the parts that would eventually be chromed, and helping Ken with the lead work...The 2 years I worked at the shop was an awesome adventure, as Ken says "You cant make this shit up" If anyone has questions, hit me up and Ill see what I can answer. I have photos of it as well while I worked there


few things I remembered as I was going through the photos. Ken and I hammer welded the dash opening (well, I welded and he hammered and dollied) and that top insert with the louvers is a shit ton of work to be blunt..lots of time hand filing the insert to fit the opening. The rear wishbones and sector shaft for the steering came from my parts collection, as did some of the rear spring. Its a cool feeling knowing that to be honest.. haha Anyways, thought I'd share as I dont often expand on my time there after I left. Seems as a memory now


@chrischabre Chris thanks very much for chiming in. Sounds Like I should have interviewed you too! Are you working at a different shop now?


Riffs Glad you're enjoying these stories. I'm by no means an encyclopedia but I try to get it right. Hot rodding has a ridiculously deep history.


Im currently working at a job shop back here in CT, very little car stuff but lots of custom fab work.  My house has a small onsite fab shop, an old barn and a 2 car garage (which house my parts and cars)..Im currently just remodeling it all for personal use as I have a few cars of my own I want to build. IF i open the place up it wont be to the public per say, but on a project by project basis.  There are many cars/ trucks and bikes I'd like to build, and my heart has to be into the project fully or Id rather not do it. If youd like to talk more, let me know...Im on Facebook, or I can give you my email address. Thanks for the reply!


Sweet car but one question, is this a car they try and do land speed times in on the flats? I would of thought seat belts would be required if you planned to run any times in the car and it doesn't look like they equipped this one with any


Sweet car but one question, is this a car they try and do land speed times in on the flats? I would of thought seat belts would be required if you planned to run any times in the car and it doesn't look like they equipped this one with any


NolanLonn This is a street car modeled after the original landspeed coupes. It would need a certified cage to run too. When we were shooting this car the Rolling Bones guys were racing another car, the world's fastest Y-Block.


KeithCharvonia NolanLonn Keith's Worlds fastest Y-Block was his old street coupe a chopped 32   3 window and turned 188 MPH and burned a piston the 2nd day they also race a roadster with a Flathead engine. They invited me to come along with them this year but the only thing was I had to go in a hot rod, I said I didn't have one, they said there was several cars going that I could ride with and one day it was with Ken in  this car. What a fantastic trip, I'm 76 years old and had gone to Bonneville 1953. I love your photos and the last 3/4 rear shot above is now the wallpaper on my computer, I just love it.


Pretty positive I saw this car in WIldwood NJ for TROG this past October. Beautiful piece of machinery.


Pretty positive I saw this car in WIldwood NJ for TROG this past October. Beautiful piece of machinery.