Classic cars are the highlight of First Friday, along with live music and shopping. While all of these cars have their own stories that make them unique, the story of one in particular spans seven decades.
Affectionately named “The Rusker,” it was built by hand from scratch by Ohio native and current Jacksonville resident Rusty Poole and his father. It was screened on the first Friday of July and has been a regular at past shows.
“It all started a few years before I was of driving age,” Poole said. “My father and I had discussed making him a car for me. …he had done some drawings of different cars and we had planned to start from the fourth week of July.”
The father-son duo officially began building the car on July 4, 1951, and completed it in 1955, just a year after Poole graduated high school.
Poole said that his father was always who he and his siblings were when things broke down, and the family has always been interested in cars.
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“My father was an automobile painter for many years, and he was always interested in our family because he was working in different garages,” he said. “He was always creating something for us kids to be precise. He always had these ideas that he could combine with different parts.”
Poole said that the ability to do something of this nature requires the ability to fix or create something with one’s own hands. “I often tell people that the idea of building a car was like buying a kit for a boat,” he said, “but it was the same principle, that you made up your mind to build this thing, and that was the purpose.”
Poole went to the yard for “raw materials”—suspension parts from a 1937 Studebaker; Frame rails from Model A and Model T Fords; a radiator from a 1939 Dodge sedan; Various Chrysler, Ford and Plymouth body parts; LaSalle Fenders; a rear window of the 1941 Studebaker Commander; Studebaker bumpers; and Ford and Oldsmobile headlight housings.
Poole said the car was something you couldn’t “go out and buy parts for,” adding, “Most of the time, you had to build or build something to get the job done. That was always the case. Making fenders Or anything from making windows on it, it was all custom made.”
The original 6-cylinder engine was from the 1941 Studebaker Champion; It was eventually replaced by the Buick V-8.
The car’s build then became a multi-generational build in the late 1970s, when Poole stated on his website that he and his sons had it destroyed again, as did the front end and differences from the 1973 Olds Omega. and 1976 Buick V6 engine and transmission.
“The things I learned while building the car are invaluable,” Poole said. “I gained a lot of things from that project, and one thing I know is that not many young men are blessed to have a mentor in that nature.”
Nevertheless, Poole always credits his father with the idea of building the car. “I couldn’t have done it without him, although there are times I wish I could start on another,” he joked.
The name “Raskar” was coined in 1997, combining the pool’s first name and the word “race car”.
In 2019, Poole took the car alone to his 65th high school reunion. “I got it there because people at school used to ask me all the time if the car was ready or finished,” he said. “So I took them there to show me that yes, I’ve got it done.”
He recounted many other stories and memories with the car, such as driving it twice at the NFL Hall of Fame parade in Canton, Ohio, once with actress Anne Lockhart in 1981.
“One of the interesting things is the first show that had a car (in May 1956, Ohio), I … won first place in the sportscar category by audience vote and my first trophy was given to me by movie star Jayne Mansfield,” he said. happen.
He also recalled his 2019 trip to Mobile, where he received a trophy for the car at an all-truck show.
Poole said he and his wife moved several times in their lives before settling in Jacksonville for retirement about 20 years ago. How he ended up in Central Alabama was an accident.
“At the time my daughter was acting that way, and she told us we should settle for retirement in Aniston because of how the mountains were in Ohio,” he said. “We came to Aniston and spent a few weekends looking around, and we found this house in Jacksonville by accident. We don’t regret it.”
The only drawback so far was when his shop was blown up by an EF-3 tornado in Jacksonville in March 2018. “…Every time I see a loss here in Alabama or anywhere in the country, I can’t help but feel it. For them,” Poole said, “because to this day, I’ll find something that will happen that night.” It can happen, and it’s very disappointing.”
Still, Poole said there will always be sentimental value to everything he has done with the car. “I will see a part we made ourselves, and I will remember when we made it ourselves,” he said. “Things like this come to mind even though it’s been (70) years since we built the car.”
To learn the specifics of how Poole, his father, and his sons built the car, visit his website at http://ruscar.50webs.com.