By all indication, the depression we are plagued by hasn’t slowed the high-end car-building business by a fraction. Gerry Kerna’s ’62 Chevy II is proof of that. Indeed, the number of these specialty shops has seemed to increase manifold over the past two years. Check the pages of past CHP issues to see if we’re lying. Shops no one’s ever heard of are rolling out the most sophisticated hot rod machinery on earth. In essence, it’s a return to the guild-craft days of old and things of substance produced by hand, and hooray for that. To say that RPM Hot Rods is typical of the genre would be a deception. No two shops or their methods are the same, and that’s the beauty of it. They make things in America with individuality and pride. That’s the ticket. In any case, it’s refreshing to see anything other than a ’69 Camaro, the indisputably predominate Pro Touring vehicle, so any other variant is like a meat cart to a starving wolf.
Gerry decided she wanted in on the Pro Touring, road course, and autocross events that have taken the hearts and minds of so many these days. The idea is to drive. The idea is to drive in comfort and civility. The idea is to have a piece that handles and brakes just as well as it scalds pavement, all of it done with a fine sense of balance. Gerry and family reside just outside of Pittsburgh. That country is one hill after another and more like a roller-coaster ride than a byway. Mountain roads are a constant challenge, so superlative handling and braking characteristics count way more than gross engine output.
Gerry found her II in Nebraska, a seemingly uninviting climate for a car of this vintage. The prime objective was a solid body shell and that’s what she got and never looked back. RPM would remove all other structure in preparation for their modern infusion. The prop list includes Curt Ukasik, designer and builder; Josh Hart, fabricator; Steve Barrett, 12 V; John Harrison, Area 51, painter; and Chip Bowers, powdercoater at C4Labs in Marshallton, Delaware. Gerry says, “As the car was being disassembled, we commented often that it was small and scrappy looking. Curt said it looked like a runt. The name has stuck ever since.”
Ukasik says, “We finished the car just in time to head for Columbus and enter the Street Machine of the Year competition. When we arrived, the car only had a trip around the block on it but we felt we had to put it to the test so we set out to the streets and the autocross. By the end of the weekend, we left with a Top 5 pick and over 200 miles on the street and autocross. We were later named the 2011 Detroit Speed Muscle Machine of the Year!”
“The following weekend, we loaded up and headed for the Heidts Performance Car Challenge (where these images were taken). We were able to test the acceleration, handling, stopping, and overall performance out on the racetrack and make adjustments where needed. We walked away with 13th place overall against a great group of proven cars.” So take heed dudes, the Runt is no longer such. It is armed and dangerous.