To collectors of old hot rods and customs, period documentation of the original "build" is akin to the Holy Grail. Of course, not all builders kept good records of their work, but some did. One of those who did was Don Tognotti, the builder of this car, "The Avenger."
One of the reasons was probably that Don was already familiar with running a business. In his case, it was a Shell station at 1601 "L" Street in Sacramento, California, that he and his brother operated. Knowing the importance of tracking expenses, Don kept a journal of every penny he spent to build this car, including his original outlay of $200 to buy the car on from a fellow enthusiast, Bob King, on June 9, 1960.
King had started the work on this 1932 Ford five-window coupe a few years earlier and had already chopped the top and had channeled the body to drop over ’32 Ford frame rails. Beyond that, the project had not advanced. For his money, Tognotti bought a body and a frame, and not much more. The car seemed like an unlikely candidate for becoming a show-winner, but Don saw things differently.
His log shows the first thing he bought was a set of shackles for $2.80. Then a pair of ’37-’41 Ford spindles for $9.00. Model “A” spring perches for $5.00 were next, and the list goes on. This first buying spree started on June 27 and lasted until July 10. To this point, Tognotti had spent $462.29 on parts. Incredibly, $200 of that total was spent on a ’51 Chrysler V-8 engine with a ’38 Imperial transmission backing it up.
When the project was complete, the total bill, including the car and the engine and all parts and labor, came to $4056.22. This includes chroming the engine ($60.00) and complete upholstery ($250.00). The car hit the Northern California show circuit as soon as it was finished and won awards at the Hayward Rod and Custom Review, the Fresno Autorama (Best in Class), the Oakland Roadster Show and the Sacramento Autorama where it won "Outstanding Early Model Street Coupe."
The Avenger is a textbook example of the creativity and commitment to the hobby that young builders brought to the table back in 'the day.' And hats off to Don Tognotti for keeping a record of his effort.