Collectors Corner: Friends complete dream Model A restoration for dying hotrod lover
Hotrod lover sees dream come true in his final days
• 9 Aug 2013
• Alyn Edwards
The distinctive custom grille and headlights are featured on Bob Diachuk’s street rod.
Earlier this summer, hot rodding’s elite — including Californians Roy Brizio, Steve Moal and Vic Edelbrock — were heading for Victoria’s Northwest Deuce Days, which would see the city’s downtown streets lined with the world’s best modified cars.
Bob Diachuk had been working for 12 years to have his very special hotrod debut at Grand National Roadster Show in California next January. But when he was diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year, he decided to aim instead for the mid-July Victoria show. The work to finish the car had suddenly become urgent.
Bob had been interested in old cars and hotrods since he was a teenager in Burnaby and his father, a mechanic, taught him all about cars.
Bob bought his first car — a 1932 Model A Ford — a year before he could get a driver’s license. He built it into his first hotrod, with many projects to follow, including a 1933 Ford roadster, a 1940 Ford, 1955 Ford Thunderbird, a 1948 Ford woody wagon and a 1966 Chevelle.
But the 1932 roadster was Bob’s obsession. He made numerous trips to the annual LA Roadster Show and took hundreds of photographs of some of the best modified cars in America, finally choosing longtime friend John Barbero, of Pyramid Street Rods in Bellingham, Wash. — an internationally recognized hotrod builder — to begin a full restoration.
As his cancer began to seriously affect his health and mobility, friends and family became concerned that he would not live long enough to see his dream completed. Dozens of people pitched in to help. The Pyramid Street Rod Shop crew worked extended hours to complete the car. Friends in the Vancouver area took over complete pieces; noted custom-car painter Sandy Morita painstakingly put the final finish on the custom fabricated seats.
When Bob entered a hospice weeks before the Northwest Deuce Days show was to begin in mid-July, the pace of work on his car was stepped up dramatically. At the same time, a spot opened up for the emerging street rod at Sid Chavers Upholstery in Santa Clara, Calif., one of the bestknown trim shops in the U.S. After a quick trip down, one week later the newly upholstered street rod was back in Barbero’s shop in Bellingham for completion.
The day before Deuce Days opened, Bob’s doctor gave the family the go-ahead to take him to Victoria for the show, and his wife and children took him in his beloved 1948 Ford woody station wagon.
“It was a tremendous group effort to make my dad’s dream come true, to see the completion of the street rod he had worked so hard to create,” says daughter Andrea, a kindergarten teacher.
When word got out that Bob and his street rod would definitely be part of the NW Deuce Days show, 30 of his friends from Canada and the U.S. made last-minute plans to attend.
“A group of us got up at 4:15 in the morning in Victoria to make sure his car was properly prepared and would be on display at the front doors of the host hotel,” says Osoyoos resident Al Abraham. “This was an amazing show of caring for Bob, who was having such a difficult time.”
Over 100,000 people got to see Bob’s car at the entrance of Victoria’s Grand Pacific Hotel. The proud owner, in a wheelchair, was able to be with his car alongside family and friends.
“I am very emotional and can’t find the words to describe how I feel,” Bob said. “I just want to thank my family, my friends and John Barbero for making this happen.”
On Sunday, Bob and John headed up the driveway of the Provincial Legislature, where a crowd had gathered.
“I told Bob: I think you just won the big one,” John Barbero says. Bob’s 1932 Ford street rod had won the Participant’s Choice Award, awarded to the favourite among the nearly 1,000 fellow street rodders there. “He turned to me and said, ‘This means everything,’ ” John says.
After years of dreaming of this car, Andrea says that for her father, winning the Participant’s Choice Award was the icing on the cake.
Bob Diachuk passed away at his home in White Rock, B.C., seven days after attending the NW Deuce Days Show.