Ladawri Daytona-Ford


" Holmes Special "

1959  LaDawri  Daytona-Ford

by  Dave Perry,  current owner


In 1958/59, there were many of us across the US who were driving 'street rods' on a daily basis, primarily as a method of transportation( to and from school, work, & girls). That was better than what Detroit had been offering ( thru 1954) .  Being in the Northeast, a customized  47 Chev Aero fastback coupe, with a Calif rake, and painted Wisteria, powered by a  3/4race  GMC  6 inline (Jimmy) with 3 Carter Carbs, truck clutch and 3 speed trans on the floor, tied to a Torque tube rear-end, was my daily ride.  ( before the Chevy, I had already built a Crosley convertible with a midengine 49 Olds Hydramatic( Olds rear end)...Everything HOT was not on the West Coast !!!...tho' we were motivated by their ideas.Image Image



   As European imports and Road Racing invaded the US, I recall studying the West Coast beginnings of the fiberglass body industry...particularly many of the Sports Car Specials, Devin, LaDawri, Victress, and Kellison . It was hard to resist these tempting ads :



Although I chose another automotive trail to follow,  Elwin Holmes of  Kalamazoo, Michigan did not.


   In 1960, Elwin decided to purchase the Daytona Spyder body from LaDawri, and begin the construction journey that I simultaneously was considering.  For me to say  " he did it my way " is to convey that many of the choices he made, were the same as those I would have made...given the materials available at the time.


   So Elwin chose the preferred '50 Kaiser-Fraser (Henry-J) Chassis,  for brakes '51Ford front, '55 Ford rear end,   and a '55 Thunderbird engine, '56 Ford Hyd clutch, into a '54  3 speed w/OD transmission and made a 14" driveshaft to move engine backwards for better handling.


   Completed in 1964, Elwin left a trail of  devastated Mustangs and Jaguars in the rear view mirror of his Daytona through the late 60's, until Detroit decided they needed to build some real muscle to satisfy those who couldn't build their own.



   William Cobb was a friend of Elwin's son Al,  and had developed a 'bond' with his friend's father's when it became available to William in 1975, the car moved to Delton, MI,  then in 1988 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


   Bill Cobb grew up with race cars, was a both a round track racer ( SuperModifieds ) and SCCA road racer ( 1963 Corvette 327.)

   Bill said " When I was growing up, if it had wheels and a motor, I loved it, and wanted to race it. I raced Soap Box Derbies, Go Carts, Scooters, Motorcycles, Street Rods, Sportsman, Flying stockers, Figure 8"s, Late Model stocks, Super Modifieds, Corvettes, and a 1961 Jaguar XKE. ".............." After I quit racing, I wanted a race car that was streetable...and Elwin's Daytona was just perfect "


  He proceeded to  squeeze more power from the 292 cu in Y-block,  mounting 3 Holley 94's on a Wiend intake. The  '56 Ford High Performance clutch was bolted to a  25 lb lightened & balanced flywheel.



Bill also made some updates, '70 Ford Maverick radiator, and upgraded the wiring to 1973 Ford 12v...adding a full soft top and curtains from a '73 Fiat   (the car had the original Hard Top option)...


              1980                                                     1984

  Image Image  


 In 1990, the body was totally stripped and refinished in DuPont Red Acryllic








   In October of 1990, Elite Classic Car Appraisal, West Allis, Wisconson did a detailed appraisal, with photo, showing  2,274  miles, commenting  " Beautiful #1 Condition, Excellent,  Very Rare " and a value of  $ 10,900.

 click HERE for appraisal

   Due to other interests , Bill sold the car in 1996 to Gary Rude, Muskeego, WI


   Gary thought the clutch did not have enough bite in second gear, for the amount of power being produced by the modified Y-block,  so Gary had the engine and transmission carefully removed.  Removal is one thing...Gary was unable to find someone to do the High Performance clutch job right and re-install,  before his interest and patience ran out.


           Gary sold the car to me, and I moved the car to  North Alabama


It now appears like this :

Image Image Image



  " I had actually only seen a LaDawri once.  It was while assisting George Weaver, owner of the Thompson Raceway , a  2 1/2 mile road course in the mid 60's SCCA NoEast Region.   In the pits with Mike Gamino's Ferrari GTO, George Butler's 427 Cobra, Mark Donahue's 350 GT, Janet Guthrie's XK 120, Bob Sharp, Bob Tulius Group44, ...was a new comer... a Hawk powered Ladawri that caught my eye...never to fade away.   Although I do not remember the driver, it appears now it was probably the David Simon / StudebakerHawk powered Conquest from Maryland.

   Upon seeing the lines of this beautiful car,  and realizing the superb 'professional' construction by the original builder,  I knew immediately my decision to buy this car was correct.   Later discussions with Mr Holmes and Bill Cobb have confirmed these feelings.   Oct 1, 2003


   June 2005 ,          Although the car is in superb condition,  now is the time to remove the body and refinish and detail the frame and running gear, as I have previously intended .   After much consideration,  only two external changes will be made...a dual brake mastercylinder for safety,  and some added footwell area on the drivers side, so a 6' driver has better seating.  The engine will get a thorough 'look see' , and a new Scheiffer Aluminum flywheel...and maybe a couple of bits of chrome,stainless, or polished aluminum,  but otherwise remain as is.  A full pictorial will be done,  to encourage others with incomplete cars, to resume the pursuit of  their dream

click HERE to see pictures of the chassis restoration



How many LaDawri Daytonas still exist  ????  

click HERE



Visit the LaDawri  website

click HERE

Thanks to Jon Greuel for all his efforts there


July 2005