Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ed Stroszyn - (West) Fort William's Custom King - by DENNIS WINKO

As far as we were concerned, Ed Stroszyn was the custom king of Fort William and Port Arthur and matched up in our minds to that of Big Daddy Roth and George Barris. 
My good friend Dennis Winko wrote this article about Ed, and it is my privilege to print it here on Hot Rods and Jalopies. Dave.
"The Chrome Coffin"
Ed Stroszyn – by Dennis Winko
     Most of my life was spent growing up in Fort William.  I attended McKellar Park School which was right across street from the local chroming shop.  It is here as a young impressionable boy of 14 that I first knew of the name Eddy Stroszyn.  Ed hailed from Westfort(West Fort William), arguably the epicenter of hot rodding and custom cars in our locale.  Ed happened to be employed at the time by Tom Dow a local car enthusiast and dirt track racer in his own right who also was the proprietor of the said chroming shop.  This fit very well into the realm of Ed’s hobby. Needless to say, most of Ed’s cars had copious amounts of chrome everywhere.  Ed used to park his latest creations in front of the shop.  This stimulated much interest and crowds of kids like me would end up looking at his car.   After school I would always make a bee line across the street to see up close these neat customs.  I was in awe at some of the creations Ed had built.  They were to me and many others, magazine quality cars.

     One of his finest customs was called the chrome coffin.  A 55 Mercury morphed into several different custom versions throughout its 14 year life span.  Ed won many trophies with this car and of course everything on the car was chromed including the potent 312 cu in Mercury engine sporting 6 carburetors.  Alas the last version of the car would be the wildest, but unfortunately it would never be finished.  Due to family problems Ed ended up parting out the components of the car including the complete chrome front end as well as the interior.  Ed then pulled out the chrome 312 engine, installed it in an old Ford half ton and with all his belongings moved to Victoria British Columbia in the summer of 1969.  This was very unfortunate for the custom enthusiast here in the Lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur.
"The Chrome Coffin" 3/4 rear view

Doing the interior.
Finished interior
Much more story below, however be sure to click on all the photos for enlargements.

The Chrome Coffin's Chrome Engine.

A different colour and 8 tail-pipes, one for each cylinder.
     Another custom car Ed built was dubbed the “Red Baron”.  When you look at the little roadster it’s hard to believe it started out as a 1947 Mercury 4 door sedan.  In this age of mig welders and access to a plethora of aftermarket tools; one has an appreciation for what Ed accomplished with a small smith torch and a hell of a lot talent. Ed still does work in Victoria and is sought after in the custom world for his expertise in restoring trim on high end cars. Ed is one of the true craftsman and customizers in this sport.

The Red Baron
Rear View
Front View

"Chrome Coffin"
     The car won numerous trophies and awards at car shows throughout Canada and the US. It was well known and Ed and the car appeared on a local TV special.
     It was Ed’s everyday driver both winter and summer.
     The glass bowls in the carburetors cracked in winter and when the last nut was loosened off, the plexi-glass hood blew off trailed by 5 foot long flames.  Luckily it was extinguished with snow.  
    Over its lifespan the 312 ran 3 carburetors, 6 carburetors and a Paxton blower as well.
     Ed was challenged by a local hot rodder at a car show that his engine could not rev and survive beyond 8000 rpm. After the smoke cleared in the building much to the organizers chagrin, the challenger was proved wrong.  
     The windshield washer was used as a pump for dispensing rye whiskey through a nozzle in the dash.  While travelling to distant car shows one needs some refreshments!
     The all chrome front suspension is presently under a 56 Ford Victoria owned and driven in Thunder Bay to this day.
     In the car’s final version it was miniaturized, shortened, narrowed, chopped and sectioned.  It was to sport a large rear wing and would have been about the size of a Mustang.  It was never completed and most of the car except for a few parts was scrapped.

"Red Baron"

     It was a very unique sports rod built from a 47 Mercury sedan with coil spring suspension throughout.

Hard to believe The Red Baron started out as this.


     It was originally powered by a chrome flathead which was later switched to a 312.
     The car was sold to one of Ed’s younger helpers almost immediately after it was finished.  It had terrible bump steer which was later remedied.
     The car was sold to finance a college education and literally disappeared.
     The carburetors and intake manifold from the engine were the only things found locally from the original Red Baron.  The final history and whereabouts of the car is unknown to this day. 

Post Script by Dave: 
If anyone has any knowledge of the whereabouts of this car (The Red Baron)…please email this blog site or make a comment below. 
One interesting story to add, is when the "Chrome Coffin" had the 8 pipes out the rear (as shown in one of the photos above) and late one Sunday night after a typical spring car show at the Fort William Gardens....Ed was cruising Victoria Ave after the show, and while revving up the car, literally blew out the door glass of Mahon Electric, a local furniture store of the day, setting off alarms, but Ed was long gone before any of the local constabulary had arrived.
Finally, a huge thank you to Dennis for the great write-up of our old friend Ed Stroszyn who is still working away in my birth place city, Victoria, British Columbia....and a huge thank you also to Ed for the knowledge, the art, the talent and the Man. 
NOTE: It was extremely sad to hear that today April 10, 2014, Ed passed away in his present home town of Victoria, British Columbia.  We will miss you Ed, and thank you for the unforgettable memories of your time here in Fort William, Ontario Canada.....Dave


Dave Bull said...

thank you Dave for the condolences from his daughter Nikki and son in law Dave, would really like to know what the T.V. special he was featured in , and what the date was.If you know, you could e mail us at dnbull@hotmail.com Thanks again
Dave & Nikki

Dave Cano said...

You are very welcome....as far as the TV show, I will ask around...maybe my friend Dennis W. might know.