Donna Gregorski's 1952 Henry J
(from Volume 17, Issue 195)

The idea for “Tangelow”, the 1952 Henry J featured here, came about while at a car show. After having completed a bad-to-the-bone 1941 Willys Coupe, Rich Gregorski wanted to build a car for his wife, Donna, so they could show together. Donna was admiring an “orange” car, and it all just kind of snowballed from there after they found the Henry J body for sale online. It had been stored in an industrial basement, which meant it was in very good condition, so they bought it sight unseen and hoped for the best.

The car was then built by the original Clayton Custom Cars of Bensen, North Carolina. It started with stripping the body down and placing it on an Art Morrison chassis, since Henry J’s are somewhat weak. The dash, doors and rear area were reinforced with steel tubing and sheet metal formed as covers. The hidden taillights, front and rear rolled pans, frenched headlights and shaved handles (inside and out) compose the major body mods, then it was treated to a smooth coat of Tangelo Pearl paint from House Of Kolor. The front grill was made from the original, with the turn signals hidden to match the taillights. A set of Budnik Diamond Light wheels (18-inch front, 20-inch rear) lend an aggressive look, which is accentuated by the cars low stance.

Work on the interior included replacing the rear seat with a custom speaker housing, with a custom console flowing forward and incorporating a touch screen DVD stereo sound system with 1,800 watts, more speakers, and controls for the Air Ride suspension system. The smoothed dash features white faced gauges in a billet strip, while a polished tilt steering column, Budnik wheel, and billet pedals add a tasteful amount of flash to the white vinyl upholstery with matching white carpet. Comfort items include air conditioning, electric windows, plus power steering and brakes.

With such a small car, it is surprising to some when they look under the hood and find a Street & Performance LS-6 engine skillfully stuffed into the tight confines. In addition to smooth fenderwell covers there are lots of polished and plated items, and orange valve covers sporting Henry J script badges to tie it all together. Shifting duties are handled by a 350 automatic transmission, which transfers the twist back to a 9-inch Ford rear end fitted with 3.50:1 gears.

The entire build took two years, with the car presented at the Detroit Autorama where it won a first place in the Sedan Class. Since then it has gone on to win many more awards, and win over countless onlookers wherever it is shown. Donna says her car looks like a “Piggy Bank”, and we can see what she means. However, there is definitely more than spare change here!

The story doesn’t end there though, as Rich Gregorski picked up a 1951 Henry J and set off in a completely different direction. This time going for a nostalgic look, complete with pie crust slicks, American Racing wheels, Moon gas tank, and an old school Gasser stance. It has a boxed chassis with a Speedway front axle, Nickey Chicago ladder bars, and a 9-inch Ford rear end. Power comes from an Ohio Crankshaft 383 stroker short block with a Lunati cam and Patriot heads, built by T&D Performance. The intake is an over 40 year old mechanical fuel injection unit, and the combo has a 4-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter.

While building the drag car with no name in mind, antics from Rich’s grandson Nicky Marinacci lead to the car’s eventual name. In a “kids say the darnedest things” moment, it seems that while a spunky four year old Nicky was being hastily strapped into a car seat by his mother, he quipped “Don’t Push Me Woman”. That slogan was lettered onto the rear push pan, and the car went on to be named “Bad Nicky”, complete with more hand lettering, pinstriping and a caricature by Ronnie Setser. “Bad Nicky” has made a full pass down the track with no “bad” issues, and plans include running it at nostalgic drag racing events. CN