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Community Spotlight Earl Steen

Article Date: 
4 May, 2012 (All day)

“The whole thing with hot rodding is using original parts” said hot rod maker, Earl Steen from Morgan.

Rat rod, in today’s terminology for yesteryear’s hot rod or a cow patty on wheels, using new parts instead of original. 

Earl explained, he takes original parts from various automobiles, to create a hot rod. He described one of his hot rods has Chrysler engine, Chevy transmission, Ford rear end,  Buick front brake drums. . . a gas tank out of a boat . . . Nash Ambassador dash, speedometer and speaker housing, 1928 Dodge body . . . tractor seats and tires are drag slicks.

“ 20 minutes is about all you could stand to be in it and drive but its got style,” explained this hot rodder. He continued, “Got to have style . . . maybe not practical but style.”

He makes manifolds for cars from either aluminum or stainless steel. And makes trophies for car shows. He received, “The Best Hot Rod Award” at last year’s “Morgan Cruzin Classic Car Show”, he had made the trophy, and he received it.

Earl has been a member of various clubs including president of Coffin Riders Motorcycle Club, in California. He started up a car club in Morgan called the”Warlords”,  in which he is the president of. The members extend from Kaysville to Brigham. They get together occasionally and participate in car shows and the Auto-Rama.

While he was a member of Swanx Car Club, in Vallejo,California, he got the nickname “Chopper”, because he chops the top off of cars and trucks to build hot rods. He has a small sign that says “Chopper’s” on his shop. His shop is a rustic version of a car museum.  Skeletons ride a couple of miniature scooters from Western Auto called “Hiawatha Doodlebugs” are his watchmen, in Earl’s shop. These scooters were only manufactured for three years,1946-47-48. 

Earl polishes and shines his prize car he named “Grapes of Roth”, this beautiful purple hot rod with a specially designed white chopped top, was named after Ed Roth (Big Daddy Roth, who founded the Big Daddy Roth’s car show.)

Earl was born in 1944, in St Petersburg, Florida, his father was in the Navy, they moved around a lot. His mother remarried and they moved to California. He lived mostly in Southern California.

He has owned a car, since he was 13 years old (before he was a licensed driver). Even then he enjoyed tinkering with cars. 

“Experience is the best teacher but the tuition is usually higher,” humored Earl.

 His job experiences, he said, help to prepare him for life.   

 He joined the Army right out of high school. An Army Recruiter asked what he wanted to do, he said driving tank sounded interesting. 

Earl was assigned to Korea. He said he didn’t even know where Korea was. The transportation at that time (1962) was by ship, it took 24 days to get to this new destination. he was there for 13 months.  He drove the platoon leader’s tank, his platoon helped to guard the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He was in the 9th Cavalry Division, 1st Cavalry Squadron.

Memorable days in the Army, when he was driving the tank, in the winter going up hill with rubber cleats on the tank tracks.The tank (had no rear view at all) slid down the hill about 200 yards across a frozen field but no one got hurt.

After he got out of the service, he went on to being a busboy at Marineland in the main cafeteria; then maintenance machinist; he delivered furniture for 8 1/2 yrs; an oil machinist at the refineries; a marine machinist on nuclear subs; a buffer in a chrome shop; a welder for the Navy for 5 1/2 yrs; he was a mechanic at Little Lube for 9 yrs; he also worked at a couple of body shops. He appreciates the skill and patience it takes, to do the body work. He explains, that this hobby making old cars run, he gets the parts from junk yards and steel yards. “To me a car is rollable, whether it runs or not,” stated Earl. He has made over 100 hot rods.

He continued to build hot rods, after he got married. A plaque credited the workmanship and listed Earl and Marcia Steen sits on wall displayed in his hot rod shop on the wall, along with nostalgic pictures, road signs, posters, license plates, trophies, car ornaments and name plates adorn the walls of the inside of his shop and restroom .He married his first wife, Marcia, on April Fool’s Day,1966, they were married for 26 years, they had two children. They later divorced.

Then somewhere along life’s journey, Earl met this lady, Donna who actually had attended the same high school and graduated the same year. When comparing memories they had attended some of the same events, like concerts, been in the same classes, yet their paths hadn’t ever crossed before. He was best friends with her brother. Earl would ask him about her, because his friend told him of his concern about his sister, Donna, because she was married with four children and was having some difficulties.

Earl finally met her.  She introduce him to her religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, his interest in the church grew as well as, his friendship with Donna had also grew. Donna’s brother baptized him. Then one night, Donna said let’s go to the temple. So they took a ride over to see the Oakland LDS Temple that wasn’t quite completed. Both Earl and Donna as they approached the area on his motorcycle, could see something on top of the Temple, it looked to both of them as the Angel Moroni, (the gold statue). This gave him the feeling that they were destined to be together. Soon after they attended, the temple open house and ask where is the angel? They were told this temple won’t have an angel on it.

Then in 1992, they got married in Nevada. Donna’s parents had already commenced moving to Morgan. So the rest of family could witness the wedding, another ceremony was held, in her parents living room, by Bishop Corpany. Earl said, that Donna asked him to come with them to Morgan and she promised him “a better life”. He said he hasn’t been disappointed. Then on April 22, 1995, were married in the Oakland LDS Temple. Together they enjoy 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

This summer they are going to travel back to California for their 50th Class Reunion. Wonder if they will drive her car or his? Whatever way they go, they will enjoy it together.