On the south shore of Long Island, New York lies the village of West Islip. It was here that William Dzus invented the Dzus fastener in 1932. This unique fastener locks down with a quarter-turn, making it ideal for use in airplanes and hot rods.
William’s son Ted Dzus took the helm in 1964 and ran the company for 23 years before retiring. But Ted isn’t wasting his retirement on the golf course – he’s an active member of the hot rodding community. I had the chance to check out Ted’s insane 1951 Henry J at the 2013 SEMA Show.
First of all, a Henry J is a pretty rare sight to see these days. The cars were built from 1950 to 1954 by Kaiser-Frazier. The company hoped this small car would be a big hit. To keep the price low, they came up with some inventive ways of cutting costs.
The Henry J was only sold as a two-door sedan. It did not have an opening trunk lid, a glove box, or arm rests and the rear windows were fixed and didn’t roll down! As you might imagine, buyers failed to see the value in the little car and it was discontinued after just 4 years. Approximately 7,000 cars were produced.
With so few of these cars made, spare parts are hard to come by even for those who have the cash. For Ted, that meant he had to get a bit creative in rebuilding his ’51 Henry J. His car has been rebuilt using a lot of non-original parts, but ones that make it a lot more exciting! He called upon S & W Race Cars of Spring City, Pennsylvania to tackle the job.
In its stock trim, the Henry J was pretty much the antithesis of performance. Engine choices were a 68 hp 4-cylinder or an 80 hp inline-6 engine. Instead of winning races at Indianapolis or Daytona, a Henry J won the Mobil Economy Run in 1953. This wasn’t exactly a hot performance car – it appealed to people who wanted a low cost of ownership and good fuel economy.
Ted upgraded his car with an aluminum HEMI V8 from Paul Kaufman. With a Vortech supercharger riding atop the 528 cid Mopar motor, it’s the kind of car that makes the ground shake with fear! The engine is coupled to a 4L80E from TCI Auto. A set of 345 Mickey Thompson rear tires helps turn that power into motion.
While this is clearly a street/strip car, that doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable to drive. In fact, the car has many amenities which it never did originally: electric power windows, Vintage Air, and a full interior with AutoMeter gauges. To top it all off, the car also has a full roll cage and unmistakable school bus yellow paint job!
A big part of hot rod culture is doing what you can with what you have. It’s not about buying all of the newest bolt-on goodies from a catalog, but coming up with something original that really turns heads. In this case, a HEMI-powered Henry J is definitely not something you see every day! We’d like to congratulate Ted Dzus and S&W Auto on their amazing build!
Engine and Driveline
Aluminum 528 cid HEMI engine (BMP 426 block)
Vortech V-4X Supercharger
TCI Auto 4L80E transmission
Custom KOOKS headers and exhaust
S&W 9-inch rear end
Suspension, Brake, and Wheels
S&W Auto tube frame chassis
RideTech ShockWave shocks
S&W front spindles
S&W custom 3-point rear suspension
Flaming River rack and pinion steering
Baer 6-piston brakes w/drilled and slotted rotors
Weld Racing RT-S wheels: 17×8 (front) and 18×12 (rear)
Mickey Thompson 205/40-R17 (front) and 345/35-R18 (rear) tires
Body and Exterior
Front chin spoiler
PPG School Bus Yellow paint
Full roll cage