Jim Govro's Tweety Bird
Story by Jake Steele Iron and Steele
Photographs by Trent Sherrill: Trent Sherril Photogtaphy
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It is said that what goes around comes around. It seems that more often than not, good bad, or indifferent, we get what we give. For Jim Govro, a dyed-in-the-wool Texas hot rodder with a gentle disposition and heart of gold, a lifetime of benevolence has recently come to repay him in spades. The story begins in the early 1950's with a teenager, a neglected 1932 Ford Roadster and a whole lot of big ideas..
Like many young men of the time period, Jim was hooked on hot rods. School days were spent doodling and day dreaming. For Jim, there was only one type of car, a Roadster. He had even began his journey with the purchase of a 1929 Model A roadster body, which he kept outside of his father's repair shop and chipped away at as he could. Jim was just a high school freshman, but with limited knowledge and skill, he set out to build his dream car.
One day, Jim's friend, Doug called to say that he had found a '32 frame, which Jim had been searching for. There was one problem: “There is a body attached to it and the guy won't separate it,” BUT, he continued, “It's a '32 Roadster.” The best part? It was $20. Unfortunately, Jim didn't have it, but rather than let the deal slip through their fingers, Doug offered a loan. With that, the tired Deuce took place of Jim's Model A.
Shortly thereafter, Doug suggested that they channel the body over the frame. The saws came out and before long, the two stood back to admire their handy work. Jim's roadster would go through many changes as time and money allowed. The first iteration consisted of a 21-stud flathead, '39 transmission, '36 rear end and a '39 front end. It was a simple, if not crude rod that for several years, got Jim from point A to point B. Eventually, he could afford his first real paint job, a maroon number that was accentuated by a pleated white interior shortly thereafter. The maroon paint didn't last long, and would soon be replaced by the canary yellow it's best known for.
Jim developed an interest in drag racing and in 1953 won his first trophy with a borrowed 24 stud flatty sporting dual carbs and finned heads. From there, he was hooked. When not on the strip, the little hot rod was pulling daily-duties, as well as long road trips to places like Bonneville. It even got it's share of press, most notably appearing on the cover of Rodding and Re-Styling in 1959. It would also grace the pages of Hot Rod Magazine, and others. By this time, the flathead had been replaced by a 1951 Cadillac motor, which Jim had thoroughly warmed-up with multiple carburetors and a host of other go-fast goodies.
By the early 1960's, Jim's racing days were beginning to slow down. He had married and by 1962, he and his wife were expecting their first child. As the story often goes, Jim's ever-growing responsibilites took priority over his hobby, and Tweety Bird was sold. By the early 1980's, the new owner decided it was due for an update. It was taken apart, but the project stalled and the little yellow roadster would sit for decades, changing hands along the way.
It would be many more years before fate would intervene in Jim's favor. Through a series of chance encounters, Jim's son, Jimi was able to locate his dad's hot rod, which was still apart. After much back and forth, Jimi was able to convince Tweety's caretaker that the dusty old roadster should find it's way back to it's original builder. In 2012, Jim and 'The Bird were reunited.
Unfortunately, the process of making Tweety drivable again would be a slow one. Jim's wife went through several medical procedures and Jim, ever the devoted family man, made her the top priority over anything else, up to and including his old hot rod, which languished in the garage in pieces for more several years.
Fast forward to 2017 and a small car show in Dripping Spings, Texas. Jim and Jimi were showing Tweety in it's dilapidated state, along with a display of trophies and poster boards of the car in it's heyday. On their way out of the event, they were approached by Rudy Morales, of Rex Rod and Chassis. Rudy had seen the car at another show some years before in the same sad state and it had stuck with him. An invitation was given to Jim and his son to come see the Rex Rod facility. Afterward, a closer look at Tweety Bird took place at Jim's shop. A short while later, Jim's son received a call from Rudy suggesting another meet-up. It was at that point that a proposal was made: If Jim would agree to have Tweety Bird put back to it's 1959 cover-car configuration, Rex Rod would donate it's labor and resources to the cause. Jim and son, shocked, naturally agreed. A handshake served as the starting gun, kicking off a flurry of activity.
Legendary Keith Tardel lead the charge with his all-star Rex Rod crew. They even let Jim get in on the fun, getting his hands dirty, assisting with labor and guidance along the way. Within approximately a year, the team had completed their task. Now wearing a flawless coat of yellow paint, laid by Javier “Shorty” Ponce, of Shorty's Custom Paint, Jim Govro's Tweety Bird debuted at the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show, competing for the title of America's Most Beautiful Roadster. For Jim, a man who went from “Just some young punk with a roadster” (his words!) to family man who longed to be reunited with his old hot rod, the roller coaster of emotions must have been indescribable. Congratulations to Jim Govro and the Rex Rod and Chassis crew, who through their tireless efforts have preserved a truly significant piece of hot rod history.