Cool Collections! Bruce and Judy Ricks’ Oklahoma-Based Collection is Full of Eye Candy
There’s a 75-foot-tall statue of an oil worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma called the Golden Driller that serves as a monument to the importance of oil in this state and this region. Bruce Ricks, who lives just outside Tulsa in the city of Sapulpa, can attest to the vital role of petroleum in these parts, as he spent a good portion of his career in the industry manufacturing parts for oil drilling rigs. His success in the field has allowed him to amass an impressive collection of hot rods and custom vehicles powered by the fuel those rigs released.
Like most rodders, Bruce has had a lifelong interest in cars, starting with a Model A his uncle started rebuilding when Bruce was young. “I rode around his subdivision on his old Model A chassis,” Bruce says. “He thought that was the biggest deal in the world!”
Bruce’s uncle never finished that car, but after he passed away Bruce bought it from his aunt and restored it. This set the stage for a long string of hot rods and customs that Bruce and his wife, Judy, would eventually own and enjoy.
The first full-scale build came a little more than two decades ago in the form of a ground-breaking yellow-and-white ’55 Chevy built by Steve Cook Creations that scooped up scores of awards and accolades. It was a true ground-up build, featuring an Art Morrison chassis that predated that company’s production Tri-five Chevy pieces – it was a race chassis that Bruce and Steve modified and detailed to the hilt. “Art [Morrison] just flipped out over it,” Bruce says.
The sleek ’55 was built more like a street rod at a time when most Tri-fives were milder resto-mods. It was smoothed, intricately detailed, and loaded with polished aluminum and one-off parts. It even had 8-stack fuel injection before that became a major trend. “We were dumb and naïve and didn’t realize how far ahead it was,” Bruce says.
At the same time the ’55 was being built at Cook’s shop in Oklahoma City, Jason Smith – who had yet to officially start the Hot Rod Garage with his father Jim – was building a ’54 Chevy convertible for Bruce closer to Tulsa, in nearby Sand Springs. It debuted at the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus that year and got plenty of notice from other top builders, even winning a Top Five finalist spot for Goodguys PPG Street Machine of the Year. “It made all kinds of magazines that year,” Bruce says.
Since the turn of the century, Bruce has followed those two cars up with a steady stream of rods and customs. This includes a ’57 Olds Fiesta wagon and companion ’57 Olds convertible, a beautiful ’40 Ford convertible, and a pair of ’56 Fords built by Steve Cook, one of which – a stunning custom convertible powered by a 427c.i. SOHC Cammer engine and known as the “Suncammer” – won the coveted Ridler Award in 2011, while also earning that year’s Goodguys Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year crown.
As the collection grew, Bruce and Judy faced the classic conundrum of where to house all those vehicles. The large garage on their property sufficed for a while, but when a nearby commercial property – a former carpet store – became available, they knew they’d found the perfect place for all their toys.
And yes, there are some literal toys on the wall – a great collection of vintage tether cars and other collectible toys from the past. There’s also old oil cans and bottles, all kinds of classic signs, pinball machines, and a variety of automobilia. Cushman scooters and an old midget race car are also part of the mix, along with photos, art, and magazines.
It’s the cars that are the stars, though. Bruce has purchased a couple of other Ridler winners to keep the Suncammer company – a bright red Willys coupe and a yellow T-bucket roadster built by Detroit’s Alexander Brothers that won back in 1969. There’s also a Ford woodie purchased from pal Gil Losi and a classic VW Beetle he bought from his friend Ed Hegarty. Hegarty, along with Goodguys founder Gary Meadors, would visit Bruce in Tulsa every year when they came to town for the Chili Bowl midget races.
The Ricks collection is always growing, and the couple has several more builds in the works that should be just as impressive. This includes a ’54 Studebaker going together at Steve Cook Creations, a ’55 Buick convertible at Customs and Hot Rods of Andice, and a ’57 Cadillac Biarritz convertible. With big ’50s classics like those, finding room in the building may soon be a problem.
And lest you think all the cars are garage queens, rest assured that Bruce and Judy do enjoy driving them. They’ve been regulars on Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tours in their high-caliber rides, and Bruce says they’ve logged 8,000 miles the past two seasons in one of their latest cruisers, a ’63½ Galaxie built by Steve Cook Creations.
“That 63½ Ford is an absolute killer road car,” Bruce says. “As far as comfort and ease of driving, I just love driving it.”
Sounds like a fitting reward for a well-earned retirement.
Photos by Goodguys