Ken “Posies” Fenical – Making a Statement
When one thinks of Hershey, Pennsylvania, ground-breaking rods and customs are probably not the first things that come to mind. Chocolate, of course, is the immediate connection, and the biggest automotive car swap meet on the planet comes next. But for in-the-know hot rodders, the sweet smell of Hershey’s world-famous confection wafts over another equality important entity, the shop of Mr. Ken Fenical, a.k.a. Posies, one of the most innovative and unique car builders to ever doodle on a sketch pad.
For the better part of five decades Posies has crafted cars of uncommon differentness (unique is a woefully inadequate word). It’s been said that Posies makes statements, not cars. Moreover, he is equally adept at inventing components that transform the approach to assembling pre-’48 hot rods.
Fenical was an Army “brat,” born in 1944 in San Antonio, Texas, where his father served in the Army in the signal corp. After the war, the senior Fenical returned to Pennsylvania to take over the family florist business. As a youngster, Ken helped in the floral shop and by high school he was making deliveries in the company’s ’29 Model A panel truck, with a bouquet of flowers painted on the side.
This led to a serendipitous change in the name of the family business. An offhand comment by a phone operator tipped off young Ken that everyone in town was familiar with the business by the “posies” design emblazoned on the truck. Perhaps they should change the business name to Posies, Ken suggested. They did, and it stuck – and later it stuck on him, as well.
Fenical’s enthusiasm for customizing cars blossomed next. His first car was a ’39 Ford two-door sedan, which he tricked out by adapting a complete powder-blue interior from a ’59 Chevy. He also learned to pinstripe; he adorned cars and motorcycles with his flowing, artful lines. Interestingly, Fenical never took shop in school, only art classes.
After a stint in the National Guard as a “mess steward” (military-speak for cook), Fenical began to work on cars seriously, a passion he has pursued continuously for 55 years now. Operating under the shop name of Posies Rods and Customs, Fenical — known more as Posies than Ken — mastered the art of the coach-built hot rod.
The key phrase is coach-built. Posies always admired the legendary coach builders of Europe, names like Bertone, Ghia and Pininfarina from Italy; Karmann from Germany; and Figoni from France, who all crafted elegant hand-crafted machines that made unique statements. It is this desire to make a “statement” that sets Posies cars apart from other hot-rod craftsman. He isn’t interested in making a well-executed ’32 highboy (not that he hasn’t done so), but he would prefer to tap his fertile mind for something entirely different. Three of Posies favorite creations are emblematic of this M.O.: the woodie Extremeliner, the Bentley-inspired Euroliner, and the elongated the Aeroliner.
Mimicking mid-’30s Cords and Lincoln Zephyrs, this Art Deco woodie is typical of Posies’ singular vision. The ’37 Studebaker headlights, grille and front fenders form the “face” of this car. Underneath, a custom tubular steel frame supports a wood-clad unibody, while a 1994 Corvette LT-1 V8 and GM 700-R4 trans provide propulsion. The swoopy custom wood exterior sets it apart. Press acclaim was instant; The Extremeliner graced magazine covers around the globe. It now rests in the Museum of American Speed at Speedway Motors.
The Euroliner started life as a ’32 Ford three-window coupe from Brookville. Inspired by the ’31 Bentley Blue Train that raced against locomotives in France in the 1930s, the Euroliner may be based on a Deuce, but the cowl and roof header were widened, the windows made parallel, the rear of the roof was cut off and moved, with a pointed boat tail bringing up the rear. Power comes via a 302c.i. Ford V8 mated to a Tremec five-speed. Traditional hot rod? No. Stunning statement? Yes!
Inspired again by ’30s French coach builders, Posies adopted design cues from that era to transform a ’35 Ford into another you-got-to-be-kidding-me ride, the Aeroliner Sport. The Posies crew stretched the chassis up to 139-inches and dropped in a Roush 427R Dart V8 that produced a stout 531 ponies. Other touches included an aluminum body with fabric covered roof, a pair of Corvette bucket seats, sound system, Vintage Air, and Wilwood brakes.
Famed car designer and journalist Thom Taylor, who has collaborated with Posies on occasion, has unique insight into the Posies approach “He looks at old cars differently than the norm and executes them to the level that you pay attention to,” Taylor explained. “Once you get noticed for your building prowess you realize there is a very strict acceptability range for modifying old cars. Ken doesn’t concern himself with those barriers. He studies American and European classic cars as well as Art Deco, Machine Age Modern, and Mid-Century Modern design, plus ’50s kitsch. This puts him on a different plain than other builders. His drive is to make a statement rather than build something to whatever trends are currently in style.”
In addition to head-turning creations, Posies also single-handedly changed the functionality of the straight axle with his Super Slide front springs. Super Slide Springs feature a domed pocket at the end of each leaf which houses a moly-nylon button. The buttons reduce friction between the spring leaves resulting in a smoother ride. Posies offers 800 different various of Super Slides.
Longtime Street Rodder editor Brian Brennan has known Posies for almost as long as he has been in business. “He pioneered spring technology and helped make all of our cars handle better today,” Brennan said recently. “The Posies Super Slide spring was a simple idea, but the end result was a breakthrough.”
While Posies’ statement cars have baffled some traditionalists, Brennan says the man’s talent is not to be underestimated. “From his fertile imagination, you can see a wildly creative and imaginative hot rod. And he can tell you why every modification and the styling cue was made and what inspired it. If you follow Posies’ hot rods closely you will never be bored.”