The Martin Rac­ing Spe­cial

How a Pre­war Model A Lakester Be­came Amer­ica’s Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster

Street Rodder - - CONTENTS -

Hot Rods & Hob­bies (HR&H) has had a prom­i­nent dis­play at the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show ever since the event re­lo­cated to the Pomona Fair­plex 14 years ago. Scott Bonowksi and his team at the Sig­nal Hill, Cal­i­for­nia, shop have al­ways dis­played their best and fresh­est builds a few paces from the Amer­ica’s Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster tro­phy. In the fi­nal hour of this year’s GNRS, that 9-foot-tall tro­phy was moved from the cen­ter of the build­ing to stand next to this ’31 Ford road­ster, Amer­ica’s Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster for 2018.

The Martin Rac­ing Spe­cial, owned by David Martin of Santa Monica, Cal­i­for­nia, has a his­tory that starts long be­fore its re­cent re­build by HR&H, and long be­fore its two pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances in STREETROD­DER. Old sto­ries and pho­tos re­veal the road­ster’s iden­tity as a racer on the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia dry lakes dur­ing hot rod­ding’s ear­li­est years. David was a teenager in the ’50s when his hot rod his­tory be­gan.

David has owned this Model A since 1982. Af­ter an­swer­ing a news­pa­per ad, he found the car in the desert in San Diego County. At that time, it was chan­neled, Flat­head-pow­ered, and dressed in Candy Ap­ple Red paint and white tuck ’n’ roll up­hol­stery. The owner con­firmed the road­ster’s iden­tity as a sur­viv­ing pre­war dry lakes racer.

When the car (along with David and his wife, Mary) ap­peared on the cover of the Feb. ’86 is­sue of STREETROD­DER, it was black with yel­low Day­ton wire wheels and a Hal­i­brand quick-change rear. The Flat­head had been re­placed by a rare Ri­ley SOHC V-8 en­gine, which, for rea­sons never de­ter­mined, didn’t live more than a few hours on the road. David in­stalled the Flat­head that had been in it. The re­cently re­built Flat­tie lasted two weeks be­fore seiz­ing. The third en­gine was a suc­cess; that blown Chevy 350 pow­ered the ’31 on the first Hot Rod Power Tour in 1995.

By 2003, the road­ster was ripe for a re­build. David turned to Bonowski and HR&H for the task. When HR&H was fin­ished, the fac­tory steel was painted dark blue with am­ber scal­lops and the 350 was topped with a trio of Rochester carbs. A year later, the car made its de­but at the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show, win­ning First Place in its class. It was back on the cover of STREETROD­DER for the May ’06 is­sue. The fea­ture story, in­clud­ing a full de­scrip­tion of the road­ster in that ver­sion, can be read at ar­ti­cles/0605sr-1931-ford-road­ster.

Street rods are built to move for­ward. David ap­plied that prin­ci­ple to his road­ster one more time when he and Bonowski took the next step with the car—the step that took them to that fa­mous 9-foot tro­phy.

The re­build was ex­ten­sive; there is lit­tle rec­og­niz­able from the road­ster we fea­tured 12 years ago—and the changes go deep. Spec­ta­tors at the GNRS started with its out­ward ap­pear­ance, so we will too. The body re­shap­ing in­cludes hand­made sui­cide doors, 6 inches longer than stock and shaped rem­i­nis­cent of ’33-’34 doors. The Deuce grille and shell were short­ened an inch, and the fabri­cated alu­minum hood top and sides were length­ened 3 inches. The un­der­side of the hood was lined with retro-style di­a­mond­stitched ma­te­rial. Guide head­lights, Alfa Romeo tail­lights, and ’50s-style

Ray­dyot re­pro mir­rors call out the road­ster’s early sports car and rac­ing in­flu­ences. Three of the road­ster’s most prom­i­nent

ex­te­rior at­ten­tion-get­ters are the lou­vers (al­most 300 of them), Bonowski’s cus­tom blue paintjob (with mus­tard yel­low and red belt­line strip­ing), and the in­cred­i­ble tube head­ers cre­ated by Gerome Rodela of Rodela Spe­cialty Fabri­ca­tion. The head­ers emerge from the lower hood blis­ters and dis­ap­pear back into the fram­erails. Lou­vers con­tinue un­der­neath on the alu­minum full belly pan. No fend­ers cover the 5.50R16 and 7.00R17 Ex­cel­sior Stahl Sport Ra­di­als from Coker Tire. The cus­tom-built Evod In­dus­tries wheels are mod­eled af­ter the Hal­i­brand mag­ne­sium wheels on mid-’50s Indycars—right down to the three-spoke knock­offs.

The wheel­base of the mod­i­fied ’32 ’rails was length­ened and the track widened for per­for­mance. Frank Kur­tis’ tor­sion bar rac­ing chas­sis from the ’50s pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion for the front sus­pen­sion of the Martin Rac­ing Spe­cial. David and Bonowski aren’t the only ones in­spired; Steve Moal at Moal Coach­builders has re­peated Kur­tis’ suc­cess with this Indy-type sus­pen­sion al­ter­na­tive and built the fron­tend for this road­ster. A four-bar setup and Bil­stein SN2 Se­ries mono­tube shocks mounted on the drilled and dropped I-beam axle pro­vide fur­ther sta­bil­ity in front, and the Unis­teer Per­for­mance rack-and­pin­ion im­proves steer­ing. In the rear, you’ll find a Win­ters V-8 quick-change with a Wedge­lock lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial and straight-cut, six-spline gears. A cus­tom four-link lo­cates Strange En­gi­neer­ing axles—with a Speed­way En­gi­neer­ing an­tiroll bar, PAC Rac­ing coil springs, and JRi Pro Tour­ing shocks for im­proved ride. Brak­ing is han­dled by 11-inch SO-CAL front discs and Wil­wood rears, fed by a Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der, pro­por­tion­ing valve, and pedal assem­bly.

A Borla Eight Stack EFI sys­tem on an Edel­brock Vic­tor alu­minum man­i­fold (with Edel­brock Pro-Flo 3 elec­tron­ics) and Vin­tage Restora­tion Parts finned valve cov­ers from Johnny Law

Mo­tors give the en­gine a retro ap­pear­ance—but looks are mis­lead­ing. Tom Mal­loy at Ed Pink Rac­ing En­gines built the 401ci all-alu­minum Brodix en­gine with Edel­brock split-port heads and plenty of high-per­for­mance in­ter­nals. Fuel comes from a

Har­mon rac­ing cell in the trunk. The up-to-date en­gine is rated at 500 hp and 493 lb-ft of torque. A Rich­mond Super Street five-speed was built at HR&H, with a clutch, fly­wheel, and disc from McLeod.

The per­for­mance en­gi­neer­ing that went into the road­ster might seem like overkill for a car des­tined to win Amer­ica’s Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster, but the Martin Rac­ing Spe­cial wasn’t built for looks alone. Four months be­fore the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show, David was rac­ing it in bare metal in the Sil­ver State Clas­sic Chal­lenge in Ne­vada, clock­ing an av­er­age speed of 101.5057 mph. Two day later, the car drove into the STREETROD­DER photo stu­dio, still with its race num­ber on the doors, a sin­gle race seat, no up­hol­stery, three-point rollcage, an alu­minum ton­neau, and dead in­sects crushed against the Matt­son’s cus­tom ra­di­a­tor. Visit streetrod­ to see more pho­tos from that ses­sion.

The GNRS was ap­proach­ing fast when the car rolled into the HR&H spray booth for its Ax­alta paintjob, and then over to Mark Lopez at Ele­gance Auto In­te­ri­ors. Ele­gance has cre­ated in­te­ri­ors for many AMBR con­tenders and win­ners. Lopez used red leather for the pan­els and the mod­i­fied Kirkey rac­ing seats. Crow En­ter­prizes sup­plied the five-point race belts. The floor is rub­ber cov­ered, like a func­tion­ing race car. The race in­stru­ments are ex­clu­sive one-off hy­brids, de­signed and built by Red­line Gauge Works. The Steer­ing Wheel Guy in Al­berta built the cus­tom four-spoke Sprint Car wheel mounted on a LimeWorks col­umn. Wiring was com­pleted us­ing a Ron Francis Bare Bonz kit.

The Martin Rac­ing Spe­cial rep­re­sents the first AMBR win for HR&H, the first for David Martin, and the first for a ’31 Ford. It’s a proud ac­com­plish­ment, but it’s not the first one for David’s long-lived road­ster. We pre­dict it won’t be the last. As long as there are more miles to drive, more com­pe­ti­tions to face, and more fun to have, this hot rod will keep mov­ing for­ward.

•For the dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence:

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