EX­ER­CISE IN SIM­PLIC­ITY

Re­liv­ing the days of rid­ing in Grandpa’s hot rod.

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents -

SUB­TLE.

Kevin Beal has been in­volved with cars since he was six. As with many of us, the foun­da­tion of his in­ter­est came from his fam­ily. His grand­fa­ther had a great pas­sion for Fords, and his fa­ther bought a new GTO in 1967. Though his dad sold the Goat in 1973, Kevin was able to buy it back 10 years later. He’d heard a lot of sto­ries about the GTO, but had never ac­tu­ally seen it in per­son un­til he bought it.

The GTO ig­nited Kevin’s in­volve­ment in the hobby. Its restora­tion led to him to work for Ames Per­for­mance En­gi­neer­ing in Spof­ford, New Hamp­shire, which bills it­self as the “nation’s largest sup­plier of clas­sic Pon­tiac parts.” Kevin ob­vi­ously found his call­ing at Ames, as he is now the com­pany’s owner.

So, how did a Pon­tiac guy come to own a hot rod? Kevin met Eli Eng­lish of Tra­di­tional Speed and Cus­tom through his nephew, Ryan. Eli had brought Ryan on board, and an in­vi­ta­tion was ex­tended for Kevin to check out the shop’s tra­di­tional builds. Kevin was amazed at the work they were do­ing with mostly old­school hot rods, and he hit it off with Eli in­stantly.

It turns out Kevin had been think­ing about get­ting a hot rod, want­ing to re­live the ear­li­est days of his car pas­sion when he would

ride around in his grand­fa­ther’s road­ster. Eli had a likely can­di­date for Kevin, a 1929 Model A road­ster he had worked on years be­fore for a farmer down the street. The car had been re­stored in the 1970s—eli found car show judg­ing sheets un­der the seat from 1979—but it had not run since the early 1990s. The farmer had been in ill health and asked Eli to get the car back into run­ning or­der. Not long af­ter the work was done, Eli heard that the owner passed away.

The Model A then sat for an­other seven to eight years be­fore the farmer’s wi­dow ap­proached Eli to see if he would be in­ter­ested in buy­ing it. The paint on the car was still in de­cent shape, and the rest had al­ways been fairly well kept up, ex­cept that mice had got­ten into the car while it was stored in a wood-floored barn. They were in the door pan­els and had even chewed through the roof in places. “It was like a mouse condo,” says Eli. “They were ev­ery­where.” Nearly a dozen of the crit­ters scattered when the road­ster was pres­sure washed.

Eli found a cus­tomer to buy the Ford, but thought of the car again when he met Kevin. Kevin took the op­por­tu­nity to pick up the road­ster and knew Eli was the one to turn the bone-stock A-bone into a tra­di­tional hot rod ready to hit the as­phalt at high­way speeds.

The first change Eli made was to dis­mount the fac­tory 21-inch wire wheels and in­stall 17-inch wires from a ’34 Ford, us­ing big and lit­tle rub­ber to give the car a bit of a rake and some at­ti­tude. While this low­ered the car a few inches, Eli knew it had more to go and mounted re­verse-eye springs front and back. This not only dropped the car but also tucked the tires up into the fend­ers with­out a big gap, giv­ing the car an aggressive stance.

To get the Ford to look even more aggressive, the wind­shield was chopped and raked back. The body was stripped of much of its equip­ment, in­clud­ing the spare tire and car­rier, the lights, the etched-glass wing win­dows, and even the bumpers and their brack­ets.

Be­cause Kevin is tall, they took out the seat riser, thus low­er­ing the seat 4 inches, then tucked the back of the seat 6 inches un­der the rear body panel so he would have plenty of leg room. Eli was able to re­use the old up­hol­stery to com­plete the in­te­rior and rum­ble seat, and he kept the rest of the cock­pit stock, in­clud­ing the gauges. They only had to buff the paint, in­clud­ing the dash, to bring back a nice shine with just a few cracks and patina to pro­vide a clue to its age.

With the first ob­jec­tive met to sim­plify the road­ster, next on the agenda was speed equip­ment for the mo­tor. The stock four-banger re­ceived an up­dated head, header, and carb combo to get re­li­able high­way speeds. This also meant the con­ven­tional un­syn­chro­nized three-speed trans­mis­sion could be left un­touched, as could the rearend. For an added tra­di­tional touch, the Model A re­tained its four-wheel me­chan­i­cal drum brakes.

Al­to­gether, this gave the road­ster a lit­tle bit of hot rod and race at­ti­tude with­out a large-bud­get over­haul. It was cer­tainly an ex­er­cise in sim­plic­ity by break­ing the car down to its ba­sic form to make it lighter and faster.

• WORDS & PICS: JOSHUA ELZEY • CAR: KEVIN BEAL

> With child­hood mem­o­ries of rid­ing in the pas­sen­ger seat of his grand­fa­ther’s road­ster, Kevin Beal de­cided it was time to re­live those days that started his au­to­mo­tive pas­sion. He was not about to pass up the op­por­tu­nity to grab this 1929 Ford and make a hot rod out of it.

> Among the first changes Eli Eng­lish made was to swap the Model A’s stock tall wire wheels for a set of 17s from a ’34 Ford that Kevin had scored as part of a pack­age deal with other Model A parts. They just needed to be blasted and painted af­ter the spokes were de­ter­mined to be true. Up front Eli mounted a pair of 550 Ex­cel­sior Stahl Sport ra­di­als by Coker, with 700/750s in back for a nice hot rod rake.

> While most of the body’s ac­ces­sories—spare and car­rier, wing win­dows, bumpers—were re­moved for weight re­duc­tion, Kevin kept the rum­ble seat. This way he could drive his fam­ily around to share the hot rod with them as his grand­fa­ther had done with him years be­fore.

> The wind­shield was chopped 4 inches and raked back 10 de­grees to get an aggressive look. For the fu­ture, a top chop is planned to match.

> De­spite the mice that had taken up res­i­dency while the car was stored in a barn, the stock in­te­rior re­mained in de­cent con­di­tion. With some el­bow grease and pol­ish, the Model A cleaned right up, with just a few traces of patina as ev­i­dence of the long life it had led.

> The seat riser was re­moved and the seat pushed back some 6 inches to ac­com­mo­date Kevin’s height.

> Since the stock L-head 201ci flat­head is known to be on the slow side, a high-com­pres­sion po­lice head was ob­tained from Sny­der’s An­tique Auto Parts. This, along with up­dat­ing to split head­ers and a We­ber two-bar­rel carb with in­take, pro­vided a great combo for some “go” with­out a mas­sive mo­tor over­haul, leav­ing the in­ter­nals as-is.

> The mod­i­fi­ca­tions are fairly sub­tle but ef­fec­tively set this Model A apart from the nearly 3,000,000 oth­ers that were sold in 1929. Hard to be­lieve that this road­ster sold for $385 in those days.

> The Ford was con­verted to 12 volts us­ing an FEI elec­tronic dis­trib­u­tor and the Model A gen­er­a­tor.

> The front bumper was re­moved and the stock head­lights were mounted on a low­ered bar to move them be­low the top of the grille. This ac­cented the styling lines of the fend­ers and hood.

> The Ford’s orig­i­nal me­chan­i­cal brakes pro­vide plenty of stop­ping power for the road­ster. A re­versed-eye spring with a flat­tened pack up front and an­other re­verse-eye spring in back, with one main helper spring re­moved, low­ered the sus­pen­sion by 2 to 3 inches. This setup al­lows the fend­ers to be per­fectly po­si­tioned over the new wheel/tire combo.

> The re­sults still cap­ture the styling ap­plied by Henry’s son Ed­sel and his Ford team with­out break­ing the bank. It gives Kevin the per­fect full-fend­ered lit­tle hot rod, built as it would have been in the late 1930s, that he can whip around and cre­ate new mem­o­ries in.

> Eli kept the stock dashboard, in­clud­ing the cen­ter clus­ter with a work­ing amp gauge. The stock shifter and three­speed trans­mis­sion were re­tained with the car’s four-cylin­der en­gine.

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