EXERCISE IN SIMPLICITY
Reliving the days of riding in Grandpa’s hot rod.
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.
> 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.