One of the primary complaints we hear about contemporary-styled cars is that they lack character. In many cases we tend to agree. Some builders, it seems, are so intent on making a car slick and trick, they erase or eliminate all the things that make old cars fun and interesting.
When Kenny Davis first started building this '33 Ford roadster, he envisioned it as a quick 'n' nasty, down 'n' dirty hot rod-a retro-themed throwback. "Then I got to buying parts that were too nice and decided to finish it as a nice car," says the Rogers, Arkansas-based builder. We should qualify that last statement a little, since anybody familiar with Kenny's cars knows that they're anything but "nice." Oh sure, the build quality is first rate, but the attitude generally falls somewhere on the scale between menacing and surly.
As long as he was mixing metaphors, Kenny decided to venture further into dangerous territory by blending modern and nostalgic build styles. It's a fine line, to be sure, one that we generally dissuade people from walking. Yet in this instance, it truly seems to work.
In fact, it's hard to talk about the car's various contemporary elements without mentioning more traditional ones. For example, the chassis is an aftermarket item from Show Me Rod & Custom that features a tubular X-member, Wilwood brakes, and coilover shocks on the Pete & Jake's triangulated four-bar rear suspension, but it also relies on a tried-and-true transverse leaf spring and dropped axle up front. Likewise, the Rat's Glass long-door body is pretty smooth and swoopy, but it's complemented with steel fenders, running boards, aprons, and hood sides with original-style louvers.
It's the engine that really personifies the mix of old and new, however. The sight of a 409 will give almost any car instant old-school credibility, but the only true 409 parts on this mill are the '65-vintage block and bare heads. Engine builder Mark Evans pushed displacement to 476 cubes by using a custom-machined 454 crank, Rat-motor rods, and Ross forged pistons. Even from the outside the engine blends elements, with a traditional dual-quad induction set off by Lamar Walden's custom aluminum valve covers and a matching smooth air cleaner crafted by Joe McCullough.
Of course, no analysis would be complete without discussing the roadster's wheels. Yeah, we know they don't match; Kenny knows it, too. He borrowed a page from '60s-era Gassers by using slotted-style "mags" in back and 10-spoke versions up front, only these are modern-era Budnik equivalents, 20x9.5-inch dished Mercury and 17x7-inch Gasser designs. We picked up on the theme-and dug it-right away.
Contrasting the bright-silver body with a red gut is another nod to the '60s (think Corvette Sting Ray). The cockpit's simplicity has classic appeal, too, although the custom-built, UltraLeather-covered seat and door panels, wrap-around dash, Carriage Works wheel, B&M shifter, and billet pedals all lean toward the more modern end of the spectrum.
Call it contemporary if you want, or neo-classic, or whatever other terms you can conjure up to try to categorize this slick roadster. With its rompin' W-block engine, killer stance, and dynamite overall appearance, we prefer to simply call it cool. So does Steve Lomax, the guy who bought the Ford late last year. As for Kenny, well, he's got several other projects in the works already. Some may be modern, some may be traditional, but you can bet they'll all be nasty.