Sometimes breaking the rules is a formula for success. Just ask Ron Wiggins, who ignored most conventional rod-building advice in crafting this '29 Model A roadster pickup. The results are stunning, especially when you learn that Ron did nearly everything himself, and that he started with a four-door Murray sedan!
Many rodders would argue that buying such a derelict project was Ron's first mistake. "The body was purchased for $5," Ron says. "That's how bad it was. It was pulled out of a landfill, upside down, and the pillars were so rusted the top stayed in the muck. The lower 10 inches was gone, so I really had a section of body ribbing and a cowl top. I bought it primarily for the title."
It took a year to fabricate a roadster body based on the remains. Though he initially planned a highboy, Ron was soon building it as a full-fendered rod with a space tube chassis, Corvette IRS, and custom IFS. A trip to the '94 Goodguys Heartland Nats somehow got him dreaming of a highboy again, so he bought a Super Bell axle there and began designing a new frame in his mind. It wouldn't be the last time plans would change--another no-no in conventional rodding wisdom.
Beginning with flat 10-gauge steel, Ron crafted a new highboy frame, adding reveals with integral radius rod mounts and a triangulated four-bar to locate the Halibrand quick-change. "Proportions are everything," Ron says. "I rolled the front wheel into position; it had to be there--right there--for the right look." Unfortunately, that put the axle ahead of the grille. Lengthening the hood would've killed the look, so Ron gave the grille shell a graceful curve instead, saving the proportions and creating a distinctive shape.
Several themes evolved as the project progressed. "I wanted to mix old and new," Ron says. "I'd read so many articles saying you have to pick your style, then stay with it. I wanted to disprove that theory, as the right antiques in a contemporary setting add character. So I planned early radius rods next to coilover shocks and so forth. I even wanted 'custom' features like molded taillights and a chrome bumper."
Wings and ribs worked their way into the design, too, the former coinciding with a planned scallop paint scheme and the overall Art Deco vibe. Ribs were established when Ron built a console with 1/4-inch stainless bars fitted to a custom base. Soon he was adding ribs elsewhere--taillight housings, gussets, boxing plates, headlight stands, dash--until they were an integral element.The theme was tweaked yet again as completion neared. Ron deemed the planned scallops and whitewalls too busy; the bright yellow paint was instead contrasted with navy blue Ultraleather upholstery. He dubbed the look "sprint deco" after selecting Cobra-esque Coddington wheels, integrating nerf bars into the rear radius rod mounts, and building a custom chin guard. Such unique, cohesive details continue to engage you the more you study this truck. Even the engine--a rare '71 Boss 351 with a homemade low-rise dual-quad intake--is distinctive and, like the interior, has many custom details fitting the truck's theme.
Perhaps Ron's biggest accomplishment was maintaining his own interest level and making the car look fresh despite a 10-year build time. In doing so, he may have dispelled the biggest rod-building myth of all: that home-built rods can't look this good.
Ron & Karen Wiggins
'29 Ford roadster pickup
Starting with 6-inch wide 10-gauge steel, Ron built a custom frame to fit the body. The 106-inch wheelbase chassis uses a modified Super Bell axle, Carrera coilovers, and split wishbones up front, and an owner-designed triangulated four-link with Pro Shock coilovers supporting the Halibrand quick-change rearend. Wilwood discs are found on all four corners, and all plumbing is hidden inside the rails. A homemade column directs the Flaming River steering box.
WHEELS & TIRES
The Boyd Coddington K-O wheels are sized at 18x10- and 16x7-inches and use pin-drive knockoffs. They're wrapped in 255/55R18 and 205/55R16 Michelins.
The rare '71 Boss 351C mill was pieced together on eBay and built by Danny Hubbs. It sports Ross pistons, a Comp cam, and Edelbrock carbs on an owner-built low-rise intake. Ron built the air cleaner from an old Almquist top and some exhaust tubing. The World Class T5 five-speed uses an AMC tailhousing to mount the modified shifter in front of the seat.
Remains of a four-door Murray body provided the upper cowl and beltline; Ron fabricated the rest using 20-gauge sheetmetal and 10-gauge steel for the doorjambs and other structural elements. The custom hood consists of nine pieces, with the upper grille shell integrated into the top; the lower grille shell is curved and uses an aluminum screen door material as an insert. Ron cut the Ezra Machine bed sides into three pieces to center the reveal over the tire, then built a custom lower pan and crafted molded taillight housings using exhaust megaphones and '50 Pontiac taillights. The bumper is built from a narrowed '49 Chevy license guard and portions of a '54 Plymouth grille and '53 Buick bumper guards. There's a custom aluminum top wearing blue Hartz cloth to match the bed cover. Both contrast nicely with the "enhanced" PPG fleet yellow paint, sprayed by Ron with help from friend Dave Mounce.
INTERIORRon built the console and dash from scratch before handing things over to Kent Biedenharn and Lonnie King at Twin City Upholstery in Bloomington. Navy blue Ultraleather covers the custom seat, side panels, and console, and is contrasted by white material on the headliner. Other features include a Sony stereo with Boston Acoustic and JL Audio speakers; a Budnik wheel; and Faria flat-glass gauges in a custom cluster machined by JB Microfinish in Pontiac, Illinois.