Ever since he first sat behind a steering wheel, Rich Guasco has never failed to put on a good show. In fact one of his earliest motorized matinees occurred a little over 50 years ago! This event happened well before Rich reached the legal driving age after he first put together the very same '29 Ford roadster seen on these pages.
Rich's relationship with his roadster began with a pristine '32 Ford coupe that had been retired to his family's wrecking yard. Seeing this as the basis for his "dream car," Rich proceeded to tip it on its side and cut off the unwanted body and fenders (remember this was just another 20-year-old used vehicle at the time). With the '32 chassis in need of bodywork, Rich located a '29 roadster body and mated it to Deuce frame just like some of the older guys around his hometown of Pleasanton, California, had already done. A hopped-up Flathead and a genuine 4-inch dropped Mor-Drop axle were soon added and Rich had himself a honest-to-goodness hot rod.
Returning to Rich's early story of showmanship, it all began one day when Rich was showing off his efforts to a few of his buddies. After a few test runs, Rich was blasting toward his family's house at top speed. Just about the same time he hit maximum velocity, Rich caught his father's gaze and simultaneously realized his brake pedal had fallen back toward him, leaving himself and his terrified passengers with absolutely no brakes. Knowing there was no way the car could stop before contacting the house, the friends decided it was best to jump out of the moving car. After he was alone in the car, Rich piloted his roadster in between the house and nearby building with only fractions of an inch to spare on each side. After the car finally slowed, Rich's father demanded he take it to the family wrecking yard so he could once and for all "cut it up!"
Rich would not lose his prized possession that easily, so he quickly dismantled the hot rod into as many pieces as possible and stashed them throughout the wrecking yard. Weeks later, after the heat had cooled off, Rich reassembled his '29. Together, Rich and his roadster went on to win many legitimate drag races and opened the door for even faster race cars for Rich.
He knew the day of the Flathead was over one day at the strip when a buddy pulled Rich's brand-new '56 Chevy on the track and clocked a quicker e.t. than Rich had just posted in the roadster. The next wreck to be towed into the wrecking yard with a small-block would mysteriously lose the engine in the middle of the night. Once he had built his own Top Fuel dragster, the roadster was dressed up for show duty and took home the big America's Most Beautiful Roadster trophy in 1961.
For most people the story ends after the car is sold--they raise a family and, decades later, they wish they had the car back, if they could only find it. Rich never had to look very far since he never sold the car. For decades, Rich says, "It was just an old car, nothing to get too excited about." After years and years of driving, the old '29 was literally in pieces, but after he was asked if he could bring the car to the Grand National Roadster Show in 1999 to be part of a gathering of all past AMBR winners, Rich was again racing toward the finish line.
In only a few short weeks, Rich and a couple close buddies completely went through the car, fixing much of the work Rich had originally completed over 45 years before. As much of the original car as possible--like the body, frame, front suspension, gauge panel, and many handmade bits like the headlight stands and custom front and rear fenders--was retained in the rebuild. A new owner-built mill, a four-speed trans, and a '57 Ford wagon rearend made up the driveline. New paint by Rick Valdez and fresh threads by Mike Miller got the car ready just in time for big re-debut.
Not one to keep his cars hermetically sealed in a germ-free chamber, Rich wasted no time reacquainting the roadster with the open road and has been spotted on many cross-country jaunts. To date, he has over 50,000 miles on the rebuild. That driving sprit eventually led Rich to Rod & Custom's Ego-Rama, and after his participation, the event will never be the same. Freshly released from a full hip replacement, Rich gave the event his all and drove his roadster just as aggressively as he did in the early days. Rich Guasco is forever a fierce competitor, and that's why he is admired by so many, including the entire R&C crew.
1929 Ford Model A Roadster
Building engines for some of the baddest machines to ever run down the quarter-mile is something Rich is well known for, so building a healthy small-block for his own hot rod was a snap. A pair of Brodix aluminum heads and an aluminum intake mated to a Holley 750-cfm carburetor tops a bulletproof 350ci bottom end. When first restored in 1999, an M-21 tranny backed the mill, but Rich feels one of the best improvements he made was swapping in a T5 manual box after the lack of an overdrive tore up one bottom end after a cross-country blast. The five-speed box feeds the power to a '57 Ford wagon rearend fitted with a 3.50:1 gear set.
It began with the removal of a perfect five-window coupe body, but over 50 years later that same '32 Ford frame still rides under Rich's '29 roadster body. Original modifications were refined during the 1999 restoration with the complete early frontend with an original 4-inch dropped Mor-Drop axle sitting between a pair of '40 spindles and Wilson Welding finned backing plates and Buick finned drums. A recently added Vega steering box is an upgrade from the old Corvair box, and QA1 coilovers in the rear are a welcome improvement over the old buggy spring.
Wheels & Tires
Since the beginning, Rich's roadster has always been shod in chrome reverse wheels, and the latest setup includes 15x4 and 15x8 Mercury chromies with '50 caps from Wheel Vintiques wrapped in a set of smooth rolling 165/15 and 235/15 wide whites from Coker Tires.
Body & Paint
Since the original $15 roadster body was still in pretty good shape, Rick Valdez needed only to tune everything a little bit before laying on a deep coat of custom-mixed DuPont metallic purple (a Guasco trademark). A custom Hack Hagemann Jr. three-piece hood replicates the original his father first built decades ago with an unfilled '32 shell up front as it has always been. Going back to the early days of being hassled for everything from headlight height and noisy exhaust, the set of custom bobbed fenders kept "Joe Law" happy years ago, but still look very cool today.
The original set of threads was first a subtle two-tone arrangement, followed by a multi-pleated and buttoned pure white when it won the big trophy in 1961. When Mike Miller reupholstered the car for the '99 GNRS 50th anniversary event, tan interiors were all the rage. A little subtle coaxing by Rich's friends have him planning for a return to a pure white interior sometime soon.