Tony Messina from the Detroit area has built a bunch of rods in the past 15 years or so, but his participation in the hobby goes way back to the early '60s. The interim hiatus was dedicated to family and career and good stuff like that, but since he's been back building cars, he's turned out some sweet, well-finished hot rods.
He's also noticed a change in the hobby. It seemed like some of the flavor of hot rodding that he remembered from his younger days has been spoiled by the injection of big money. So when he was ready to start another project, he decided to rebel against the tide of high budget rides and build a build a rod on the cheap--but with as much of that old-time flavor as he could pack between the headlights and taillights.
He did it with this '29 sedan, built in just 10 weeks for about $4,000. The frame was constructed by Tony from 2 x 3-inch 1/8th-wall tubing. It is stepped and Z'ed to drop the car without channeling the body. Front suspension includes a Watts link and wild-looking split wishbone built from 1x1 tubing covered with sheeltmetal. A 4-inch dropped tube axle and 4-wheel air bags bring the ride height right down to the ground. Tony runs a square-tube scrape bar from the radiator to the transmission tail. "It'll keep the car an inch away from ripping off the drain plug off the oil pan."
The original body was an amazing find, "picked up from a fellow who was selling them out of his field right here in Michigan." Tony re-dimesioned the whole thing, whacking five inches out of the top, removing 20 inches from behind the doors, and extending the front by 14 inches. The hood and modified '32 grille were handbuilt, and the roof was filled in a panel from a late-model GM van. Blue Plexiglas was cut to fill with window frames. The radically reworked proportions, combined with the belly-crawling stance give the sedan the exaggerated look of a Jeff Norwell Dream Car.
The dual stock Strombergs poking through the hood feed a '41 Buick Fireball Dynaflash Eight. Tony bought the engine from a friend who wanted Chevy 350 instead. He installed it without tearing it apart and it has been trouble-free. A 4-speed Saginaw transmission backs up the straight-8, and the Chevy Posi rearend runs 3.27:1 gears.
The last time we spoke to Tony, he told us that the red 15-inch steelies with rings had been switched for a set of Centerlines, and the whitewall bias ply tires were exchanged with big 'n' little radials. He admits the combo shown here looked more traditional, but says the bias-ply rubber was "very evil handling." That's a valid opinion for anybody who drives his hot rod as much at Tony does.
Thanks to the functional heater, Tony can keep the sedan on the road well into Michigan's infamously cold weather, and makes a lot of local rod runs. He told us that nearby Mt. Clemens hosts a weekly cruise down Main Street. "They park all over the place and that's home sweet home every Wednesday."
Young guys and old guys all like the low-buck, homebuilt rod. When the Detroit Autorama opened up the lower level for Autorama Extreme in 2005, Tony grabbed a prime spot near the entrance, and ended up with three trophies from the event: Best Engineering, Senior's Choice Pick, and George Barris' Pick.
There's no doubt that big-money street rods have changed the hobby since the days when Tony first got into it, but as long as guys like him keep building hot rods like this, the hobby is in no danger of losing its flavor.
The sedan got a fresh coat of low-gloss black just before it was entered in Autorama Extre
This '41 Fireball Dynaflash Eight inline engine originally came with the dual carb, dual e
...Tony has not had a problem with it. He tuned the Strombergs to run together, and says i
Nothing fancy on the inside, just simple, functional hot rod stuff. The aluminum dash is a
A Watts link is typically seen in the rear, but Tony added one at the front axle in lieu o
All four wheels have disc brakes. Tony bought a cooking pot at the Salvation Army thrift s