For nearly a decade, Rudy Rodriguez has been the king of underground traditional rodding, and those dedicated to traditional style praise him. Rudy first gained widespread recognition for his chopped, channeled, and flat-on-the-deck highboy '35 Ford pickup that would be copied so often it coined the phrase "Rudy style." Rudy followed that one with an extremely detailed and painfully period-correct '32 Ford highboy roadster that was quickly absorbed into Billy Gibbons' stable of "sharp dressed" rods and customs. A year after that one left his garage, his latest was finished and made its debut at the L.A. Roadster Show.
The result of Rudy's many garage-spent hours is again black and flawlessly detailed, only this time it's a '29 Ford roadster sitting atop a '32 Ford chassis. The platform itself got its start at Kiwi Connection under the eye of Squeak Bell. The frame consists of a pair of boxed 'rails that have been pinched and bobbed to fit the '29 body contours and fitted with a combination of original style and custom crossmembers.
The drivetrain matches Rudy's style of blending old with the new by using a smooth-running '53 Mercury mill pulled from a low-mileage stocker, which he mated to a Chevy S-10 T5 manual transmission via an adapter from Cornhusker. A pedal set also from Cornhusker works the clutch and controls the '67 Mustang master cylinder. A pair of rebuilt 94 carbs on a polished Offenhauser manifold, a Mallory electronic ignition, and a pair of Red's headers are the only additions to Merc engine.
For the body, Rudy went with a freshly minted '29 roadster from Brookville and made a few tweaks of his own, like swapping in an original upper and lower firewall to make the body more closely resemble an original Henry-issued unit. Once Rudy had the body fitted to the frame and trimmed 1/4-inch off the leading edge of the cowl (for better body-to-frame fitment), he handed everything, including an original '32 Ford grille shell, to Tom Leonardo Jr. to apply the mile-deep black acrylic enamel.
Finish exterior touches include a pair of BLC headlights up front and a pair of '48 Ford taillight lenses and rings in the rear. Rolling stock matches the "strictly business" theme with a set of big 'n' little Firestone blackwall skins mounted up in a set of '40 Ford capped 15-inch steelies. Shiny pieces are the handiwork of Buena Park Chrome, and all the vital pieces that hold the car together came from the very special people at C.W. Moss, who Rudy cannot thank enough for all their help.
Inside, Rudy stayed true to the early '50s style he was after with a '32-style dash fitted with an original Stewart Warner panel filled with Wings gauges. Connected to the dash is an owner-modified '38 Ford column topped by the same-year Standard model three-spoke steering. The seat is again an owner-built unit that was stitched up in the same brown leather that covers the door panels and the trunk area by Carol Knapp. Rudy finished off the project by making all the electrical connections neat and sanitary.
Now when you hear the phrase "Rudy style," picture this car and you'll have a better idea of exactly what that means-that is, until he raises the bar with the next creation to roll out of his garage.
1929 Ford A-V8 Roadster
Rudy usually does everything on his own cars, but he's so impressed by the work of Squeak Bell that he had no choice but to use one of his chassis from Kiwi Connection. A Super Bell dropped I-beam up front and 9-inch mated to a '40 Ford front spring in the rear supports the pinched and bobbed 'rails. The '40 Ford front spring better matches the needs of the light rearend and reportedly rides great. Brakes up front are a pair of '40 Ford units and steering is an early VW cross-steer by Ross. Pete & Jake's shocks are used on all four corners and '40 Ford wishbones handle the front, while a pair of Kiwi Connection ladder bars work the rear.
Rudy got lucky when he found an excellent running Flathead someone else was pulling out of a '53 Mercury. He tied the Flattie to a five-speed manual tranny with the help of an adapter kit from Cornhusker. For a little added "show and go," Rudy added an Offenhauser intake topped by a pair of 94 carbs, a Mallory ignition, and a pair of Red's headers. Gold paint and chrome acorns finish the engine dress-up.
Wheels & Tires
Sticking with simple, Rudy used a set of 15x5 Ford steelies from an F-100 pickup and wrapped them in Firestone 5.60x15 and 8.50x15 rubber from Coker Tire.
Body & Paint
The bodywork was kept to a minimum thanks to the rust- and wrinkle-free brand-new Brookville '29 roadster body and fairly nice original '32 Ford grille shell. Tom Leonardo Jr. massaged all the pieces before spraying them with a mile-deep DuPont acrylic enamel coating. BLC headlights shine up front and '48 Ford taillights alert drivers in the rear.
A period-perfect car requires a period-perfect interior, and to that end, Rudy went with a brown leather stitch job by Carol Knapp of Knapp Upholstery (Whittier, California). The controls and vitals are handled by a set of Cornhusker pedals, a '38 Ford steering wheel and column, and a '32 Ford-style dash fitted with a Stewart Warner panel and gauges.