Dave Lohr keeps telling me that he builds his cars to scare people, but to be honest, I don't think it's working. Two years in a row I've run into Dave (aka "Littleman") at the Autorama Extreme-the downstairs section of the Detroit Autorama set aside for, you know, "those" cars-and both times, his hot rods have been surrounded by throngs of spectators who didn't look too scared. More like amazed, impressed, and excited.
In 2005, Dave showed up at the Autorama with this cool little '30-31 Model A pickup with a black suede finish, six 94s on an Offy intake, slicks, and a perfect '60s hot rod attitude. The truck ("built to pick up my daughter at day care and scare soccer moms") was channeled over the stock 'rails, which Dave Z'd in the rear to drop it further. The front crossmembers were relocated forward, and the cab was shifted back to retain the original firewall. The suspension includes hairpins in the front and a split wishbone and coilovers in back. A reversed Corvair box controls the steering.
The body mods are easy to see. The visor and shortened bed were perforated with lots of holes, and the top was chopped until it looked good. The paint is DuPont's Hot Rod Hues flat black, tattooed with pinstriping by Kevin Moore. Those are Radir five-spokes in the back, and Hallcraft spokes in the front.
Dave was back in Detroit this winter with another '30-31 Model A-this time a channeled five-window coupe, but nothing like any A coupe we've seen before. Death's Doorstep, as this five-window coupe is known, is a work in progress, being built in memory of Dave's stepfather, Robert Busser. The lack of cowl, hood, grille, headlights, and radiator gives the car the appearance of a cutaway illustration and gave us a chance to get a really close look at the imagination and engineering that went into this thing.
Dave did an amazing job on the drilled and sleeved rectangular tubing frame, adding torsion bars, suicide spring perch, chrome hairpins, and the triangulated rear four-bar system. The rear shocks and springs are from QA1 Motorsports. Rear Wilwood discs have to do all the grabbing, since the fit spindle-mounted 12-spoke mags don't have brakes; Dave plans to add an e-brake setup to the rearend pinion.
The 12:1 Hemi motor, built by Alvin Pridemore, is topped with a six-pack of fully functional 94s. An aluminum Powerglide, with a TCI Automotive 3,500-stall converter and trans brake, spins the Denny's driveshaft. The '57 Ford 9-inch is equipped with a 4.88:1 Posi and turns Radirs with 8.20 piecrust whitewall slicks.
Dave is getting ready to cover the sheetmetal in flat red paint and install a push bar rear bumper. The top, he promised, will remain unchopped.
He claims that Death's Doorstep was "built to scare children, dogs, and oncoming traffic," but I don't believe it. Nobody's scared of these wild Model As. They love 'em. In 2005, the pickup got the Championship Auto Shows prize for Nostalgic Rods, as well as the Jimmy Shine pick. This year, the coupe won the Autorama Extreme Best Engineered trophy, along with the Rad Rods by Troy Trepanier award. Bad news, Littleman-the only thing scary about these hot rods is the amount of talent that went into building them.