I have a sickness," admits Al Packard. Symptoms include hacking sheetmetal, construction of the mechanical sort, and unusually elevated levels of fun. He's had this condition since he was 14, when it progressed from the scale-model stage into fullsize hot rodding. Over the years it has manifested itself in 10 project vehicles in various styles, most recently in the form of this '29 Ford roadster pickup.
Al says he felt the itch to build something in the authentic style of a late '40s, early '50s rod. A Model A rpu was a natural choice. He figured a '30-31 would have been a more popular pick, but for his taste, "it just had to be the little square box of 1928 and '29." The finished project looks like a basic period rod, but keep reading because those looks will fool you. This simple-looking hot rod was treated to as much imagination and construction as many high-tech street rods.
The Deuce frame from Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (Escondido, California) was the starting point of Al's project A. "I thought it was the single most innovative new twist on '32 'rails since Henry first produced them," he says. The 'rails depart from stock in a couple of ways: The wheelbase is extended 3 inches past stock, and the exaggerated front curve drops the front end down noticeably, for a far more aggressive crouched stance.
The frame is a perfect match for the steel Brookville cab riding on top of it, highboy style. When selecting the bed, Al got some good advice from Denny Hall, a pickup owner from Tacoma, Washington, who recommended using a '32 bed for a lower profile that would better match the cab. The Mack steel bed was modified by the metalworkers at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff to fit the '29 body. HR&CS built the louvered steel hood and shortened the Brookville '32 grille shell to keep the line of the body angled forward.
The Hallock windshield, which Al calls "the single most unusual visual component on the whole hot rod," nails the '40s-era flavor of the pickup. HR&CS dug up a brand-new casting and modified the cowl to make it fit.
Although he knows a hot-rodded Chevy small-block would be a chronological impossibility in a late-'40s or early '50s ride, Al has no problem imagining the evolution from a banger or a Flathead to a Corvette overhead V-8 in a rod like this. One look at this stroked 350 dressed up vintage style, and we don't either.
Since it had to be a shifter car, a "bone-crushing" Borg-Warner four-speed was dropped behind the engine. Al reports that the 2.88:1 First gear and 3.55:1 rearend allow him to pull head-snapping launches when the light turns green and cruise above the speed limit at below 3,000 rpm-hypothetically, of course.
Beyond all the work done at HR&CS, most everything else on the pickup was accomplished in Al's garage with the help of his fiance, Kelly. Kelly is aware of Al's chronic condition-known to laymen as the hot rodding bug-and may be catching it herself. With any luck, there is no cure in sight, but for Al and Kelly, treatment is available. It comes in this little square box.