It was on April 1, 2005, when I first got a lead on a couple of Model A five-window coupes. A longtime hot rodder, Dick Braun had known about these cars for a while, and when he heard that my dad and I were on the hunt for some old Model A tin, he knew right where to take us. The coupes were right in our backyard, about three miles away in a rural part of Reno. The owner was an older gentleman who had purchased them about 15 years ago in hopes of building them into street rods. However, here they sat, stuffed away in the far corner of his property, forgotten and completely hidden from sight.
After climbing over about a dozen old construction trucks, the coupes could finally be seen. They hadn't been moved since the man had purchased them so they were both buried up to their axles in the sand. They had both been original Nevada cars for their whole existence. My dad and I split the difference for both of the coupes, and the deal was solidified with the man by a firm handshake.
After we got the coupes back to our house, I immediately started disassembling the one that was in the worst shape and missing the most parts. I picked that one because I wanted to make a channeled and chopped hot rod, so if I messed up I could refer back to the complete car sitting out back. Once I got the car disassembled, my dad finally let me take it into the garage so I could get things rolling. I told him there was only one rule: The car would be entirely garage-built by the two of us, and the only way it would leave was when I was in, it driving down the road! He agreed.
Building the frame was one of the most challenging tasks throughout the build. Both my dad and I were a little unsure about how we wanted to go about building it since neither of us had ever built a chassis before. After much deliberation, he finally gave in to my idea that the front of the frame had to be Z'd 4 inches and the rear 8 inches in order to achieve some room in a car with a 6-inch chop; otherwise, I couldn't fit. We measured what seemed about a million times, and then he stepped back as I started cutting and welding up a frame all on my own.After the frame build, everything started to go by more quickly. My Christmas break rolled around, and I had two entire weeks to get a lot of things done, the first of which was the top chop. We started by shimming the body and bracing the roof, and then we carefully taped out a line for a 6-inch chop, and started cutting. Later that same day, the roof was welded back on and the chop was complete, giving the coupe a whole new appearance.
When I first started building the car, I told my dad we had to have it done and driving by April 25, 2006, my Grandpa's 75th birthday. He was born the same year this car was produced, so it was only right that he would get the first ride in it on his birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away two months before the car was finished while recovering from open-heart surgery, so I knew it was going to take everything I could do to still give him the first ride somehow. I got the car done in 8 1/2 months, a week before my deadline, by working for a month straight until 1 a.m. on school nights with my dad, and with some very special help from a great friend, Garren SooHoo, owner of Nitro Street Rods here in Reno. I fulfilled my goal and promise to Gramps by setting his box of ashes in the original bomber seat and driving him around the outlining areas by my house. It was a day I will never forget.
On the car's maiden voyage, I took it out on the streets without the seat even being bolted to the floor, no front windshield, and no registration--a ticket waiting to happen. Fortunately, everything went well, and it was one of the most incredible feelings of accomplishment I've ever felt. I'm very proud of this car; it's everything I've dreamed about doing to my first hot rod. I've gained an insurmountable amount of knowledge throughout the whole build that not only helped me complete this car, but will help me for the many more projects to come in the future. I plan on keeping this car until I leave this earth, because when I'm a 78-year-old, gray-haired man, I want to be able to drive around in my first hot rod that I built entirely in my garage when I was an 18-year-old senior in high school.
1930 Ford Coupe
The engine is a 10.0:1 compression 283 Chevy bored 0.40-over and balanced by Mike Hughes (Fallon, Nevada). The Edelbrock intake is topped with three Rochester 2G carbs with Maund velocity stacks. The vintage Edelbrock valve covers were found at a swap meet and I made the accessory brackets. The ignition is a Joe Hunt magneto with Summit wires. Speedway ram horn manifolds look vintage and feed 2 1/2-inch straight pipes that have glasspack baffles welded in the ends. The transmission is a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed with a Centerforce clutch and stock steel flywheel. The shifter is a modified Model A Ford with my grandfather's pineapple grenade from Vietnam for a shifter knob.
The original Model A 'rails were boxed to the firewall and strengthen with a Dagel's center crossmember kit. The front was Z'd 4 inches with 2x4 boxed tubing, and the rear was Z'd 8 inches. The wheelbase was stretched to 109 inches. The '36 Ford I-beam was drilled and mounted in front of the POSIES reversed eye spring with the spring perches welded to the drilled '40 wishbones. The '40 Ford spindles mount original '39 Lincoln brakes (liberally drilled) and 45-fin Buick drums. By far my biggest budget-breaker was the V-8 quick-change with a 28-spline differential kit set up by the Hot Rod Works (Nampa, Idaho). My dad and I fabbed up '40 axle halves with split '40 wishbones and a Panhard bar and mounted the rearend from the original crossmember. Rear brakes are drilled '40 Fords with 45-finned Buick drums. Houdaille lever shocks are used at each corner.
The five-window was chopped 6 inches by myself and my dad (our first chop!) and channeled 4 inches with a steel-covered, boxed 1-inch tubing subfloor. I bought a roof insert from Bobby Walden and had it louvered by Eric Vaughn. I welded it to the stock visor, which I supported with 1x2 steel boxed tubing. I removed the stock cowl gas tank and grafted in a '38 Ford truck cowl vent. The rear decklid was converted from a rumble seat to a trunk, and louvered. The rear lower panel was modified to eliminate the lower bumper support bar to better show off the quick-change. Aircraft aluminum rivets were used to attach the custom-fabbed steering arm blister and the firewall and replace the doorjamb assembly nails. The grille is a '38 Case tractor piece (purchased on eBay for $85) that I added a swap meet '34 Ford radiator cap and Ford V-8 emblem to. My dad's friend, Eric Collins (Reno, Nevada) and I did the bodywork and paint, and Eric matched the PPG silver color to a fresh sandblasted piece of steel. A topcoat of flat clear completes the look. I fabbed the front chin bar using old Sprint Car pictures as a guide, and welded on pieces from the original Model A headlight bar for the headlight stands. The headlights are Guide 682s with markers and the taillights are original '50 Ford pieces. Door handles are off a '36 Plymouth.
Wheel & Tires
Original 16x4 and 16x5 Ford solids were painted black and wrapped with Coker Firestone 5.00x16 ribbed front and 7.50x16 rear tires.
The interior is as basic as the exterior. The '36 Ford dash has been dressed with a vintage Stewart Warner panel and engine-turned inserts done by myself in my metal shop class. The gauges are vintage Studebaker with a Radison tach. The steering column and steering wheel are Schroeder items attached to the 8:1 ratio Schroeder Sprint Car steering box. The pedal assembly consists of modified Dagel arms with homemade pedals. The seats are original WWII Weber bomber seats with distressed brown vinyl pads upholstered by Gary Koepnick (Reno, Nevada) to look like the original floatation pads. The seatbelts are original WWII bomber belts. Garren SooHoo wired the car with a Painless Performance panel.