There we were at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, hanging out in the Pro's Picks corral with all the trailered-in, high-end, mega-buck, show cars-having a great time bench racing with the owners and builders-when all of a sudden this cool little suede black roadster goes screaming by, a couple guys bouncing around on the Mexican blanket bench seat whooping and hollering and having a ball. The guy I was talking to went silent as we watched them shoot past. Then he said, half to me and half to himself, "That's what my next car is going to be like!"
That was the same weekend we met Jim Roepke, who has the advantage of already driving a cool little suede black roadster. For under ten grand, Jim built this rough and tough little hairblower that might never win a Pro's Pick, but'll paste a grin on your face from here to the end of the road. The low-buck Model A was parked in the grass out by the swap meet, far away from the power parkers, vendors, and special exhibits-but we coaxed it over to the loading dock area to get a few photos to share with all of you.
"It's just a hot rod built with parts I found and could afford," Jim said. He found the Model A body at one of those "you-store-it" facilities in Ohio. It was a coupe at the time, but the roof was smashed up beyond repair. After a lot of welding, grinding, and reshaping, the coupe was a roadster.
The rest of the neglected sheetmetal was repaired with a few patch panels. Jim played with the proportions by shortening the doors three inches, which he added to the quarters. The reworked body was channeled five inches over the stock frame, which was boxed and Z'ed 8 inches in the rear. Jim found front buggy springs at a local shop, which he suicide mounted along with split wishbones to locate the drilled non-dropped 1941 I-beam axle out in front of the original Deuce grille shell. The '41 brakes feature Buick drums. Posies leaf springs were added in the rear, and the '41 Ford banjo rearend houses 4.11:1 gears. Fifteen-inch steelies, mounted on wide white bias-ply tires, do the rolling.
Jim dressed up the A with a Duvall-style windshield, a pair of old Guide truck headlight housings and Pontiac taillights. A steel lift-off top keeps his noggin dry on rainy Ohio days. Black and silver basecoat (separated by red 'striping) was covered with flattened clear, and bomb-riding Betty was handpainted on the cowl in the style of the bomber nose art that made its way to hot rods after WWII. The bomber influence shows up again in the form of riveted stainless steel trim pieces decorating the on the door panels, Sprint car steering wheel, and Anglia dash. Gauges are from Stewart Warner, including a column-mounted mechanical tach and a 150mph "Police Special" speedometer. Jim built the bucket seats and upholstered them using maroon leather stripped from his parents' old recliner chairs. He also built the stainless skull shifter knob, using an ice cream scooper to create the helmet.
The flathead is a '41 59AB engine, bored 0.030 and running stock heads. Jim made the stainless stacks for the Ford 94 carbs, which sit on an Offenhauser manifold. He also fabricated the zoomie headers. The transmission is a Borg-Warner T-5 five-speed.
The whole project cost Jim a year's time and about $9,000. The homebuilt hot rod has taken a couple of awards at Goodguys Columbus, but that wasn't why it was built. It was built for fun. The kind of fun that makes the show car guys look on with envy. The kind of fun that only comes from driving the heck out of it. "I've had to get the tools out a couple of times," Jim admitted, "and open engines and monsoon-type thunderstorms are not a good mix, but it's been a blast."
On the road for five years now, the roadster doesn't have the history of some of the old-time rods it resembles, but Jim's working on that. "I guess I'll have to hot rod around with it for another 20 years and let it make it's own history-and I'm looking forward to great times down the road."