As time goes by and untouched original iron or forgotten "barn cars" become scarcer, we're going to see more hot rodders building cars from surviving hot rods. The alternative to starting from scratch with a new aftermarket body is buying a complete or partially complete car and modifying it to make it your own.
Veteran Houston hot rodder Jon Marchman was the original builder of this late-'50s/early '60s-style '29 coupe, now owned by Blake Burwell. Blake had just finished a complete rebuild on a slammed and shaved '62 Buick Invicta convertible and was on the lookout for a Model A for his next project. His friend John Youens was slowly rebuilding Marchman's Flathead-powered five-window, but other priorities stalled his progress, so he agreed to sell the car to Blake, who wasted no time in putting his own touches on it with a handful of basic styling modifications.
"Almost immediately, I put the hood and hood sides into storage and replaced the red '35 wires, motorcycle tires, and truck radials with chrome gennies and bias-ply whitewalls," Blake tells us. "I drove the car for a while in this configuration, then changed the rear tire and wheel combo (tall and skinnies replacing short and wides) to better balance the unchopped top."
The new rolling stock improved the stance, but it still didn't provide the profile Blake wanted. An in-the-garage 3 1/2-inch chop took care of that. Rodney Belt from Rodney's Rods and Restos in Conroe, Texas, did the cutting and tacking, and Blake handled the finish welding (his first shot at welding body panels), smoothed the pillars, and installed the glass.
"The following Saturday, I drove the car to the grand opening of South Austin Speed Shop. After the party, I left the car there to get the interior stitched up, telling upholsterer Sean Johnstun at Fat Lucky's, 'Surprise me ... I trust you.'" With the two-tone vinyl interior finished, Blake completed the remaining sheetmetal work and shot a fresh coat of primer. "This was not the smartest sequence in which to perform these tasks," he admits, "but the end result looks fine."
Blake cruises his hot rod around Cypress and Houston, Texas, and makes annual trips to the Lone Star Roundup in Austin and the Day of the Drags vintage race at Temple Academy Dragway. "The little coupe has made it to three consecutive DOTD events and has managed a best of 16.37 at 78 mph," he reports. "I usually make three or four qualifying passes, then park it to enjoy watching the actual competition." When the racing's over, Blake and his cool little coupe get to make one more pass-the 150-mile drive home.
More photos of the coupe, including the at-home chop, can be found on Blake's Web site, www.e-burwell.com.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
'29 Ford Coupe
Jon Marchman of Houston, who originally hot-rodded the coupe, built the chassis. The stock '29 frame was fully boxed and suspended in the front by reversed-eye Model A leaves mounted to a dead perch, aftermarket chrome shocks, and a Magnum drilled I-beam axle plus '39 Ford spindles. The rear suspension includes hairpin radius rods, a Panhard bar, after-market tube shocks, and cut salvage yard coils. The rear brakes and rearend are from a '59 Merc; '39 Ford brakes with '46 drums are used in the front.
Marchman also built the '53 8BA Flathead, running Edelbrock aluminum heads and an Edelbrock aluminum intake with triple non-progressive Stromberg 97s, topped with chrome helmet-style air cleaners and fired by a Mallory dual-point distributor converted to electronic with a Unilite kit. Marchman also built the headers with Harley-Davidson baffles. A Hurst shifter stirs a '60s T10 four-speed hooked to the '59 Merc rearend.
Wheels & Tires
Coker came through with the 8.25-16 and 5.60-15 big 'n' little bias-ply whitewalls mounted on chrome-reversed wheels. The rear 16x7s from Wheel Vintiques have a 4-inch backspace; the Pete Paulsen 15x5s feature 2.75-inch backspacing. The '42 Ford hubcaps were added just before the '06 Lone Star Roundup.
Body & Paint
Marchman covered the top with Hartz canvas, and originally left the top stock. Burwell's Web site dramatically shows the difference made by Rodney Belt's 3 1/2 inch chop. The exterior was mildly modified with Deuce headlights and a reproduction Deuce grille and insert, along with '48 taillights. Auto Glass Installers provided the custom glass, and Blake covered everything in a coat of suede using PPG DP90 epoxy primer.
When Blake bought the coupe, the only thing on the inside was a Nissan minivan seat. Sean Johnstun at Fat Lucky's in Austin wrapped the lengthened, widened, and peaked bench in black and ivory pearl vinyl, decorated with some seat-back stitching in a traditional pinstripe style. A set of VDO Classic gauges fill the steel '32 dash, and a tach mounted on the steering column sits below the '36 Ford wheel. Blake created the skull shift knob and dropped a 1-inch-thick rubber stable mat from Tractor Supply on the floor-both cool details.