Rod & Custom Feature Car
Pat Swanson
Sumner, Washington
'24 Ford Roadster

While the chassis Butch built for Pat is inauthentic per dirt-track rules of the day, it's absolutely faithful-in spirit at least-to the original. Why? Well the Spaldings' roadster's frame was technically-how can we say this-illegal. Instead of using an OEM frame as mandated by the class rules, the Spaldings commissioned a fab shop to form new sheet stock to look like a Willys frame. Butch, on the other hand, made Pat's car's frame out of 2x4-inch, .180-inch-wall tubing.

Rear Suspension
While Pat's car runs a real Culver City Halibrand centersection (the one out of Paul Knebel's full-show '28 roadster), his runs the standard-issue Ford bells, axles, and, most importantly, the differential. While he used '40 Ford rear radius rods rather than hairpins and a Model T spring instead of the torsion bars as the Spaldings did, he retained one of the original car's hallmark features-Holy Grails of the hot rod and roundy-round worlds alike-the English-made Rotoflo dampers.

Front Suspension
Pat departed from the brothers' front suspension design primarily for aesthetics. Most notably, Pat's car sports a Ford V-8/60 front axle-you know, the tube kind with the pretty smile-instead of the original car's straight axle. On either side of that axle are square-flange '46 Ford spindles and servo-action Lincoln binders. Like the rear, the front suspension uses split wishbones, Rotoflo dampers and a transverse leaf spring. Like the original, Pat's car runs drag-link steering. Its steering box came from a '28 Franklin.

Butch built the roadster's engine on a '41 Chevy 235ci block (yes, Chevy made a 235 then). It features full-pressure oiling, a drilled crankshaft, and GMC connecting rods. While all 12-port heads made for Chevrolets and GMCs are de-facto hot rod gold, very few are as lust worthy as this one. In fact, Wayne Manufacturing cast only 120 or so iron units, making this one, the 13th example, virtually priceless. A set of Wayne manifolds flank this prized head. One pair wears a set of Flynn carburetors (courtesy of Don Ferguson); the other feeds a straight pipe. The head and piston combination yields 9.5:1 compression ratio, and when combined with the same cam profile the Spaldings ran on the lakes (Bill Spalding remembered the specs half a century on), the old boy sounds glorious.

Backing this engine is another concession made for roadworthiness, a Borg Warner T-5 five-speed overdrive transmission with a pickup clutch and lightened flywheel. (Pat jokingly calls it the "second-series LaSalle.") Naturally the contemporary gearbox required Butch Bowers to convert the Halibrand to open drive, but the available gear ratios and ideal stick placement make it worthwhile.

Wheels & Tires
While the Spaldings didn't have high-zoot magnesium wheels at their disposal (they ran steel Ford wheels with wheel plates on the rear), Pat does, and loves nothing more than using them on his cars. Since most 16-inch magnesium Halibrands (16x5 and 16x7) like these no-window wheels were intended for sprint cars, they came drilled for six-pin mounting. Pat runs them on five-lug Ford drums, so he had Buffalo Enterprises in Arlington, Washington, plug and drill them for five-lug use. It's a process that makes incredibly expensive wheels that much more elusive. The fronts wear a set of 5.00-16 Firestone ribs; the rears don a set of recapped 215/85-16 light-truck radials, recapped and grooved in a similar fashion to dirt tires in the day.

Body & Paint
Considering its rather low demand and relative simplicity as compared to its later brethren, you'd think a '24 Ford runabout body would be straightforward and inexpensive. You'd be wrong, though. What the roadster jockeys didn't consume in the late '40s, the lakes racers did in the '50s. The '60s T-bucket movement pared down the numbers further yet, so by the '70s anything resembling decent metal became a restoration. This one is a careful combination of really cherry original parts and an NOS turtle deck from Paul Gommi. Interestingly enough, the track nose proved the easiest part of the body according to Pat; it's a Dennis Webb job formed on Don Borth's buck, one of Art Ingels' employees and the guy who finish-massaged the body panels on Mickey Thompson's Challenger I and the Summers Brothers' Goldenrod. The paint, in case you're wondering, is a PPG custom blend that Pat calls Spalding Orange. Jim Emmy cut and rubbed the finish to show-car standards.

The 1943 date-coded surplus seat belts came from Lee Chapel's estate. They strap the car's occupants to a set of aluminum buckets from a pre-war Fairchild PT-19 trainer. The Bell-style wheel sports a chromed Welch plug, AKA freeze plug; beyond that wheel is a king's ransom of Stewart Warner gauges, including the exotic 5-inch, 8,000 rpm tachometer and the elusive 2 5/8-inch fuel gauge.