For some guys, it's enough to build one project in their lifetime, while for others there's a succession of cars all based on the same model. You know, guys who have built a bunch of '32s for instance. Then there are those guys who just love building for the pleasure of it, and relish the challenge of different models, even cars from different eras and build styles. Mick Rau falls very definitely into that latter category, having built-and still owning-a '50 Merc custom, a '39 Ford Tudor, a '40 coupe (with sedan doors and slanted B-pillars), and putting together a '53 Chevy convertible for his wife Joan's 50th birthday.
This Model A is the earliest body style Mick has tackled, a project he pried from his cousin Glenn Kleffman's possession after a year of persuasion. "I build a different project every two or three years for a hobby and a challenge," Mick told us. "Glenn had this roadster in his garage for around five years and never seemed to find the time to start on it. He finally decided I had more time than he did."
The roadster originally left the factory as a coupe, and its conversion hadn't exactly been done with finesse, or as Mick diplomatically put it, "It had some unusual workmanship that I knew needed to be changed." At one time, what appeared to be exhaust tubing had been used on the top edges of the doors and rear quarters, and those quarters had received plenty of patchwork too. The body had had the rear fenders welded on to it, with front fenders that had cutouts in them to accommodate a Mustang II IFS, all mounted to an original Model A frame. Mick's pal Harold Shuman exchanged a stock '32 chassis, a Mor-Drop axle, and some rough but salvageable roadster quarters for some bodywork on his '32 five-window, providing a good foundation for the roadster's transformation. Meanwhile, more panel beating on another '32 brought payment in the form of an original '32 grille and a '51 Ford pickup dash.
Mick wasted no time and dove straight in, performing his own chassis work and body modifications, as well as paint and wiring, having the project completed in a little more than 18 months. The aforementioned Harold Shuman assisted with some machine work, as did Joan with moral support. Those with a supportive significant other will know the benefit of this!
Now, Mick's a tall fellow, and the Model A was never known for its legroom, so he got a little creative while the body was in pieces, and added an extra 6 inches in the doors, balancing that out by shifting the Model A front crossmember forward in the '32 frame by 3 inches. Pushing the rear axle back 2 inches meant the wheelbase was now stretched by 5 inches; and with the body mounted 2 inches to the rear to align with the rearend, he put the Cooper radial-shod Wheel Vintiques steelies squarely in the fender reveal, making room up front for that 348ci W-block given up by a long-forgotten '58 Chevy.
According to the story Mick heard, Jerry and Larry Owen from Blair, Nebraska, bought the motor in 1963 and installed it in a '55 or '56 Chevy drag race car, then promptly blew it up at the Winternationals in Phoenix that year. They took it to Jahns Custom Piston where it received some machining and head work before returning to Blair, where it sat, disassembled, until 2001. It then passed into the hands of Mike Wohlhutter, who assembled it and planned on slipping it under the hood of a '64 Biscayne. Mick bought the car just to get his hands on the 348, and sold the rest. Seems the 40-odd-year slumber didn't do any harm, as Mick put 350 miles on the odometer in the month it had been on the road before we caught up with him at the Americruise, the old W-block now destined for a quieter life than when it was tearing up the strip. Or maybe we should say it's enjoying a more sedate life rather than "quieter," as it's still plenty noisy thanks to Mick's homemade four-megaphone header system, featuring small baffles in each 'phone.