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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Council Bluffs, Iowa
1930 Ford roadster
A pair of original '32 Ford 'rails forms the basis of Mick's roadster, with a Model A front crossmember mounted 3 inches farther forward than stock, and 1-inch box section steel replacing the stamped central X-member. The rear framehorns were bobbed, the 'rails were pinched to better fit the Model A body, and the wheelbase was stretched 5 inches. Mick used an original Mor-Drop '40 Ford I-beam and '40 spindles, coupled with a leaf spring and gas shocks from Speedway Motors to support the frontend, along with a split '40 wishbone, in which he drilled oval holes for appearance. Finned Buick drums were mated to '40 Ford brakes. A Vega-style steering box from Flaming River takes care of directional duties. As with the frontend, drilled '40 Ford radius rods locate the 3.55:1-geared Ford Maverick 8-inch hung on a '40 Ford transverse spring.
The '58 vintage Mike Wohlhutter-assembled 348ci W-block is pretty stock internally, with just a 0.030 overbore and the addition of a Crane solid lifter cam. Polished Offenhauser valve covers flank an aluminum intake (of an unknown make), atop which is a 600-cfm Holley lurking under a '56 Olds air cleaner. Stock points and Taylor wires light the fire, with cooling provided by a copper U.S. Radiator. Mick fabbed his own headers using Speedway-sourced materials; 1 1/2-inch ID tubing and 2- to 4-inch megaphones. Backing the 348 is an '87 S-10 five-speed, rebuilt by Mick and his cousin, Jeff.
Wheels & Tires
Wheel Vintiques supplied the 15x5 and 15x7 Series 62 steel wheels, which are wrapped in 165/80 and 255/70 radial rubber and dressed with trim rings and chrome lug nuts.
Body & Paint
Starting with a "pretty rough" conversion of a coupe into a roadster, Mick had his work cut out for him, replacing the rear quarters with useable roadster versions, and replacing the exhaust tubing that had been used to form the cockpit perimeter. Once the roadster was in useable shape, Mick set about modifying it to suit his decidedly roadster-unfriendly tall frame, lengthening the doors by 6 inches and adding a narrowed dash from a '51 Ford pickup. Also from that '51 truck is the gas tank, narrowed 6 inches and mounted behind the seat. Harley-Davidson 90th anniversary drab olive green was chosen to cover the extensive body prep, a PPG product applied by the owner, while the various parts chosen for chrome plating were shipped to Industrial Plating in Omaha, Nebraska. Early Ford truck headlights now light the way at night above a camshaft spreader bar, with '50 Pontiac items bringing up the rear.
There's not much to mention when it comes to a bare-bones interior, and this 'un is no exception! The third-row seat from an '87 Chevy van now provides creature comforts, covered with an Indian blanket. A rubber mat covers the floor, and a '39 banjo wheel tops a homemade stainless-shrouded steering column. The vinyl door panels were once shower stall panels, and the early '60s seatbelts were found lying around Mick's garage, while the '39 Ford shifter wears a knob from an early Peterbilt truck.