Our first look at this fabulous-looking Model A came during the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center one year ago. An international tire manufacturer had the smart idea to park the Hemi-powered roadster in its exhibitor booth, where the roadster got loads of attention. Who knows how many of those aftermarket industry folks remember the name of that tire company, but probably very few of them have forgotten the incredible roadster sitting in the booth.
The next time we spotted the car was at the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin' Nationals in Paso Robles. In sunlight, on pavement, and rolling on more suitably traditional wheels and tires, the low gold roadster looked even better than it did in Vegas.
In Paso, we found out that this low-slung highboy is owned by Nick Garfias, a car designer from Long Beach, California. Nick gets paid to design vehicles for Mercedes-Benz, and in his spare time, applies his creativity to hot rods. He told us the long, low profile of the roadster and the elaborate powerplant setup were influenced by early front-engine dragsters. He took that influence and put it to work on a period hot rod set in the late '50s to early '60s. The result is perfect. Nick's brand-new rod looks fresh from the show circuit of that era, or right off the pages of a 50-year-old issue of Rod & Custom. Years later, we would've looked back at the roadster and called it "ahead of its time."
The roadster's history has been traced back through a handful of owners. We've heard a story about the car emerging from a barn somewhere to be sold, super cheap, to a hot rodder who happened to be visiting the town. Nick confirmed that it had come to California from North Dakota, and was then sold to Verne Hammond from the Burbank Choppers, who kept the car-still wearing full fenders-until selling it to Jack Carroll, who ended up selling it to Nick.
The condition of the original steel body was fair (the driver-side quarter-panel was warped from a fire-Aussie Steve had done some initial work on that), but nothing was beyond repair, and the roadster was transformed to conform to Nick's design over the course of the following four years.
Almost the entire car is built using traditional parts and even traditional tools. In areas where he said he "needed more than one set of hands," Nick got help from friends, such as Dave Orton. He shaved the body panels, leaving the external door hinges, and channeled the body a single inch over the '32 frame to retain the look of a highboy while lowering the profile. The American Stamping 'rails are bobbed and reinforced with an aftermarket X-member and custom-fabricated crossmembers. A modified suicide frontend locates the dropped axle in front of the 'rails; but Nick toned down the typical suicide appearance by positioning the channeled '32 grille between the axle and the steering rod. It exaggerates the roadster's extra-long look, but actually keeps the wheelbase short. On the front-engine dragsters that helped influence this roadster, the engine determined the overall look as much as the body did-so Nick made sure his power-plant choice was a big part of the external appearance. Hood sides and top were left off to expose the dressed-up '56 Hemi-they wouldn't have fit anyway. The Hallock windshield, a liberal dose of chrome, and Gary Gastmeyer's dazzling gold paint job are more elements consistent with the roadster's early show rod theme.
Probably the hardest part of the buildup was keeping the car quality high enough to meet Nick's standards. Being a designer, he can spot details that you and I wouldn't notice in a month. That educated eye added to the difficulty of the project, and Nick told us that he built some parts three times before he was satisfied. But it all paid off in the end. Not long after his road trip to the Cruisin' Nationals, Nick had the Model A down at the beach, where Rick Amado got these sweet shots of the brand-new '50s-era golden oldie.