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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Long Beach, California
1929 Ford Model A roadster
An early show rod had to have a stunning engine. Nick continued the tradition by loading the roadster with a Chrysler Hemi. The stock 354 came out of a '56 New Yorker. Lance Soliday in Burbank, California, did the machining and assembly on the block, boring the cylinders 0.060 over. The Iskenderian 270 Mega cam operates the valves in the stock iron heads, topped with chromed Firepower valve covers. A six-pack of fully functional Stromberg 81 (rebuilt by Jere Jobe at Vintage Carburetion Technologies with adjustable jets from Flathead Jack) feed the Edelbrock log intake manifold. The headers were fabricated from '36 driveshaft tubes paired with lakes pipes. A SPAL sidewinder fan (with off-center motor) pulls air though a custom radiator. Nick runs a gear-reduction starter from Mopar, vertex magneto rebuilt by Joe Hunt, and a Chevy generator. Pat McGuire from Wilcap provided the transmission adapter to tie the Hemi to a '64 Muncie M20. The four-speed, built at Ron's Transmission Service in Anaheim, has a 10 1/2-inch clutch. A custom driveshaft from Driveline Specialties turns the 3.78 gears in a '57 Ford 9-inch limited slip rearend.
Nick added a Chassis Engineering '34-style X-member and custom quarter-inch steel plate crossmembers to the American Stamping '32 'rails, and built the motor mounts, headlight stands, F-1 shock mounts, hairpins, and other suspension and steering parts. What didn't get painted was chromed. In the front, the grille shell conceals the SAC leaf springs mounted with a modified suicide perch. The Mor-Drop Ford axle has a 4-inch drop and is drilled with 11/16-inch holes. Nick made a set of custom batwings to fit the axle and the hairpin radius rods. The front and rear shocks are from Pete & Jake's. The '40 Ford spindles were switched left to right. Brakes are '40 Ford in front and Pete & Jake's in the rear with a late-'50s to early '60s Chevy truck master cylinder. The Schroeder 10:1 steering box is mounted by a fabricated roll hoop. In the rear, the 'rails are Z'd up several inches. The rear suspension includes '36 wishbones, antiroll bar, and Panhard bar. The '36 rear springs feature a custom main leaf from Deaver Spring in Santa Ana, California. Lower shock mounts were custom made from early Ford steering arms. The rear axles were drilled out to fit early Ford bolt pattern. Nick made a flange to fit a N.O.S. aircraft filler cap from a '54 Constellation (possibly from a de-icing tank) to a Model T gas tank.
Wheels & Tires
A narrow tread and wide white sidewalls is exactly the authentic tire the gold roadster needs. Nick wrapped 6.50-16 and 7.50-16 Firestone bias-plies around chromed 16-inch Ford sedan wheels.
Body & Paint
The body is original '29 Model A steel, repaired after some past fire damage and typical neglect. Nick's performed a lot of bodywork, but kept it all very low-key-shaving the handles (except the trunk handle), radiusing the perimeter of the interior edge to keep the upholstery below the body lines, and channeling the body 1 inch over the 'rails. The Hallock windshield frame and cowl were curved to fit together perfectly. The Deuce grille shell was sectioned 3 1/2 inches to match the proportions of the car. The taillights are '46-48 Ford. The vintage BLC sealed-beam headlights were popular aftermarket parts during the '40s and '50s. These are mounted on fabricated stands. Mario Cazare did the skin finishing. Nick picked House of Kolor Goldmine Gold to give the roadster a timeless finish. Gary Gastmeyer shot the paint.
It took a lot of imagination to come up with an interior as deceptively simple-looking as this. Nick designed the seats so that the bottoms are split by the driveshaft hump, but the full bench-style back is retained. He took his concept drawings to Eddie and Sons in Bellflower, California, where the seat frames were padded and covered with Arctic White Spinneybeck full-grain leather. The stitched rolls were kept flat in keeping with the old-time hot rod look. Notice how the Deuce-style dash was pie-cut and curved to follow the lines of the cowl, and then welded to the cowl to form a single seamless piece. Stewart Warner Wings gauges were the perfect choice to fill the instrument panel. The two-spoke wheel is from a '49 Chris Craft boat, restored to new condition. Finally, Nick shifts gears with a cool-looking extended T&F shifter, top mounted near the firewall.