"Wow," or maybe some earthier synonym, was the word that popped out of my mouth when I got my first look at this right-out-of-1963 roadster. We found the owner, Pete Scialabba, and headed out to the foothills of Pleasanton, California, to shoot the photos you're looking at. That same weekend, Goodguys chose Pete's '29 for the Billy B Memorial Award. Billy Burnham was a hardcore advocate of traditional hot rodding and drove his own '29 highboy roadster, on '32 'rails with a '32 grille, everywhere.
We'd met Pete before. He's from San Jose, and nearby Pleasanton is his home turf for showing off his numerous Blue Oval cars and trucks. His '46 coupe was featured in the November 2004 issue of R&C.
He was 15 in 1963, when his dad bought him a '30 coupe. There was a lot of land on the family farm, and Pete drove that Model A all over it. That kicked off his passion for old Fords, and he thinks of this '29 roadster-a car that could've been built in 1963-as a return to his roots.
Pete knew exactly where to find the right raw material for his roadster project. His friend Bill Perry at All Ford Parts had been storing it forever. "I made the deal and we went over to where he had kept it for 40 years," Pete said. "I was amazed to see the car apart, with the quarters hanging up on the barn walls. Talk about barn fresh! Not a drop of rust-just 40 years of dust."
Once he had the car, he was ready to start putting it together, but collecting the big pieces from Bill Perry was just the beginning of the job. "I made several trips to Pomona and to other swap meets looking for the nostalgic parts I needed to build a time-correct car." Once he had gathered the rest of the parts, Pete took the sheetmetal to Bruce Weidemann, who had done the work on his '46 coupe's body.
While Weidemann was working on the body, Pete was putting together the 300-horse Chevy small-block that would power the roadster, and the '60sstyle chassis that would carry it.
It was 10 months before Pete had the '29 ready for paint. Pat lash (who worked with Pete on previous cars) shot the dodge Indy Red, and Gene Worth followed with low-key Tommy the Greek-style pinstriping on virtually every corner of the car. The judges at this year's San Francisco Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle Show approved, and picked the roadster for the Tommy the Greek Excellence in Pinstriping Award.
Since he finished it, Pete's been driving the Model A all over.His destination may be different each time, but every trip in his '63-flavored '29 roadster is a return to his roots. Somewhere, Billy B is smiling.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
San Jose, California
'29 Ford Model A Roadster
Pete pulled the Chevy 350 engine out of a wooden crate, but dressed it up to look like the small-blocks he'd seen in hot rods during his formative years in the early '60s. In this case, that meant polished and painted Offenhauser valve covers, plus a polished Offy 3x2 manifold. SO-CAl Speed Shop scoop air cleaners top the '58 Impala Rochester carbs. Pete uses a stock '40 Ford column shifter with the TH200- 4R automatic, built at Ken Kolby Transmissions and modified with a TCI Automotive converter and B&M trans cooler. Sanderson headers are modern but don't look out of place.
Model A guys figured out fast that a '32 frame was the smart swap if you drove your car harder than they did in the Roaring '20s. Squeak Bell built the 'rails, bobbed in the rear, and pinched and stepped it to fit the Model A roadster body. Frontend parts are easy to see on a highboy: Super Bell drilled axle, SO-CAl hairpins, mono springs, '40 Ford spindles, Buick aluminum drums with Hollywood Hot Rods aluminum backing plate covers, and loads of chrome. There's more chrome in the rear, on the shocks, buggy springs, ladder bars, and housing for the dutchman rearend with 3.70 gears and Posi-traction. Rear brakes are '57 Ford drums.
Wheels & Tires
It's traditional rubber and rims with 15-inch reverse steelies front and back, and the 5.60 and 8.20 Firestones for the big 'n' little look. The pie-cut bias-ply whitewalls are perfect for a period rod, especially with 15x5 and 15x7 wheels painted to match the body. The '42 Ford caps have some body color on the logo. Gene Worth 'striped the caps and the rims to really set them off.
Body & Paint
When building an early '60s body, why not start with one that hasn't been touched since the early '60s? Pete sent the disassembled and untouched body to Bruce Weidemann's body shop, where it was rebuilt and straightened. Bruce and Pat lash chopped the windshield and angled it to improve the profile. Sid Chavers custom built the Bop Top cover to fit with the modified windshield. Pete added original King Bee headlights and original '46 Ford taillights, and a custom stainless steel rear nerf bar. Pat shot the '97 dodge Indy Red paint. The firewall was painted white to balance the tires, interior, and top. Bob Monroe punched louvers into the '32 grille shell, rear lower plate, fan shroud, heater box, custom rear bellypan, and, in case you didn't notice, the decklid. Gene Worth added Tommy the Greek-style 'stripes to every louver, then kept going, 'striping the body panels, framehorns, rims and caps, grille shell, headlight housings, fan shroud, firewall, dash, inside door panels, steering column, heater box, and rear axlehousing.
The '40 Ford dash was fit to the Model A cockpit, and stock '40 Ford gauges were restored and finished with black faces. The leCarra '40 Ford steering wheel with column shifter completes the look. Byron Robeck from Finish line upholstery in Santa Clara, California, built the seats and did some old-time tuck 'n' roll stitching to the twotone vinyl, keeping the rolls wide and flat like they would've been. The Kenwood stereo system features a six-Cd player, hidden out of sight. The original Southwind heater box was modified by Ken Puccio to house a speaker.