After two long years of very little sleep, credit card debt, car-related emotional ups and downs, and several cut fingers and missed deadlines-my dream has finally been realized.
When I create the Mad Fabricators DVDs, I tend to focus a lot on survivor hot rods and customs. This gives me the chance to study and absorb all the detail from these cars which are virtually frozen in time. I think that's where I started to become obsessed with building a period-correct show car. My goal was to build a car that would make people have to ask, "Is that an old restored show car?" My target year was 1958, right when we were starting to experiment with custom paints, when doing candy colors with frosting and fading was the new fad. Cars had to be painted underneath too, because the bottom needed to look as good as the top and everything possible had to be chromed. It was also a time when the upholstery was just as nice as the paint and the chrome. I wanted nothing to do with the rust, primer, and rat that seem to be so popular today. I wanted a nice ride, a sealed interior, and a screaming Cadillac mill.
I put the word out that I wanted to trade my T roadster for a '30-31 coupe and a few weeks later I got a call from my pal Tyler from Texas telling me he was looking at a chopped Model A coupe with a few chickens living in it. Yup, it was a chicken coupe. He sent pictures and they looked good, and the trade was done.
At this point I decided since what I do is make hot rod movies, I should start to document this, and I had an idea that I would go full force and build this car on film. Bob "Bleed" Merkt and Johnny "Cola" Koller came to my house and we built it up as a roller. A few months later Dave Martinez of Martinez Custom Upholstery set up shop and dialed the interior, so a big part of the build was done in my garage.
The coupe was then sent to Oxnard to Di Ciurcio's Hot Rods, where Luke did his metal craft on the body and frame, doing a lot of the finishing fabrication. At this point, we decided to try to debut it at the 2008 Grand National Roadster Show. After Angel Lopez finished up the bodywork and Drew Hallam painted the running gear, we gave it to Donnie Baird with two weeks on the clock to get a full custom paintjob on the frame and body.
We got the frame back within a few days and were waiting on all the chrome. After some delays, we had the chassis back on its feet three days before the show and received the body the following day. After a few late nights with no sleep, we got the car back in one piece (although not running) and met our goal of getting it to the Grand National Roadster Show and displayed in the Suede Palace. It was worth all the stress to be able to show the public what we had done-and it even took home some trophies.
After the GNRS we took the car back to the shop and tried to get it running. When I bought the Cadillac engine I had been told it had been rebuilt. As it turned out that wasn't the case. After a few days of trying to get it running, one of the pistons got stuck. So the engine came out (which is not fun after having a fully finished car) and was pulled apart. Turns out the engine had 100,000-plus miles on it and had not been rebuilt. Thankfully my credit cards still had some room left as I was able to get the engine built and filled with a few speed parts while I had it apart. With the engine out, I also pulled the Hydromatic and took it to Astromotive in Los Angeles. So now that I've rebuilt everything on the car, it'll be a reliable, strong car that will be able to cruise anywhere.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Owner contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rancho Cucamonga, California
1931 Ford Model A Coupe
Piero knew from the start that an original frame wasn't going to give the coupe the stance he wanted, so he had Bob "Bleed" Merkt's company, Aceholes, Inc., build a new frame out of 2x4 tubing, stretching the wheelbase to 106 inches in the progress, sweeping the front rails up, and kicking the rear up 11 inches. A dropped Dago axle with '48 Ford drums and split wishbones still wear some vintage chrome and are suspended on a chrome Mr. Roadster spring. Out back, a '56 Pontiac rearend is located with custom Aceholes ladder bars that follow the frame's kick-up. A '40 Ford front spring was attached to the frame with an adjustable mount (to allow the rear to be raised or lowered) and to the axle with cut-down '36 wishbone spring perches.
The '52 Cadillac 331 received an unexpected rebuild by Oxnard Machine and Pops and Butch at JW Customs after it was determined it wasn't in quite as good shape as the previous owner stated it was. The engine ended up with mostly stock components with the exception of an Isky cam and a 1956 Edelbrock "Cold Series" staggered 4x2 intake topped with Holley 94s. The "Cold Series" intakes block the center ports on the motor and run on the outer ports. Piero found an article on the intake showing that it originally came with two finned block-off plates and extended throttle shafts. His pal Luke surprised him and machined two aluminum block-off plates that are exactly like the ones in the article. The headers are custom-made by Bob Bleed and are made out of 1 3/4 steel with some "Ribs" and some N.O.S. "Scavenger" tips that Johnny scavenged from an old parts store. The engine, transmission, driveshaft, and rearend are all painted metallic dark blue with ice blue fades. Once the engine was together and looking good, Bill's Automotive in Upland, California, got it running right.
Body & Paint
The body was in pretty good condition when Piero found it, although the rear had some issues. Somewhere through the years the rear subfloor and wheelwells had been cut to stick some big meats in the back. It had a 1/2 inch of Bondo on the decklid hiding some serious waves. The rare dimpled late-'31 firewall was cut to fit some sort of big-block. The top was chopped 4 1/2 inches in the '60s and was all gas welded and leaded. Unfortunately, they had to de-lead it and do some major cleanup on the chop.
Luke Di Ciurcio brought it back to presentable. The wheelwells had to be hand-made and both quarters replaced with original Model A quarters since the patch panels never fit right on the 4-inch channeled body. The body lines and roof joints were molded and the firewall was filled and blue-faced Stewart Warner gauges recessed. Donnie Baird at Imperial Customs was then brought in to spray and fade the shiny stuff.
Cal Custom headlights are mounted on custom stands made from a cut-up Model A headlight bar that has been heated, bent, twisted, and chromed. At the rear are a pair of '50 Buick taillights and a nerf bar that's still wearing its original chrome, salvaged off an old hot rod.
Wheels & Tires
Piero found a pair of 15x7 1/2 chrome reverse wheels that apparently were chromed and reversed for a '60s show car and never used, so he snatched them up and picked up a pair of 15x6s from Wheel Vintiques for the front, wrapping them in Firestone 5.60 and 7.00 rubber.
The modified original dash now houses a '58 Edsel cluster. A cut-down '48 Ford column is adapted to a '60s aftermarket boat steering wheel. Dave Martinez (Brownsburg, Indiana) is responsible for the black and white diamond-pleat vinyl interior.