Harold Nicks wasn't the first guy to get the great idea of building a hot rod in order to spend some time with his son. The goal, as he puts it, was "to give us something to do at night instead of homework and PlayStation-and spend the weekends at cruises with fellow enthusiasts." So Harold and 11-year-old Ian started going to car shows, cruises, and swap meets, searching for the perfect raw material for the project. But nothing turned up.
On the way home from yet another unsuccessful trip to the Pomona swap meet, father and son stopped to buy an Old Car Trader classifieds. Still no luck. "We were always either a day late or literally a dollar short." Just before giving up, they came across a '31 Tudor in nearby Orange County. The car had been kept in storage for six years, and the 87-year-old owner figured that its best chance of getting back on the street lay with somebody younger, and when he found out that it was to be a father-and-son project, he was willing to make a deal.
Once they had the car home, Harold jumped the battery and, "with a little coaxing," was able to fire the engine. "We hopped in and around the block we went." That first ride must have been sweet until Harold looked in the mirror to see his view obliterated by a cloud of blue smoke. "We pulled it back into the garage and I asked Ian whether he wanted to remedy the engine problem and get the car on the street, or whether he wanted us to tear the car apart and rebuild the whole thing. He gave me the answer a proud father was hoping to hear: take it apart! So rusty bolt by rusty bolt (some of which were 70 years old) we took it apart."
An initial inspection after the teardown revealed some expected signs of old age on the chassis, so the original 'rails were replaced with a new Model A frame from Total Cost Involved. When the chassis had become a finished roller, ready for the body, Harold called on hot rod builder Tommy Schacht for assistance. Tommy's Auto Fab in Riverside was nearby, but booked for two years-but Tommy was willing to help his friend with some professional information and pointers.
"After a lot of pointers, he finally gave in and took in the Tudor," Harold said, "but only on the condition that my son was involved." So when Ian wasn't attending school, he and his dad were students at hot rod high school, learning what it takes to build a hot rod. For Ian, that included learning to fabricate and do some bodywork. For Harold, who owns a successful racing parts business, it included learning to be patient. Progress doesn't always come quickly in this hobby, and for a guy who makes a living helping people go fast, the art of waiting didn't come easy.
The sedan was finished in time for the 2007 Grand National Roadster Show, where it got a lot of attention in the Altered Street Sedan class. The following year, it was back, but parked in the outdoor display area, more in fitting with Harold's style; he'd rather enjoy it as a hot rod than pamper it as a show rod. As for Ian, he's 16 now, so his hot rod education is ready to accelerate.