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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1931 Ford Tudor Sedan
Owner contact info: email@example.com
To Harold, it made a lot more sense to call Total Cost Involved for a brand-new Model A frame than to put a lot of work into the original 'rails. The TCI frame included a dropped tube axle with a monoleaf spring and a Unisteer Performance Products rack up front. A Speedway Motors Super Max quick-change rearend with Currie axles rides on coilovers in the rear. QA1 shocks and Wilwood four-piston, 12-inch disc brakes were added at the front and rear.
The MSD ignition system fires a Ford 302 that was rebuilt at Wayne's Engine Rebuilders in Riverside, California, and dressed up with brackets and components from Street & Performance. The heads are capped with a pair of finned Mickey Thompson valve covers, which match the air cleaner cover atop a single Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor and manifold. The exhaust escapes through Sanderson block-hugger headers and custom-built exhaust tubes. The guys at Luke's Transmissions in Riverside built the Ford C4 automatic transmission, operated by a Gennie Shifter floor shifter. Inline Empire Driveline was the source for the polished aluminum driveshaft.
Body & Paint
Tommy's Auto Fab in Riverside made room in the shop for the sedan, and Frank Cusick did much of the construction and fabrication work on the car. The previous fiberglass fenders were replaced with steel, and the 2-inch chopped top was finished with vinyl which perfectly matches the interior leather. Out in front, the Dan Fink grille is followed by a three-piece Rootlieb hood with '34-style louvers. Metalman emeritus Eldon Crawford-who came out of retirement to work at Tommy's-got the sheetmetal perfect before the custom yellow PPG was applied at Abe's Custom Paint. All that yellow is broken up by a few spots of chrome on the custom spreader bar, King Bee headlight housings, and hinge pin mirrors. When it was done, pinstriper extraordinaire Dennis Ricklefs added the final graphics to the rear of the sedan.
Wheels & Tires
Harold and Ian opted to fill the fenders with Goodyear Radial T/A rubber-P235/65R17s at the rear and P195/65R15s up front-rolling on 17x8 and 15x4.5 Halibrand Sprint five-spoke rims, finished just right with a set of three-piece wing-nut knock-offs, also from Halibrand.
Inside the car, bucket seats out of a '66 Mustang (modified to fit) got treated to some high-quality brown and tan bison leather. The upholstery, which extends to the leather door panels, is the handiwork of Efrin Rosales, from Riverside. The Model A brow was retained but with a Deuce dash, filled with Haneline gauges. The GM van tilt column (along with all interior sheetmetal) is painted body color and supports a leather-wrapped Budnik GT steering wheel and tach. The lower dash panel houses the controls for the Vintage Air A/C system.