"Building hot rods is nothing new to me," Bill Herb will tell you. "I was born into a family of gearheads." One glance at this mostly owner-built '33 roadster is convincing evidence that Bill, while not an old-timer yet, has been in this hobby for a while. Like most hot rodders, he builds each of his cars differently-different body styles, different drivetrains, different themes, you name it. Of all the things that make this '33 different from earlier projects, two are especially significant. One is that the car wasn't sold before it was done. Apparently Bill has a reputation for selling his cars before finishing them. "Someone wants them more than I do and dollars will change hands." His friend, Buzz Bruce, bet him that the same thing would happen with this roadster. It didn't.
Bill's biggest challenge was making the roadster look like an old-time hot rod without building a cookie-cutter car, which brings us to the second notable difference about the '33-the fact that Bill got a lot of help from his now 12-year-old daughter Mikayla. Part of working with a partner is reaching agreements and that's exactly what they did. Bill's original plans were basic. "Flat black paint. Indian blanket seats. Run the wheels off it." Mikayla had a better idea: paint it. They both liked green, but father was thinking British Racing and daughter was thinking M&M. Mikayla got her way on the rumble seat idea, however. "It was fun listening to her wish list," Bill said. "It was like she's been building cars for a long time, and knew what she wanted."
It took six years to collect the new and old parts needed for the roadster. Bill built a jig for the custom frame. He boxed the 'rails, pushed the front crossmember an inch and a half forward (and raised it an inch), C-notched the rear, fabricated the X-member and rear crossmember, and added new suspension mounts where needed. The engine is a crate Chevy 350 with three deuces, backed by a Turbo 350.
The 'glass body is from a company he'd rather not mention and wouldn't elaborate other than to say that "most of the modifications were just to get it usable." It was a lot of work, but he succeeded. The top was owner-built by laying fiberglass over a homebuilt mold, then trimmed and shaped to the right look, and covered with cloth by Terry Watson. "I told Terry I didn't care how he did it as long as the top looked real when he finished."
Through it all, Mikayla pitched in with ideas and labor, such as painting the frame and doing some welding. Sadly, Buzz Bruce passed away at the same time the car was being finished, and never had the pleasure of losing his bet. Not only was the roadster not sold, it's staying in the Herb family, so Bill, his wife Nancy, and Mikayla can have fun. Of course, in a few years, Mikayla will be getting her driver's license. When that day comes, the roadster we're calling "father's keeper" might become "daughter's driver."
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bill, Nancy & Mikayla Herb
1933 Ford Roadster
Owner contact info: email@example.com
The framerails were boxed and a custom front crossmember was installed an inch higher to lower the front and 11/2 inches forward to stretch the wheelbase. C-notching the rear improved the posture and a custom-built X-member and rear crossmember strengthen it all. A four-inch dropped I-beam axle was drilled by John Howland. Bill added '40 Ford-style spindles and modified SoCal brakes, plus drilled '40 Ford split wishbone, mono-leaf spring, Monroe shocks on F-100 mounts, and an owner-built Panhard bar. A Vega box controls steering. The 3.25:1-geared 8-inch was narrowed and spins Moser axles. A '35-40 front spring was modified, along with '36 radius rods, an '87 IROC antiroll bar, and Pete & Jake's shocks for rear suspension duties. The Ford rear brakes have Buick drums. The fuel tank is from Bob Drake Reproductions.
Bill adapted genuine Olds Rocket valve covers for his out-of-the-crate Chevy 350, further dressed with triple Rochester 2V carbs (with helmet-style air cleaners from Honest Charley) on an Edelbrock tri-power manifold. He ground a pair of stock ram horn manifolds and ran custom exhaust pipes to Smithy's mufflers. The TH350 automatic is column shifted.
Body & Paint
The goal was to make the body look as original as possible. As it turned out, it took a lot of hard work to meet that goal, but once Bill got the fiberglass straight and fitting together right, and the handles, hinges, and hardware in place, it looked great. The steel hood was built from original top pieces and stock reproduction sides from Rootlieb. The '33 grille is a die-stamped part from Nottingham Reproductions. Bill mounted original Guide headlights on a custom-made bar, and made the stands for the '37 Ford taillights. It was Mikayla's idea to build a rumble seat. Terry Watson, from Erie, Pennsylvania, added the cloth to Bill's homebuilt fiberglass top. Bob Orr at Qualchrome in Erie handled the chrome work, and Bill painted the body, interior, and engine compartment with PPG Brookland Green. Dillon at Killer Graphics added the understated pinstriping along the beltline.
Wheels & Tires
Cream colored wires and chrome caps from Wheel Vintiques, 16x7 and 15x5 in size, are matched with 8.50-16 and 5.50-15 big 'n' little Firestone bias-ply skinnies. After we shot it Bill started showing the roadster with black steelies and dirt track tires, which changes the whole personality of the car. We like both personalities.
Even this interior was owner-built. Bill built his own seat frame, mounted on Chevy S-10 tracks ("It had to be adjustable-there are short legs in my family," he explained.) Terry Watson had never done interior work on any cars except his own until Bill told him to make it look clean and somewhat original. Terry covered Bill's seats, door panels, and rumble seat in cinnamon Ultraleather, and it turned out perfect. The carpet is wool square-weave. Bill modified the fiberglass dash, adding an insert from Honest Charley and curved glass gauges from Stewart Warner. Bill's brother, Chuck Herb, helped with the wiring. Juliano's provided the 1939 banjo wheel and '40 Ford steering column with shifter, which was painted black. Bill located an original Tropic-Aire hot water heater and was able to rebuild it and convert it to heat the '33 on chilly mornings.