Those of us who are, or have been, married have doubtless, at one time or another, surprised our spouses with unexpected gifts (and not always surprised in a good way). Jim Kipp is no exception--except that he gave his wife Debra one heck of a surprise 50th birthday present. In case you hadn't already guessed, you're looking at it on these very pages. "I found it in the Auto Trader and asked Ryan Reed from SO-CAL Speed Shop to go check it out for me. He felt it was in very good condition so I went ahead with the purchase and in July 2007 it went to SO-CAL and we started the build process. I came up with the overall concept and the look we wanted to achieve, and reviewed the progress on a weekly basis," Jim told us.

In fact, that weekly visit to the shop was one of the hardest parts of the build. Jim's retired, and only lives about an hour's drive south of SO-CAL's Pomona, California base, but getting up there every week to agree on details and check progress without Debra finding out he wasn't in town was somewhat challenging!

Now if you think this coupe looks vaguely familiar, you'd be right, as we covered the Jimmy Shine-chopped roof in a tech article back in our July 2008 issue, but it's come a long way since then. Deuce chassis rails form the foundation, though the chassis was kicked up and bobbed in the rear, as befits a Model A body, while the rear crossmember was changed for driveshaft clearance. One neat touch by SO-CAL fabricator Robin Silk that preserves the coupe's Model A style is the use of A frame horns up front.

The body came in for some subtle modification too, such as the slight channeling over the frame to align the lower edge of the body with the chassis swage line, and the extraordinary amount of work involved in moving the firewall back slightly into the cowl, and then widening it to fit. A '32 cowl vent now replaces the old gas filler (the tank is now located in the rear) for some good old fashioned air conditioning. But why move the firewall rearwards? To make room for the '57 312ci Y-block that now sits between it and the peaked and filled '30 grille shell, that's why. There's also a finely crafted bare metal (a finish that covers the rest of the body and chassis) trans tunnel covering the C4 transmission inside the car too, along with some very tidy olive green canvas and brown distressed leather upholstery and cool purse-like door pockets. The Model A dash has been retained, albeit not employed as the front of the gas tank any longer, while its center is now filled with a SO-CAL dash insert and gauges.

Dubbed the DK Mystery Coupe, the name can be found on both sides of the cowl, and in stamped leather logos in the cockpit. It's no longer a mystery though, and Jim says that the most memorable part of the project was presenting the coupe to Debra at her surprise 50th birthday party with about 200 of her friends present. As he put it, "The look on her face was priceless." Kinda reminds us of a credit card commercial, though you'll have to figure out the costs preceding that "priceless" line for yourselves!