Rod & Custom Feature Car
Jim Benitez
Valley Center, California
1930 Ford Roadster Pickup

Owner contact info:

The roadster pickup rolls on a 2x4-inch, 11-gauge steel frame (with a 1x1-inch square-tubing X-member for rigidity), kicked up 18 inches in the rear and 4 in the front to drop the roadster as low as it can go. At the back, Jim installed a Speedway quick-change with Currie axles and '39 Zephyr brakes, suspended by 32-inch ladder bars and Aldan springs. The 6-inch dropped axle is from Speedway and mounts original '40 Ford spindles and another pair of Zephyr brakes. The leaf springs were re-arched by owner/builder Jim Benitez. Jim also made the pedal assembly, custom Panhard bars front and back, and added a '40 Ford steering box. All chassis welds were smoothed and virtually every part has been modified and chromed.

You could spend hours studying the Hemi in Jim's roadster-but wear sunglasses because whatever's not chromed is polished. Actually the '58 Chrysler 392 block and heads are painted. GG Auto Machine bored the cylinders 0.060-over to 406 ci, added 11.00:1 forged pistons, and balanced and blueprinted the engine, with assembly done at the Jalopy Shoppe by Mike Sholes and Jim. Jim says the Schneider cam was chosen for torque (which he puts in the neighborhood of 500 lb-ft). The O'Brien Truckers valve covers, cast valley cover, and timing cover, Offenhauser log manifold, and six original Stromberg 97s with Wilcap carb tops and stainless air cleaner screens were chosen for impact as much as anything. Retro cloth-covered copper core wires run from a Don Zig Vertex magneto. Paul "House" Gilbert built the custom headers. Walker supplied a custom radiator to keep the Hemi cool. The transmission is a Hurst-shifted Richmond five-speed with a McLeod clutch and Wilcap flywheel. Larry Phillips built the chrome driveshaft, turning 3.50:1 gears in a quick-change, limited-slip differential.

Wheels & Tires
The 16x4 and 16x7 Gennie wheels from Wheel Vintiques were painted black to match the body and trimmed with chrome rings and caps to keep up with the rest of the brightwork all over the car. Bob and Cris Folkestad at Creative Werks in Des Moines, Iowa, personalized the caps by stamping them with the Faster Pussycat nickname. The Firestone dirt track tires, sized at 16x5 and 16x8.90, were provided by Coker Tires.

Body & Paint
Jim says he loved the Brookville body stock and decided not to go overboard with a lot of distracting sheetmetal modifications. Instead, Jim and the rest of the crew at the Jalopy Shoppe (including Josh Johnson, Louis Garcia, Wade Delco, Rodrigo Mogollenes, and Chris Thompson) embellished the exterior with some really well-conceived touches. The grille shell is a reproduction Deuce with an original '32 insert; Jim and "House" shortened and widened it to the proportions of the Hemi-packed front end. Handles from a '34 were used on the doors. Headlights are original E&J, mildly modified, and the taillights are '37 Ford parts, modified by Chris Thompson.

Thompson also built the removable aluminum top and assembled the bed using his own fabricated mounts and brackets. The bed itself was built from heavy-duty 11-gauge steel, partly to add some weight to the back of the pickup, but "we couldn't bend it," Jim says, and the build was outsourced to Dick Lemke who finished it. Bob at Creative Werks built the linear actuators that operate the one-of-a-kind tonneau cover. Pat McGuire at Wilcap stamped the Faster Pussycat lettering into the tailgate.

Aztec Polishing stayed busy handling the plating on the car, except for the Duvall windshield chrome, which was done at Sherm's Custom Plating in Sacramento. Glass is from Andy's Glass.

Jim's favorite part is the dash; it's the first piece of aluminum he bucked, and it's finished with a leather insert and Classic Instruments gauges, plus dash spears cast at Mor-Cast Aluminum Foundry. A four-spoke Boyd Coddington steering wheel is mounted on a custom column. Jim built the seats into the cockpit and finished them with molded and dyed 8-ounce leather. The tooling was done by Indian Bobby from Escondido, California, who took the pinstriping designs created by Rob Miller and transferred them onto the heavyweight leather. The seat bottoms were contoured around a real human model's bottom. The custom '60s-style lap belts will pay off on those fast drives on windy mountain roads.