Whenever we shoot a car for a feature we'll try to chat with the owner between asking them to move their car, turn on the lights, or open the hood or doors or whatever, as it's during these informal conversations that you can find out stuff that they usually don't put on the tech sheets we give them. I didn't shoot this Model A pickup, although I did talk to its owner and builder, Larry Harper, when I first spied the truck at the NSRA Nationals in Louisville in 2008. Luckily for me he also provided way more information than the tech sheet asked for, but then again he's genuinely proud of his creation, even if it is way loud and offends some of the locals in his hometown of Hixson, Tennessee. That'll be a hot rod then, and the perfect calling card for Larry and friend Danny's new business venture, Hillbilly Rod and Customs (423) 554-4307. (How's that for a blatant plug?)
Turns out Larry had always wanted to build a vintage-style car, probably something to do with childhood memories of a neighbor, Dan Jones, who was always working on a chopped-and-channeled '32 coupe with a big Pontiac motor, or at least he worked on it when he wasn't tearing up the neighborhood in it. Larry was always getting under his feet, or watching Jones' dad go retrieve him when it broke down. "There's a lot of that car in mine," he told us. "It's loud, hard to turn, has manual drum brakes, a big engine, straight shift, and 4.11 gears that just scream to burn the tires."
Larry collected pieces for 10 years but didn't have a car to put them on, even trading a friend for a '55 Hemi in pieces, building the engine yet still without a body or chassis. Then a riotous trip with some friends to an estate sale where a number of them bid on or bought cars netted this Model A pickup for $1,000 and the two-year project was off and running. "I always thought that black paint rubbed thin, showing red primer was a great paint scheme, so when I started that was what I planned. During the build I found the original Rock Moss Green and decided to use that instead of black," says Larry. "To carry the theme I tried to use mostly real old parts, but built it to modern standards. The paint is distressed where appropriate for a car built in 1962, as most of the parts are pre-1962, but I'm not crazy so I also used some new parts, like an alternator, a modern five-speed transmission, and 12-volt wiring. I didn't use any tie wraps because they didn't exist in 1962, so I wrapped the harness in wax string like old airplanes used. There's leather where cardboard and vinyl used to be, but I tried to keep the appearance of an original truck. The levels for bedrails came about when I was using one to clamp the bedside together when I bobbed it. I think they've gotten more attention than even the Hemi! The 'Danger Stupid' sign on the gas tank came to me when I saw a similar sign on a log truck, written on cardboard, and nailed to the logs. It's been a fun build, thinking back to 1962 and remembering the style of hot rods back then, taking the best ideas, and adding my own twisted sense of humor." You can see this humor when you study the truck for any amount of time, like where Larry used horseshoes for pedal pads, silver horseshoes in the seat back, or those crazy '61 Chrysler Crown Imperial taillights flanking the chrome girl tag holder that has upset a few women. To them he's sorry, as well as to those who don't like the noise, though we fail to see who couldn't like a Hemi on open headers. This is the only thing Larry would change if he did it all again, probably going with an undercar exhaust system with cutouts, as the open pipes limit the truck's use to quick trips around town, 150 miles being its longest trip at the time of our shoot. That being said, Larry loves the pickup. "I plan to show the kids in Hondas what a real old hot rod is! The best award I can receive is when I'm at a show and look over and a couple of rodders are just looking and smiling and nodding. That means they get it!"
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1930 Ford Model A pickup
The '55 331 Hemi was bored 60 thou, balanced and blueprinted by Roberts and Sons in Caatt, Tennessee, before assembling the motor with the help of Rodney Edwards using Ross pistons, an Isky 280 Mega cam, and the stock rods and crank. A Hot Heads dual-plenum 4bbl intake mounts a 600-cfm Holley carb between powdercoated stock valve covers. Hot heads also supplied the accessory brackets and headers, into which Larry fitted homemade baffles that do little to quiet the engine's roar. A '90 Chevy Getrag five-speed-yes this hot rod has three pedals-connects to the Hemi via a Hot Heads flywheel, with power pushed rearward through a heavy-duty driveshaft.
The original Model A chassis still lives under the pickup, though it was fully boxed, the wheelbase was stretched 11 inches, the front crossmember was notched, there are now custom center and rear crossmembers and the rear has been Z'd 10 inches, all by Larry's fair hand. Pete & Jakes ladder bars locate a limited-slip-equipped and fully chromed Bronco 9 inch, hung on a Posies transverse spring, while a dropped and drilled Chassis Engineering I-beam uses an original front spring mounted to the split '40 Ford wishbones for 2 1/2 inches of extra drop, and Lincoln 12-inch drum brakes with Buick drums on early Ford spindles. A Vega cross steering box ensures the wheels on the 5-inch further-forward-than-stock axle track true.
Wheels & Tires
Cast finish American Torq Thrust D rims are wrapped in ribbed Firestones and sprint car tires from Coker, 15x4 and 15x7 front and rear respectively, the now old-school, 15-inch-diameter wheels going a long way toward the '60s image Larry was after.
Body & Paint
Larry chopped his estate sale find by 2 1/4 inches, and channeled the body 4 inches, before bobbing the bed by 8 1/2 inches behind the wheels. He then went on to fill the cowl, moving the tank to the pickup bed, drill, and modifying the visor for a dimple-die effect, added '32 door handles, and swapped the '30 grille shell for a '29 version he filled and peaked. After tackling the bodywork himself, Larry and Danny Hawkins laid on the PPG Rock Moss Green then rubbed through to the red primer in strategic areas before Brian Papas ran his striping brushes over the truck.
A Cushman truck insert now takes pride of place in the center of the Model A dash, housing old Stewart Warner gauges, with a same-make tach atop the dash rail in a chrome pod. The Speedway Motors steering column is crowned with an old Grant wooden three-spoke wheel on a quick-release hub. The custom-made bench seat appears stock, upholstered in black leather to match the door panels, ably trimmed by Mike Angland. There's no radio-who'd hear it anyway-but the wiring harness was wrapped by Larry using wax string.