With four times as many roadsters than phaetons produced by Ford in 1929, and more than 10 times as many Tudor sedans, the 1929 Ford Model A Phaeton was never the most common Model A, and definitely a rare beast more than 80 years later! In fact, Steve Beck originally built the car you see here as a roadster, but traded that body for the phaeton sheetmetal it now runs, making it all the more interesting as a hot rod.
Owning a garage business in West Los Angeles, dealing mainly with late-model cars means Steve may have the tools and mechanical knowledge, but like the cobbler's kids who have no shoes, many people in the automotive repair trade never seem to manage to finish building a car for themselves. Steve admits one of the hardest parts of the project was finding the time to work on it, but even so, it came together in a scant six weeks. He'd been collecting parts for a while beforehand though; this phaeton is the proof that you can build an early Ford without breaking the bank if you're prepared to wait for deals and do all the work yourself.
If you collect Mark Morton's Hop Up magazines, pull out Volume 6 from 2004 and you'll see this car in its first incarnation as a roadster, complete with a Cragar overhead-equipped B motor. Steve told us, "I took it on one of the River City Reliability Runs, out to Ventura once, and to the Antique Nationals a couple of times. It was fast, but had some problems and I just didn't use it much. At a cruise night last year, a buddy who is in a roadster club asked if I'd like to trade bodies, as he was getting a ribbing from his club mates for the phaeton. You didn't need to ask me twice, and one Saturday we parked both cars up and swapped bodies. It came to me already painted, so I just added some strengthening and rubbed out the paint." This was the excuse Steve needed to go through the car and fix the nagging problems he'd put up with, and it's now enjoyable to drive, though it's pretty much just the chassis, frontend, and rearend that remain from the roadster, which ran steel wheels.
Steve acquired the chassis in lieu of payment for re-wiring a '39 Mercury, while the rear axle with its Halibrand Culver City centersection was traded for work on a Harley-Davidson flywheel assembly. The engine in the car now came from the trash pile at Elco Welding, while swap meet scouring at Pomona unearthed the 3-inch dropped I-beam, and a similar foray to Long Beach, California, turned up the '40 Ford brakes. In fact, Steve says, "Most of the parts and accessories came from swap meets or other peoples' left-over parts."
While most of the chassis and drivetrain parts are stock or slightly later year Ford (heck this thing even runs an unsplit Model A wishbone on the front!), Steve, who's quite the engine builder, went to town on the new motor-a 200ci '32 four-banger. Balanced and blueprinted, albeit with a stock bore and stroke, it now runs a Winfield R cam, with a head from the same company, though you'd be forgiven for missing it as Steve painted it green to match the block. An Evans intake mounts a pair of Stromberg 97s, the same side of the block visually busy thanks to Belond headers. In case you were wondering what became of the Cragar OHV motor, that'll get rebuilt and probably put in Steve's '32.
While the body was already painted, it lacked an interior, and with our photoshoot looming, Steve had Luis Loyola trim it, including the rear seat hidden under the tonneau (which was already on the body) in black rolled and pleated vinyl. "The Primer Nats last year was its maiden voyage," he says, "and although I've been lucky enough to have owned a number of nice cars over the years, I've never had one that has received so many favorable comments and looks." The phaeton took Second Place at that show, and it looks like it's getting a new lease on life, as Steve is enjoying driving it as often as possible now.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Santa Monica, California
1929 Ford Model A phaeton
The 81-year-old Model A chassis is totally stock, not even boxed, and runs a 3-inch dropped I-beam on an original transverse leaf spring. There are '39 Ford spindles that mount '40 brakes, while Armstrong friction shocks offer good ol' fashioned damping. A 3.33:1 ratio Halibrand centersection is coupled with Model A axles at the rear, once again hooked to '40 Ford juice brakes. Steve did stray from the fold by using a '54 Chevy master cylinder. A Model T cross spring and Houdaille lever arm shocks handle suspension out back.
While the phaeton body offers a distinctive early look to the car, the choice of a Model B four-banger only reinforces the period appearance. Steve meticulously rebuilt the motor to stock specs, adding a Winfield R camshaft and same-make iron head. Twin Stromberg 97s flow 135-cfm each through an Evans intake, while gases on the other end of the suck-squeeze-bang-blow cycle are pushed out through Belond 2 3/4-inch headers into a Smithy muffler. A '39 Ford clutch bolted to a lightened Ford flywheel connect the engine to a '39 three-speed trans, again rebuilt by Steve.
Wheels & Tires
Body color bent spoke 16-inch Kelsey wires with 'caps and trim rings prop up each corner of the phaeton, measuring 4 1/2 inches wide at the front, followed by 5-inchers on the rear. These are clothed in Riverside 500-16 and Allstate 750-16 blackwall bias-plies respectively.
Body & Paint
The body was traded for Steve's old roadster body, in a straight swap, and was already painted and finished. He merely added some strengthening and rubbed out the maroon paint before installing the laid-back windshield from his old body.
As with Luis Loyola's roadster, the phaeton uses its stock gas tank in the upper cowl, though Steve has retained the stock dash and gauges, adding a starter push button. A '39 Ford steering wheel crowns the original column, and stock pedals sprout through the rubber matting on the floor. Loyola trimmed the custom seats in black vinyl, and yes, there is a rear seat under that tonneau that came to Steve with the body.