The search for a suitable Model A coupe ended in November 2007, when my friend Sandy Wachs mentioned he had a 1931 Ford Model A coupe body in his backyard that belonged to his friend Aaron Kahan, and just happened to be for sale. I went over to his house in Burbank, California, to check it out. My expectations were pretty low because all the other coupes I looked at were less than satisfactory, at least for what I had in mind.
But there it was, under a green army tarp. It was primered gray, but I could tell this body was "the one", and I knew I had to have it.
A phone call was made to Aaron, and I was told someone else had first dibs on the car, but he would let me know as soon as possible. Right after hanging up with him, I called my wife, Gloria, who was out of town on business, to tell her about "the one". She immediately made it clear to me that we don't need another "rust bucket" in the backyard, and there was no way this was going to happen.
Disappointed, but not discouraged, I knew I couldn't let this car go, so I decided this was going to be my secret ... I was going to buy it anyway.
Two weeks go by, and Aaron hasn't called. So I call him, only to find out the other person hasn't made up their mind yet. He said he would call me when he knew more.
Two more weeks go by. I call again, leave messages, but he still won't return my calls. I'm getting pretty frustrated by this point.
Two weeks after that, just a few days before the Mooneyes show, my wife, Gloria, comes home, and I spill the beans about my secret and how the big master plan of owning this coupe wasn't going to happen after all. I also knew that I would see Aaron at the Mooneyes show, and I was going to have a serious talk with him, making sure he knew how upset I was that he never got back to me.
All of a sudden, my wife shouts, "That's it-I've had enough!" She stormed away, only to return with a piece of paper.
"Merry Christmas!" she said. In her hand was a bill of sale for the coupe. I was in shock, to say the least ... I had never gotten a Christmas gift like that before.
Turns out that Gloria had secretly contacted my friend, Eddie Nunez, who also knew Aaron-he struck a deal to buy the car for me. The whole time she was on location in Mexico, wiring money to Aaron.
A week after the whole ordeal, all the guys helped me bring the car to my shop in Burbank-everyone was glad this was over; they couldn't stand lying to me all this time!
Thanks Aaron, Sandy, Eddie, and of course, Gloria!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1931 Ford Model A Coupe
The '32 frame was built by Kiwi Konnection in Bakersfield, CA-boxed and pinched with a Model A front crossmember installed. Chris wanted to do the K-member and rear crossmember himself. A dropped Model A axle by Jordan Graham of Solvang, CA, was used in conjunction with a split wishbone. The rear axle is out of a '36 Ford; it came with a 4.10 gearset that Chris changed over to a more freeway-friendly 3.78 setup. Chris also shortened the torque tube and had Wenco in Van Nuys, CA, shorten the driveshaft. Since the forthcoming nailhead V-8 was so big and had the starter right where the steering column would be, he opted for cowl steering. The steering box is from a mid-'60s Mopar that didn't require reversing; the pitman arm and steering column are also owner-fabricated.
"I gave myself two options for the engine: either a Hemi or a nailhead," Chris says. As luck would have it, a high school in Palmdale, CA (that still has a shop class), was selling a recently rebuilt 322 nailhead for $1,500, so he jumped on the deal. A '39 Ford transmission was located with an Offenhauser 309 adapter. Mike Brown in Pomona, CA, set up the flawless gearbox. Aaron Kahan came to the rescue with an Offenhauser 6x2 aluminum log manifold, while fellow Burbank Choppers member Deron Wright offered guidance with the sextet of Stromberg 97s-each one rebuilt by Chris. The carb linkage is straight rather than progressive, made using vintage aircraft heim joints. The exhaust, including lakes pipes, was fabricated by Chris as well. "I purchased an SBC pipe kit, ditched the exhaust flanges, and went to town. I wanted a nice flow, so everything curves into the cone. I also wanted options when it came to loudness, and decided to have mufflers (Smithys) and a 2-inch pipe going out the back of the car." Old aircraft valves were modified and now serve as caps.
Wheels & Tires
Helping set the Model A's stance, a quartet of '40 Ford 16-inch steel wheels (4-inch front, 4 1/2-inch rears) with stainless caps mount vintage Firestone rubber: 5.00-16 ribbed dirt track style leading the way with 7.50-16 Champions bringing up the rear.
Body & Paint
"The 4-inch chop on the body was easier than I had expected-taking the 4 inches out, pie-cutting the posts, tacking, and finish welding took about a day and a half. The body required very little, fixing/patch panels, etc., but the rear subfloor needed to be cut out and modified to fit over the '32 frame. The body was slightly channeled to eliminate the gap between body and frame." Chris also fabbed up the rear bumper. "I'm kind of proud of that-it's made from 7/8-inch stainless rod, heated, and bent to the desired shape, and then sanded and polished to make everything shine." The headlight bar is a modified '32 Ford that was cut and rewelded to make everything work. Jeff Savage from Brownsburg, IN, was hired and flown to Burbank to tackle the paintjob; he stayed at Chris' shop for three weeks. "From bare metal till the finish buffing of the paint," Chris says.
The coupe's upholstery was stitched by Dave Martinez in Burbank. Rolled and pleated Oxblood-colored leather was used. Rather Spartan, as well it should be, the interior is void of any unnecessary items-just a set of Stewart Warner gauges (in the stock dash/tank), chromed '39 top-load shifter, and '40 Ford wheel atop the chromed column tube Chris fashioned when fitting the aluminum Mopar manual steering box. The trunk was done in similar fashion; the custom-made wood battery cover suggesting yet another of Chris' talents (furniture design).