Inspiration for a new project can come from the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes it can just be a color seen on a new car on the freeway that sets the mind working, other times the gears in one's head start turnin' with the purchase of a single part and then the whole car is built around it. It started this way for cigar store owner Larry McCullah, already the owner of a much-used, four-banger-motored Model A sedan delivery and a '28 roadster pickup that he's had since he was 14, when he stumbled across an unusual dual-overhead cam motor at an estate sale. The 200ci '32 Ford four-banger had a super-rare McKinney DOHC aluminum head, and being a four-banger pervert, Larry snapped it up, with no idea what to use it in.
During conversations at the weekly Thursday night barbecue 'n' beer BS sessions at Kiwi Steve's Hot Rod Shop in Brea, California, where Larry had become a regular, the shop undertaking work on all Larry's cars, a plan formed. The guys were talking about how cool phaetons are, and how the DOHC motor would look great in a hoodless hot rod. Then a cartoon in Hop Up really set the ball rolling, forming the basis for the project, but incorporating Larry's tastes. The tub would be unchannelled, with a V8-60 front axle and quick-change rear, with Larry's instructions of "If it's flat, drill it!"
It wasn't long before Kiwi Steve sourced a suitable body and stock chassis on eBay, describing it as "in really sad shape but solid." Everyone involved realized that the stock T frame wasn't going to cut it, especially with the new motor, so Steve and Justin Adams fabricated a new chassis from a 4x2-inch box section, Z'd at the rear with a Model A crossmember up inside the rear seat base, and a suicide front spring perch. The wheelbase? "Real long," according to Steve, who built it to look right rather than to any set dimensions. Larry's contribution to the project was constant, designing the concept of the whole car, running for parts, buying lunch, and standing around pointing at things in between cigars!
Larry was very keen that the car should be a driver, as all his cars are, yet look old and like that cartoon. Apart from modern concessions, such as an alternator and the re-pop Corvair steering box, we'd say all involved nailed it! British rodder, Malcolm Farrant, on an extended stay in California, was responsible for the metalwork and rust repair required, with another unnamed Limey handling the bodywork and paint, under instructions from Larry to "leave all the stock spot-weld marks and the creases around the roof support holes, and don't smooth over any seams" as they add character, ensuring the body is obviously steel and not a smooth 'glass replica.
As mentioned, Larry drives his cars, and drives 'em hard, rarely washing them but enjoying them to the fullest. He also likes to partake in a little time trialing and hill climbing with other four-banger hot rods, and to this end Kiwi fabricated a bolt-in rollbar, which fits behind the front seat once the tonneau is removed. That's also the reason for the Crow race belts, which look a little out of place until you know what Larry intends to do with the phaeton. It probably hasn't escaped your attention that the motor in the tub is not a DOHC 'banger, but a Riley four-port-headed '32 four-cylinder with a trio of new Stromberg 97s on a Taylor intake. Getting the DOHC to run nicely was probably the hardest part of the project, but the guys finally succeeded, and it looked mighty impressive, with its Kiwi-fabbed header and sidedraft Weber carburetors. It ran strong too, as Larry indulged in a few burnouts up Pioneer Boulevard. However, when the head gasket blew while the car was on the dyno (yeah, he's a little serious about those time trials!), Larry dug out his spare motor, though the DOHC will be rebuilt and go back in the tub. I guess when all your cars run 'bangers, it makes sense to have a spare motor!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1926 Ford Phaeton
Discarding the stock T chassis, a new long wheelbase frame was constructed from 4x2-inch steel, Z'd in the rear with a Model A crossmember, and utilizing a suicide front spring mount. A Posies spring hangs from this, suspending a V8-60 tube axle on split '40 Ford 'bones. Heavily drilled backplates are featured on the Lincoln drum brakes, while Model 40 lever arm shocks control bounce. A Cornhusker pedal assembly operates a dual Chevy master cylinder; a Wilwood proportioning valve part of the stainless steel brake system. The quick-change rearend came from Hot Rod Works, with Ford bells containing axles also from Hot Rod Works. Pete & Jakes ladder bars locate the rearend, while P&J shocks and more Lincoln brakes round out the axle, hung on a Posies Model A-style spring.
Until the DOHC motor re-appears, the Riley four-port-equipped '32 four-banger is a fine substitute. Fed by a new Stromberg 97 on a Taylor intake, it features internal goodies like custom Taylor H-beam rods, on the stock crank. Built by Taylor Engine in Whittier, CA, the balanced and blueprinted 8:1 compression 'banger pushes exhaust out through a Reds header into glasspack mufflers. Anaheim Gear rebuilt a Chevy T-5 trans, using a 510 casing with World Class internals, using a custom clutch with a 9-inch Ford disc.
Body & Paint
Malcolm Farrant tackled the required metalwork before the body was prepped with particular attention paid to leaving any factory weld marks and seams. Larry is a fan of bright yellow, selecting a Corvette hue to match his Hummer. Commercial '28 headlights provide a modicum of light to see by, the stock windshield and frame was chopped to give more of a hot rod feel, and Kiwi Steve fabbed a rear bumper of sorts, which looks like a spreader bar, and off which the rear lights and license plate are mounted.
Wheels & Tires
The 16x5 Borani knock-off wire wheels give the tub a look of its own, finished in red to match the engine block. Firestone bias-plies are the natural choice for a rod of this period, with 5.25s up front and 7.80s at the blunt end.
The stock dash contains a full complement of Stewart Warner gauges, and topping the stock, but modified, steering column is a Ford "Fat Man" removable four-spoke wood-rimmed steering wheel. Those pink handcuffs are Larry's security system, preventing the 'wheel from being stolen, and were given to Larry's daughter by the famed Sheriff Joe in Arizona when she worked at his correctional facility, where the inmates all wear pink! A Painless wiring harness hooks up all the electrical components. Bon-A-Rue upholstered the front and rear seats and door panels, diamond plate-design rubber mats cover the floor, and A/C is provided by Mother Nature.