When walking a show like the NSRA Nationals or a major Goodguys event, with in excess of 10,000 cars present, it can become easy to walk right past one you'd normally spend a while looking at, as with so many similar versions on hand, they start to blend together. That's when a car with that indefinable "coolness" factor will jump out at you. It can be something as simple as stance, the perfect wheel and tire combination, trick little touches, a neat color, or the concept as a whole. We think you'll agree Jim Mayberry's 1931 Ford Model A ticks all those boxes and more.
If you know your Model As, it'll immediately be apparent that a lot of work went into making this unique body one that was never offered by the factory. Sure, it looks like it could have been a Victoria coupe, with those two doors and that forward-leaning rear panel, but it actually left Henry's plant as a Fordor sedan, and came into Jim's life through a friend's son in Ohio, though he'd bought it in South Carolina. It was little more than a roller; a body on a chassis with a 302 Ford motor and transmission. Jim saw the potential and immediately sold off everything except the body, engine, and trans, though he only used the body in the end, and not much of it at that!
The rear doors were welded shut, the fronts extended by 5 inches and converted to suicide operation, and new fenderwells and a firewall fabricated. The top perimeter of the "tub" all had to be made from scratch too, above the beltline molding, as well as carrying the rear fender bead into the lower rear panel and the fabricated rocker panels. That's a lot of work! The roof was discarded and a removable fiberglass version made to resemble a convertible top. When it came time to choose a color Jim says, "I wanted a color that my father had on a '63 Cadillac convertible. I liked that color a lot." Scott Sullivan made a fine job of matching the hue with a custom gold pearl mix.
Jim admits that the most challenging part of the project was modifying the body to what he and builders Scott Sullivan and Johnny Morris envisioned, and it's a credit to all involved that it turned out as nice as it did, especially when, by his own admission, Jim set out to build a "rat rod". That's a rat rod that placed in the Top 12 in the Pro's Pick category at last year's NSRA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, by the way!
In addition to the numerous custom touches that abound on Jim's A-'65 Galaxy gauge cluster, '39 Chevy taillights, rear nerf bars, and the custom center console to name a few-we'll bet the motor that replaced that 302 Ford was one of the things that swayed those Pro's Pick judges. The beautifully detailed Flathead displaces 255 ci, and was pulled from a '53 Merc. It in no way resembles a stocker nowadays, thanks to original Eddie Meyer heads and a same-make, high-rise inlet manifold and air cleaner, all polished of course. If this is Jim's idea of a "rat rod" we'd sure like to see what he'd turn out if he set his mind to building a detailed hot rod!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1931 Ford Model A
Custom-built by Johnny Morris from 3x1 1/2-inch rectangular box section, the frame was stepped 3 inches in front and Z'd 10 inches in the rear, with a wheelbase of 106 inches; '32 framehorns were added to the front. Morris also fabricated the 12-gallon fuel tank in 16-gauge steel, hidden in the rear of the body. A dropped 'n' drilled Super Bell axle mounts '40 Ford spindles and Magnum disc brakes with custom-made covers. Jim mentioned that if there was anything he'd do differently, it'd be to use Buick drums on the front to match those on the '65 Mercury rearend. A '52 F-1 truck pedal assembly, early Mustang master cylinder, and chromed tubing complete the brake system. Polished aluminum friction shocks from Speedway Motors and a Pete & Jakes spring keep the hairpin-located I-beam from making contact with the chassis, with Pete & Jakes ladder bars and Panhard bar doing the same for the Aldan coilover-suspended rearend.
Automotive Machine Shop in Beaver Creek, OH, machined and assembled the '53 Merc Flathead, boring it 0.030-inch over for a 255ci displacement, and adding an Isky cam, along with the stock 4-inch stroke crankshaft and rods. A pair of Stromberg 97s sits high atop a polished Eddie Meyer intake, flanked by a pair of original Eddie Meyer heads. With a Joe Hunt Magneto and Sanderson Limefire headers containing Car Chemistry mufflers taking care of spark and exhaust, we've covered the complete four-stroke cycle! A three-speed trans from a '40 Ford truck backs the motor, selected for its open drive, enabling it to connect to the '65 Merc rearend through a regular driveshaft rather than the early Ford torque tube. The tranny was rebuilt to stock specs by Quality Machine in Dayton, OH, and connects to the back of the crank through a stock Merc clutch and flywheel.
Wheels & Tires
Jim went to Wheel Vintiques for a set of their solid steel wheels, in 16-inch diameter, 6 inches wide for the front and an inch wider in the rear, wrapping them in Coker whitewalls, which, despite their bias-ply appearance, are actually radials. They measure 550/16 and 750/16 front and rear respectively.
Body & Paint
Starting with an unfinished project Fordor sedan, Jim turned the body over to Scott Sullivan and Johnny Morris who between them added a '32 cowl vent, fabricated a new flat firewall, welded up the rear doors, and lengthened the fronts with suicide external hinges, added rocker panels, channeled the body 3 1/2 inches, and modified the upper edges of what was now a two-door tub. The windshield surround was chopped and a fiberglass top made to look like a folding convertible roof. A '32 grille was added before the body and chassis were sprayed in a custom-mixed gold pearl by Sullivan, who also tackled the pinstriping. S&H Chrome Plating and Powdercoating in Madison, TN, handled the extensive chroming on the frontend, engine, and numerous other parts.
The Model A's interior utilizes parts from numerous-year Ford models, creating a cohesive custom look. A '65 Galaxie dash dominates the view from same-year Mustang seats, with Classic Instruments gauges set in a one-off machine-turned insert by Malcolm B. The steering wheel is a LimeWorks '40 Ford item, along with a LimeWorks polished stainless column. The modified shifter is a '40 Ford truck item, reshaped and chromed. Rolled and pleated black and off-white vinyl covers the seats and door panels, with the headliner in matching off-white with black piping, all by Dennis and Shane Gambill of Dayton, OH. Johnny Morris used an American Autowire harness to hook everything up, including a Pioneer stereo.